Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Matt!

Hey there everyone!

First of all, I'd like to start off my letter with a message to Matt... Hey Bud! Happy, Happy Birthday!!!!! I miss you so much! It sure sounds like you've had an awesome weekend! I hope you have a great birthday and you enjoy being 9. :)

This week has been a fun one. (What week on the mission isn't a fun one?) My companion was in Korea for his second trip (he proved I was right, the second trip always is better than the first) and so I was with Elder Waltman and Phillips like I already told you I would be. It was fun. Always interesting to be in a new city where you have not a clue where you are, where you're going, which bus to take, and which bus stop you need. All thanks to maps, nice people on the bus, and cell phones, such problems can thankfully be solved. I set up a lesson with a woman that the elders had met with previously and we were excited to get a chance to have a lesson with someone since lessons are a little harder to come by here in Khab. However, by evening time, we were still in the north/center of the city and the woman lives deeper in the south. (Khab is a very long city... you can look it up on a map if you'd like. It just takes a long time to get to things due to how the city is set up) So, we had to find a bus stop that would have the right bus that would take us into the south and get to her bus stop. I thought I knew where it was and in the end, got us a little lost. Thankfully we found it eventually and got on a bus that once again, thankfully took us to her bus stop. There was a super nice lady that explained to me which bus stop to get off at and then our investigator guided me from the bus stop to her apartment (cell phones are great). Basically, we were an hour late but made it in the end and had a good lesson.

Earlier in the week, I ended up on English club. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this a couple times now but we stopped doing English club a while ago, back when I was in Usserisk. But, Khabarovsk has started doing it because we've been struggling to find people interested in our message and such a form of service can be a great tool to do so. First of all, I had forgotten how much I didn't like English club because people just don't talk and if you don't have a great topic and people don’t get involved, it becomes a very awkward hour. However, I also came into English club this time with a very different perspective. I didn't see it just as a cool service opportunity where I could get a break from Russian. I saw an opportunity to touch the lives of people with our message and to invite them to know more about their Savior. I truly saw it as an activity for which it was intended. I ended up translating too since there were some people there that couldn't understand a lot of what we shared and I realized how much the Lord has blessed me with the language. He truly has taken me and turned me into an instrument calculated to work with the Russian people of the Far East. He has blessed me immensely with the gift of tongues because I feel I truly can express myself in another language. He also has immensely blessed me with the gift of the interpretation of tongues because I am often able to understand a lot of what people say. And just as Ammon boasts in his God, I too feel I must boast in my God and testify that the Lord does make more of us that we ever dreamed possible. I honestly feel that my language abilities have soared thanks to the Lord's abundant blessings. I think he's blessed me too much. I sincerely apologize if I'm not making any sense due to my poor English. Russian has ruined several of my abilities to communicate in English, the first being vocabulary and the second being my sentence structure.

After English club, I stayed in the north with Elder Williams and Spjut and had cake batter ice cream (thanks to cake batter from Korea). It was soooo good. The next day, we met with a super awesome member here in Khab. Her name is Galia and she just makes me so happy to meet with her. She's rock solid and a definite pioneer here in Khab. We then taught institute that night (sounds like that's going to now be the south elder's assignment (me and Elder Steed)) and it was so cool! Two members from Moscow came and visited and sat in on Institute! A mother and son; she came to visit her son who is serving in the army located just outside of Khab. The lesson was so cool and super awesome and I just love learning from other people! We actually ran into them again in the airport on Sat when I picked up Elder Steed. She was heading back to Moscow.

So yesterday, I spoke in church on love and charity and it went well. Church attendance at the start of sacrament I think was 12 including 6 missionaries. As I sat there, I thought about what makes a sacrament meeting a sacrament meeting. I looked around at such awesome members of the church here, such a small yet solid gathering of saints, and at such awesome missionaries. And I thought to myself, we're so blessed to have a branch in this city. It may be really small right now. But, the members here have the chance to meet together, to learn from one another, and to partake of the sacrament which is so vital to our week. I loved the Spirit I felt there in our little branch.

