Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter!!

Why hello there everyone!

I know Mondays shouldn't be the focus of my week and I shouldn't just be waiting for each Monday but I must say, I do love Mondays since I get to hear from you all and know how things are going back home where it's warm and doesn't snow in April. For some odd reason, nature can't make up its mind and it has decided to snow on and off here the last week or two. We woke up to snow yesterday morning and snow this morning as well. Not my favorite snow since it's really wet everywhere but looking on the bright side, it's not summer where I'd be sweating all the time.

Well, this past week has been a wonderful spiritual feast. It has blown me away! President and Sister Lawrence came to visit our mission and it was a privilege and wonderful opportunity to meet them, associate with them, and learn from them. Elder Lawrence is in the second quorum of the seventy, he spoke in general conference last fall about parenting (the one about sleepovers that confirmed Dad was always right. :) We missionaries got to talking and we all agree that some of the stupidest things we did as youth was at a sleepover. Let's see, let's get a group of boys or young men together, it's late at night, nothing to do... a recipe for stupidity. I will say, I never really had that problem but I can see what it could lead to.) Anyways, we (the missionaries in Khabarovsk) flew to Sakhalin on Tuesday evening. The next morning, we all met at the branch and had an awesome zone conference with President and Sister Lawrence, and President and Sister Pratt. Elder Lawrence was a mission president in Novosibirsk about 10 years ago (just before the Brethren introduced Preach My Gospel) and is currently a counselor in the Europe East Area Presidency with President Schwitzer. He shared wonderful council with us regarding our missionary work and who we are becoming. Obedience is key. It is fundamental. I can't tell you how many times that theme was repeated. Faith is also a key principle that dictates the likelihood of miracles in our lives. The Lord can only work miracles according to our faith. I immediately knew his wife to be a seminary/institute teacher from the minute she began speaking. She just had a gift for teaching. She shared with all of us about the Abrahamic covenant and we are all heirs of that covenant since we are part of the house of Israel. It was intense. First of all, it was something I was very intrigued to study and learn more of because I've lately been focusing my attention on covenants and all that they entail. They’re extremely serious, very sacred, and bring with them the greatest blessing Heavenly Father has to offer. It's inspiring to realize that with the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ came not only a restoration of priesthood authority but also a restoration of covenant making. That is why this work is so important. We are all about helping people enter into covenants with God. It's not just about getting more members so our church will be bigger than the church down the street. I want others to see the beauty in the blessings that await them when they enter into covenants with God and remain faithful to them. That's a very big part of why I'm here spending all my time on this holy work. I won't share everything that Sister Lawrence shared because it was honestly one of the deepest doctrinal presentations that I've heard on my mission in such a setting. One thing she did mention was that our patriarchal blessing is our license to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is there that we find our lineage to Abraham and we realize our connection to the House of Israel, the Lord's chosen, covenant people. We touched on the topic of "election" (go look in the Bible Dictionary about that) and how we are elected children of Father because we proved faithful in the life before this and we made promises that we would carry forth His work here on this earth. We talked about a lot of things that I will share more about when I get home but it really was a spiritually enlightening experience that helped me to better realize my role in all of this and the role I will continue to play for the rest of my life.

That evening (Wed), the branch had a fireside with the Lawrences speaking and we were able to stay for that which was a real treat because we got to not only learn more from them, but I got to reunite with so many awesome members of the church there on Sakhalin. It was fantastic to see them again even after only 2 months or so. We got to do a little work there on Sakhalin the next day with the Sakhalin elders which consisted of meeting with a member who lives in a retirement home (man, could he talk and talk and talk!) and we then headed back to Khabarovsk that evening.

Friday we did service with Sister Galina and met with one of her students named Stepan. I think I mentioned him to you. I bought him a gift in Korea on my last trip. It was a pack of UNO cards with Cars characters on it. At the end of our visit, we played a few rounds and he loved it. :) He has such a sweet spirit about him. I always love seeing that kid.

Saturday evening, we gathered together as missionaries at the senior couples' apartment and had an Easter dinner that Sister Burnham prepared for us. It was so nice of her and greatly appreciated. :) Yesterday was obviously a very special day. I awoke excited to celebrate Christ's triumphant victory over death. We (Elder Waltman, Elder Steed, and I) sang praise to Christ in sacrament meeting yesterday and I'm certain that angels were there singing along with us as our voices joined together and filled the sacrament hall with the Spirit of the Lord. It was a moving experience that I shall never forget. I taught Sunday School yesterday and since the only investigator that came speaks only a little Russian and is from China, he read from a Chinese PMG and heard some translation from his Chinese friend that is a member of the church named Daniel. It was odd because Daniel speaks better English than Russian, so I taught in English and it's always a strange feeling to go back into English.

I know that my Redeemer lives. I know He has loosed the bands of death and offers all of us the opportunity to return to live in the presence of the Father. He is my Lord, my God, my King. The Prince of Peace. He atoned for all of us. And it is to Him that I humbly bow and worship. I hope you all have had a wonderful Easter! I love you all so much! :)

Elder Bush

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why does it snow in April?

Well, I'm doing well and hanging in there. This past week was another unique one and yet the same. As I look back, it's crazy to think about how quickly the weeks go by sometimes. Sometimes, I fear life goes too fast and we can't seem to slow down amongst it all and learn from all the experiences whirling around us. (This keyboard is driving me crazy. Some of the keys don't like to work, especially r!) I guess the keyboards at the post office get used a lot and we can't expect things to last forever.

So, to begin, I just want all at home to remember that I love you all. I’m super grateful for everything each and every one of you does for me, and I’m sorry that I don’t express it enough. I love each of you. Don't forget it. I love the Lord. I have found that love and devotion tried and tested. And I have found myself far from perfection so often in this life. But I know the Lord is the master sculptor. He can make of me that which he desires if I will simply (and it's not so simple all the time) yield myself to His will and do everything He asks. I know His church was restored in our day and that it is true. There's no going back and no changing my mind or doubting or being a little confused. I know it. Just as the hymn "Called to Serve" states, we are "called to know the richness of His blessings, sons and daughters, children of a King." I have experienced and know a portion, a mere fraction of His blessings. And they are rich. I know there are grand blessings that await me if I remain true to my covenants. I am one of His sons. The son of a King. The King of Kings. I am one of his heirs, a joint heir with Christ as Romans 8:17 beautifully puts it. And I am one of His witnesses for two years and for the rest of my life.

This past week has been filled with contacting, tracting, and some more contacting, and I've really begun to see how influential goal setting is in helping us accomplish something versus simply going through the motions. We had a wonderful institute lesson going over Doctrine and Covenants 135 and the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the prophet and Hyrum Smith the patriarch. It was a very powerful lesson where we all felt the Spirit testify to each of us of the divinity of the work of the Prophet Joseph and how his service here on earth pointed all to Christ. Contacting, we met a lot of nice people that may not have been super interested but we helped them feel the love of the Savior, and I pray that a smile we may have shown them, or a kind word, or a small message of hope may have lifted their spirits and sparked future interest.

I was with Elder Waltman again this past Friday and Saturday on an exchange and it was way cool to re-experience the feeling of being with my trainer and have so many memories come back, to laugh about some of the crazy funny things that happened while we were together in Vlad and to just laugh.

Lately, I think the Lord has been teaching me some through my dreams. As I've been studying lately about the plan of salvation, I've been having thoughts and realizing that these thoughts came to me previously in a dream I had a couple days ago. Sometimes, I sit and wonder, "Wait... Did I study that another time or was that in a dream?" I know that if we continually treasure up in our minds and in our hearts the words of life, the Lord will teach us more and more, even through our dreams.

Oh about the title of this blog, it did snow a couple times this past week just out of the blue. It snowed hard. Made contacting fun as always. :) The weather is slowly getting warmer. Which is nice I guess. I've kind of gotten used to the cold and I like it. But all will soon be warm and I'll get used to that too.

This next week, we're all flying to Sakhalin for zone conference. We fly out tomorrow evening and come back Thursday evening. Elder Lawrence, of the second quorum of the seventy, is visiting and will be at our zone conference which will be exciting. He was a former mission president in the Novosibirsk mission (just to the west of us). I'm sure I will learn a lot and recognize a lot of things I can do to improve. It's going to be a great couple days!

Hope everyone is safe and well and healthy. Don't forget to wash behind your ears. Just as one of Elder Waltman's little nieces said one time, "Read you scriptures, say your prayers, and go to church." I really appreciate each of you in my life. Thanks for being exemplary examples to me on the other side of the globe. You never know how much of an influence you have on someone. Take care of each other in your part of the Lord's vineyard. :)

Love you all!
Elder Bush

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Wonderful Week in Seoul

Thank you Mom and Dad for sending such awesome emails this week. Mom, yours reminded me that I have parents who love each other. :) While every child in the history of the world has probably always found parental love or public displays of affection (yes dad, I mean you kissing mom in the kitchen when the kids are watching) :) to be undesirable, I must say that there is comfort to be taken from the fact that I know without a doubt that my parents love each other and are jointly united in the cause of raising our family and taking care of each of their children. Love you both. :)