This next week should be an exciting one. :) My companion wants to SYL (Speak Your Language- Just speak Russian) for the rest of the transfer and I'm excited to help him. :) Hey dad, if you have any advice as a former missionary regarding being a senior companion, I would love some. I'm not too stressed out but I'm feeling the pressure and I would love to here if you have any experience or advice on how to be a better leader. I've learned a lot the past year and yet I still feel extremely inadequate. But like I said, the Lord qualifies all those He calls.

I love you all. I hope each of you have a fantastic week! Dominate on the field Trev. Just dominate at life for that matter. ;) Thank you so much for your prayers and support. :)

Elder Bush

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I have been transferred to Khabarovsk!

Hello to everyone on the other side of the globe!

How is everyone doing? As always, thanks for the update. First, tell Elder Hale/Kendric (I guess he is released now) that I love him and to keep his chin up. Being home will be pretty hard for me as well (I already know it), but as one of my MTC teachers, the great Brother Savage told us, life keeps getting better after the mission.

As you can tell, the subject of this letter home brings news of transfers... I'm no longer on the island... I have been transferred to Khabarovsk! The coldest city in the mission although it is beginning to get a little warmer. Today is actually quite warm. The worst it ever has gotten here that I've heard from missionaries was -52 C (-61.6 F). This past month, it would be anywhere between -45 and -20 (-49 to -4 F). Right now, it's probably around -10ish (14 F), which feels great! When I first got here, the wind was going and it felt a lot colder. I realized I should have never, not once, complained on Sakhalin, not even in my mind. But things should be getting warmer from here on out (or so I'm told), and spring is supposedly the best season here in Khabarovsk. My new companion is Elder Steed! He's from Idaho! He has an older brother and sister, loves to play the French horn (also played the saxophone and tuba) and he's just awesome! He'll be heading on his second visa trip this next week (I told him his second visa trip will be even better than the first). So I'll probably be with Elders Waltman and Phillips. Which I certainly can't complain about. I love both of them. Elder Waltman was called to be the branch president here in Khabarovsk yesterday and will serve here as branch president probably until the end of his mission. (He has two transfers left). Yesterday, as I looked up at him during the meeting, I could see a change had come over him. It's interesting how the mantle of a calling can almost physically change a person and their outward appearance.

I got a great letter yesterday from Sister Jolyn Metro! It was great to hear from her and to know she's doing so well in France! I'm going to try to write to her now that I have her address. Fallon sent me a postcard from Harry Potter world! That place looks so COOL!!! I hope I'll get to see it in about a year, but I pray this year doesn't fly by as quickly as the first.

This past week was sucked up a little by looking for a new apartment on Sakhalin. That's always fun. And I may have to end up doing that here in Khabarovsk. The apartment we have here right now is super nice! And if we have to end up moving, that will be a bummer. (I may have already mentioned something about this apartment to you all when I came for zone conference last time.) But anyways, we'll see what the future holds. My favorite part of the apartment is heated bathroom and kitchen floors. :)

It was hard to leave Sakhalin because I've really come to love the people of the island. I love the members so much! There are so many great members, great examples, and great families and awesome investigators that it was hard to leave. Who knows, maybe someday I will have the opportunity to return.

So, real quick about Khabarovsk... The branch here is struggling. But the people are awesome! Attendance at church isn't as high as it once was. Missionaries do a lot here. I may have already mentioned that, but the work here is certainly struggling. It's a great city though. It reminds me a lot more of Vlad. It's bigger like Vlad; it has beautiful buildings, larger streets than Vlad, and all around, a nice city. From those I've met thus far, there are nice people here in Khabarovsk and there are also not such nice people, but that happens everywhere. I was sitting on the bus yesterday and eventually heard some guy speaking to my companion sitting behind me. Needless to say, this guy wasn't the nicest I've ever come across. Once I understood he had been speaking to my companion, I turned around and was about to say something but something told me it would be better if I didn't. This guy was clearly not in favor of the church or the fact that we were here in Russia. So I bit my lip and kept my mouth shut because I felt if I said anything, it wouldn't lead to good. After the bus ride, I doubted that feeling I had had because I felt I should have defended my companion, since he didn't understand what the guy said to him. I still don't know if I did the right thing. And as always, I usually think far too much about stuff after the fact. But I continued to pray for that man after the bus ride, that his heart would be softened. I later met a really cool guy on the bus who was the taxi driver that had taken the other elders to the airport the day earlier. He loved my name. (I love the name Bush because no one ever forgets it.) I met a guy on the street this last week that I had run into earlier in December who was a drug addict. I could never get a hold of him before, but he and I immediately recognized one another. I really hope he's able to meet this next week with the elders on Sakh.

Well, I'm about out of time. Hopefully, this next week will be an exciting one with a lot to report to you all back home. I'm mindful of you all in my prayers. I'm also mindful of all the promised blessings that lay in store for each of us if we will just remain faithful and do all we can to fulfill the Lord's will. You all are awesome and I'm super grateful for your support.

Elder Bush

p.s. Grandma and Grandpa Bush and Grandma Gee, I got letters from you too!! THANK YOU! I'll try to reply soon.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

One year already gone?

Warm wishes and love to everyone!

It sure sounds like all is well back home! It dumped snow yesterday while we were at church. So this morning, we got a call to help shovel out President Severyoukhin's garage so he could get to work. Thus, I'm writing home a little earlier than usual.

ELDER ZAMORA'S BROTHER JUST GOT HIS MISSION CALL TO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC!!! WOOOOOOO!!!! Another Spanish speaker in their house going to a Spanish speaking mission. His older brother is finishing up his mission in Anaheim. That's super exciting! Anyways, sorry got a little side tracked. We're all writing home together right now and we're all excited to hear about the BYU basketball player (Kyle Collinsworth) coming here to Vlad! He's going to love it so much! I hope I get to serve with him! I'll look tiny compared to him. There's a huge group of missionaries leaving this summer from our mission, so we'll probably be getting some this next summer to help the work move forward. Dad, thanks for your email about the atonement. The longer I study it, the harder it is to comprehend. How could Christ physically take upon himself our suffering, our pains, our sins, our weaknesses? How, I don't know. But He did. And through Him, we can receive eternal life and a fullness of joy.

It's been a good week. (Seems like I always say that right?) The Zone leaders came to visit so I got to work with my trainer (Elder Waltman) again. I love talking with him and getting to reunite with him to work in the Lord's vineyard. I love serving here in Vlad because you know pretty much everyone in the mission field. You know all the servants of the Lord of the vineyard with whom you are laboring and you truly form so many great friendships, even with those that you haven't personally served with. I just couldn't imagine serving in a mission with 150+ missionaries. Somewhere around 30-40 is nice for me. :) We had some fun tracting this past week. It was actually an interesting experience because the only person that expressed any interest was the last door we knocked on. (And later on in the week when we stopped by, we got cursed at by an indifferent young man that appeared to not be in a stable frame of mind.) But anyway, when we were heading toward that stairwell, a man stood in the way. We spoke with him and he expressed little interest at all. We spoke to him of the Book of Mormon and why it's so important. Because of my lack of faith, I probably would have just walked away to go to another stairwell. But Elder Thellmann (who is super awesome and a great example to me) strengthened my faith by asking the man if he lived there and if he would let us in the stairway to talk to his neighbors. The man thought about it and grabbed his keys and opened the door. You have to have faith in this work or the Lord will be unable to work little miracles each and every day. That may seem like a simple if not trivial example, but to me, it was huge evidence that when we have faith, the Lord softens the hearts of people to help further His work among His children.

We met a really cool Armenian man on the street that met with us once this past week. I hope he continues to meet with us. One thing I learned from that meeting was how important the Spirit is. Shirak (his name) kept returning to the subject of America, wanting to know what it's like there, how is it better than here, etc. It was really hard to help him stay focused on the message of the Book of Mormon and why we wanted to meet with him. Yet, as we spoke and asked him questions, he began to feel of the Spirit and the words we shared regarding the promise behind the Book of Mormon. The fact that we were American no longer interfered. The Spirit took over. That's what doing the Lord's work is all about; letting the Spirit guide and touch the hearts of those that are ready to hear.

It's crazy how time flies (like I mentioned last week). On the tenth, I didn't even remember that it was my year mark until later in the afternoon. I have some big goals this next year and I hope with all my heart to come closer to the Lord with each day, to fulfill His will and do everything He would desire of me. And to bring others up the mountain along with me as I make this climb. I have truly begun to see how much the Lord has blessed me while I've been here. He blesses me so much in speaking the language. I truly am beginning to see how (Stake) President Pratt's words and the Lord's blessing he gave me when setting me apart are being fulfilled. I am so grateful the Lord sent me here. I needed these challenges and I need more in the future to help me grow.