I loved conference. I missed the two Saturday sessions unfortunately because my flight came into Khabarovsk from Seoul too late, but I'll see them some time and get to hear Elder Oaks’ awesome marriage talk or so that's what I've heard. It's funny watching conference as a missionary with other missionaries because many of the talks apply differently to us as we mature in the mission, just as they apply differently to us in life. From the very get go, I absolutely loved President Uchtdorf's address Sunday morning. It applies very much to those amongst whom I serve. It applies to every single member of God's family. We shouldn't expect a sign or grand answers or visitations or ginormous confirmations. Although we must also remember that they are very real and very possible. It reminded me of teaching institute a few weeks ago and talking about the ministering of angels. Elder Holland had a great quote that basically said something like, we shouldn't be expecting from God heavenly messengers and visitations to help strengthen our faith or give us grand answers to our prayers. Yet we must have faith and be mindful that there are servants of the Lord that serve amongst us that may be unseen and could just as well manifest themselves unto us if the Lord saw fit to do so. This all tides in very well to Elder Bednar's talk about revelation and how we shouldn't overlook the simple pattern the Spirit usually follows in revealing truth to us, line upon line, precept upon precept. That's how it's usually always been. Although it's very possible that the Lord could answer our prayers with an intense, immediate, and very complete revelation, just as comparable to the turning on of a light switch in a dark room, illuminating all that surrounds us. Yet, it is more common that the Lord opens unto us knowledge and truth, for instance regarding the truthfulness of the restoration of Christ's gospel in our day, over a long period of time just as the light begins to creep over the horizon when the sun begins to rise. It's also comparable to a puzzle. Each of us must piece together the pieces of revelation the Lord has blessed us with and then we will see before us the grand picture. I love the perspective the restored gospel gives me. I know without doubt in my mind or heart that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church once again restored onto the earth in our day. Thomas S. Monson is His beloved prophet who delivers to us the Lord's will. I loved all of the talks I was blessed to hear and I learned much. Now, I just must apply it to my work and use it to help me become better, to develop Christ like attributes, instead of just using it to do better.

I love Seoul. It is a wonderful city. A city blessed with a temple within its bounds and unfortunately, the temple was closed this past week while I was there. We still were able to stay in the dorms but it was simply that time of year when the temple undergoes maintenance and repairs. It was still edifying to be near the temple though and to interact with those that serve there. I flew straight into Seoul from Khabarovsk which was wonderful because it cut out a flight to Vlad and just dealing with that all. I was the last one to fly in and I met up with the other missionaries there. We decided to be a little adventurous and took the Express train from the airport to the temple instead of the bus. It was actually kind of fun although we were a little lost for a bit. Mostly because we took the express train instead of the simple subway which is a straight shot to another station that turned out to be right next to the subway station. Seoul is pretty easy to get around so it all worked out just fine. If you can find a subway entrance and you know where you need to end up, it's pretty easy to find the way to get there. We actually ran into a really nice member in the subway station and he helped us find where we needed to go as well. While in Seoul, we did some shopping and a little site seeing. Elder Conly and I made the trip to Seoul Tower on Friday since we had an extra day and didn't fly back to Russia til Saturday. It was super cool and I took great pictures of the city! It will be great to see the city next time at night because I hear it's beautiful. We also met Chinese members from Taiwan who were visiting Seoul there at the tower. They came up to us and asked kind of jokingly if it was our pday. We then explained we were from Russia and were just waiting to fly back the next day. We even got to help them get a hold of an American member in Seoul so they could attend the English ward this past weekend. Kind of cool how things play out sometimes. :) The day before, I called Brother Southerland from the subway station and we agreed to meet at the temple at 5. He then took us all back to his home and we had dinner with him and his wife. They were so loving, so sweet, and so hospitable! And they had a beautiful apartment. It was wonderful to be amongst such friendly members in a distant land and to feel that close bond we all share in our faith in Christ and His restored gospel. We played a little Apples to Apples (brought back great family memories) and had a small testimony meeting to end the night. I love learning so much from other people and their experiences and hearing of their testimonies. It was such a wonderful evening.

All in all, it was a great Korea trip that will be even better when we have the chance to go to the temple next time. I'm humbled to be a servant of the Lord. He loves each of us so much. Never lose sight of that. Ever.

The work has still been going slowly. Yet, it has been wonderful to serve amongst the Russian people thus far, especially in Khabarovsk. I love this people so much. I may not always understand them and it may be difficult at times but I truly can say I have come to love them. And I know that love will only grow. When they do things that may not always be pleasant or understandable, I have to remember they are children of Heavenly Father, my brothers and sisters. And their behavior is not part of their identity. If I can help them see the need to be as Christ is, they will hopefully grasp the beauty of His example and change to do and be as the Lord would desire each us to become and do. (I hope that makes even a slight bit of sense.)