Oh, we met this former investigator this past week who has sisters that are members living in America. I really hope we can touch his heart and he’ll have a desire to learn more. Helping families be brought together in the gospel is what it's all about. He lives out in a separate little house where there's tons of dogs guarding each house. I have seen some bears this past week being out there. :) And by bears, I mean big dogs that could eat me. :) Don't worry, they're usually on chains behind fences. They just make a bunch of noise.

I love you all. I love the Lord. And I know He blesses each of us each and every day. Look for His hand in your life. Take luck! ;)

Elder Spencer Bush


Monday, February 7, 2011

Russian Music Concert was Awesome!

Hey there everybody!

What a crazy week! (Seems like I say that all the time right?) Thanks for the emails. And thanks to Sis. Spencer for writing me a letter that I got this last week and to the Hansens for the package they sent! I loved eating Skittles! I haven't had them in a while! Thank you so much for your letter and pictures. It was super nice of all of you! Mom, I'm always surprised that people like my letters home because I'm never really sure if what I'm writing makes any sense at all. Although, the more I think about it, the more I realize that my letters home are sometimes better than my journal entries. So, I'm thinking I might compile a huge binder with all my letters home that I can keep along with my journal entries so I can remember more of my mission.

Well, where to begin? We had a lot of plans fall through this past week, which made our evenings interesting. It's a lot harder to contact people on the street at night. And tracting is not always very liked by many of the people because they don't want to be "bothered" in the evenings. But that's when they're home so...

The highlight of the week was probably getting to participate in a cultural activity this past Saturday. The Jones family (one of the American couples that live here on Sakhalin and work at Exxon) bought tickets for all the missionaries here on Sakhalin as well as the assistants and President and Sister Pratt because they were here visiting this past weekend. It was a concert put on by a group of musicians that play traditional Russian music. It was really, really cool! They were all dressed up in traditional outfits and they had two singers that sang folk songs and it was just awesome. Several of the musicians played an instrument called the balalaika. It's like a triangular guitar, and it comes in different sizes. The base balalaika was ginormous! And the guy that played it was a good match. (You'll see what I mean from the picture I took.) The music they played was outstanding, and we all loved every minute of it. I got some descent photos and a few videos I'll show you in a year.

Saturday actually started out with my losing my passport somewhere in our apartment, which I fortunately found, and as a result we were late to our lesson. On the way, I took a nice tumble on the ice which wasn't exceptionally fun. In fact, my back side thanked me later for it. Then later that day, I got an awesome rejection from a woman on the bus while we were doing some bus contacting. She got tired of me asking her questions trying to have a conversation with her and told me to leave her alone so she could rest. Then that evening, I almost got hit by a car crossing the street. (Don't worry, I'm completely fine) but what a day! Oh and I cut myself shaving to cap it all off.

This last week has once again been filled with some wonderful food! We actually made cupcakes last night while studying, we had snickerdoodles from Sister Noble, we made some delicious marinated chicken yesterday, and an investigator fed us soup and this noodle meatloaf stuff that was pretty good... All in all, it's been a great week full of yummy food, hot chocolate, and some pretty warm weather. Things started melting this past week! It was crazy! Hopefully, it doesn't get too warm too quickly.

It's kind of hard to believe that I have already served for almost a year. Time flies far too fast. I don't want it to run out. Even though it's hard, it's so worth it, and I want to learn as much as I can while I'm here. Don't let one moment pass you by as good old Elder Rogers said in the Best Two Years. Every moment is a chance to serve the Lord and to help those around you come closer to Him. Every moment is one you can learn from to better yourself and overcome your weaknesses.

I love each of you so much. You all are amazing, and I'm super grateful for your support and your examples. Hope each of you has a great week! Stay safe and have fun! And read your scriptures!

Elder Bush

P.S. The family is the greatest thing on the face of the planet. Never forget that. We met with an awesome family this last week in the center area while Elder Zamora was with us and the mom was asking us a lot about our families, how we were raised and what experiences we had growing up. I'm so grateful to have such a loving family. :) And awesome parents!