We played Jeopardy for English club this past week and it was a lot of fun! We afterwards watched How Rare a Possession, a video about the Italian man who found the Book of Mormon in New York. The night before that, my companion and I were prompted to visit a less active member who hasn't opened the door to missionaries in a while. She turned out to be home and let us up to talk for a few minutes. We may not have been able to drastically help her, but we both felt we were prompted to visit her and invite her to conference. I hope we helped.

Well, it's been a good week and it should be another great one ahead of us. Love you all and I'm grateful for all you do on my behalf. Thanks to Grandpa Bush for sending me a letter updating me about march madness. :) I always love hearing from you Gramps. Hope you enjoyed some FL sun this past week. :) Thank you Brother Bates for your letter this past week. Loved the photos (with the exception of your car wreck. I agree a paid off truck is better than a new truck but I know the Lord will take care of you and your family.)

Love you all back home! Good luck this next week!

Elder Bush

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hello from Kharbarovsk

Hey there everybody!

I can't believe it! I'm already going to be heading back to Korea this week! Crazy, right? Time seems to sure be flying by. This last week has been a good one full of street contacting and lots of prayer. I met some really cool people this past week. No one that was super interested in the message. But there were a few nice people who were fun to talk to and hopefully, they were touched in some way by the Spirit as we spoke with them. Thank you all for your prayers on my behalf. I feel as though I'm getting a little bit back in that groove. It takes a lot of work to find those who are interested and have been prepared by the Lord to hear our message,but it's certainly worth every bit. We met a really cool man named Sergei who had an enormous speech impediment. It was so intense at times that I could guess the word he wanted to say before he could get it all out. I couldn't imagine how aggravating that would be to have such an impediment. It drove me crazy the other day when I had to email the secretary over CES in Novosibirsk because typing in Russian isn't easy. All the keys are in a different order and are not placed according to corresponding sounds with English letters. I know apple computers can do that and it makes typing in Russian 100 times easier. It was as though I had all that I wanted to say up in my head and I just couldn't get it out onto the page. Gave me a new appreciation for the blessing of speech and knowing how to type in English. He was the last person that we talked to after contacting for a while. And it was really cool to see his countenance change from a little down (probably had a rough day based on his answer when I asked how he was doing) to excited to talk to us, Americans of all people. It's interesting how that works. Some people love talking to us just because of our nationality. Others, like a man named Victor, wanted very little to do with us and told us to leave Russians alone because we were American. We answered his concern by asking him a simple question. "Who was Christ? Where was He born?" He was Jewish. He wasn't born on Russian soil or off in the distant Americas. Yet, He died for all of us. Suffered for us so that we could have the opportunity to return to Him and the Father, independent of our nationality here while we live on the earth. We are all children of a Heavenly Father. Christ is our brother. We are family. It reminded me of our lineage and our potential. How awesome to know where we came from and where we're going.

I was saddened by the news of Great Grandma Smith and yet I rejoice to know that she is finally home. She has lived a wonderful, long life and I'm sure is happy to return back home and see her beloved after 27 years of separation. I wish I could have met Grandpa Smith. I've heard so much about him. I'm really grateful I had the opportunity to see great Grandma Smith before I left. I had a feeling I wouldn't see her again and while it's saddening to be separated and to know I won't get to see her again, my joy in knowing where she is erases any sadness. Love you grandma. :)

What else exciting has happened this past week? We had a great family home evening last Monday. The senior couple here in Khabarovsk invited us over to have burritos one day this past week and they were delicious!!! She made homemade salsa and it was awesome! They're from Arizona. Something about Arizona people and their amazing salsas...(I’m reminded of Sister Hansen's salsa. yummmmmm!) :) On the note of yummy food, I made pizza last night for dinner! It was great actually. And we have leftovers! I'm super excited to have more later today. I've really come to love cooking lately. Weird huh?

I've been working really hard to recognize the voice of the spirit lately. It's been a great learning adventure seeing how the Spirit works and learning how to better recognize His promptings. I know the Lord teaches us through His spirit and shows us great things pertaining to His will. He is the Master. He is the teacher. But He's more than a teacher. He is the healer. But he's more than a healer. He is our Savior. He is our Redeemer. Look to Him and you'll be blessed beyond your comprehension.

I love you all. So, I'm gonna try to buy some souvenirs if I can find any here in Khab. We'll see. If it works, I'll send some home from Korea this next week. If not, maybe next time. Remember to tell me if there's anything in particular you all want.

Love you! Stay safe! Can't wait to see conference next week!

Elder Bush