Monday, June 27, 2011

Back in Irkutsk

Hey there family!

I know you are probably getting sick and tired of hearing from me so often (last Tuesday and Friday and now Monday!) but I hope you'll bear with me. I'm now back in Irkutsk. My flight left Vlad this morning at 11 am and I got into Irkutsk around 1:15 pm. And since now Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude are (almost) officially part of the Vlad mission beginning this transfer, our pday has gone back to Monday. So for future reference, you can write me on Sundays your time. I'm super drained and tired of airplanes, and I'm glad I'm done with traveling and hope to stay put in one place for a little while.

So, once again, I'll reemphasize that Korea was wonderful and I loved being able to attend the temple. Some of the senior couples here in our mission were also there at the same time which made it fun. One couple (the husband from Nakhodka and the wife from Sakhalin) were there as well and were sealed on Wednesday. While there, we were able to do 2 endowment sessions and 1 session of baptisms which was a really neat experience. Elder Zamora and I both got the opportunity to baptize one another while the other acted as proxy. Needless to say, we got very good at saying Korean names.

I passed on to Brother Southerland some ties that I'll have him send home for me. I'll probably get a few more for Dad and Trev next trip. We'll see. Hopefully, Dad or Trev will like some of the ones I sent home this time.

Flying from Vlad to Korea was really interesting because Elder Zamora met a man at the airport who was from Spain with his wife/girlfriend who is Italian and he was able to speak with both of them in Spanish the entire flight. And even afterward on the subway into Seoul. It was so neat to see Elder Zamora freely speak with this man and it turns out they already knew a lot about the church. By the time we went separate ways in the subway station, it seemed we had made lifelong friends in just a matter of hours. They were really really nice people. I got the chance to sit next to an American on the way to Korea. His name is Elliot and he is from North Carolina and was studying Russian in St. Petersburg and Vladivostok. If I remember right, he is studying at Davidson. He also knew a lot about the church and we had a very long interesting conversation.

After we made our way back from Korea to Vlad, we stayed the night in Artyom (the city were the airport is) and worked there on Saturday and Sunday.  (On Sat, we talked to a ton of people and we met some really really neat people!)  But since we don't presently have a church building in Artyom, the elders and members have to go to Vlad for church which is about an hour ride by bus (if there's no traffic). They've been doing construction on the road from Artyom to Vlad pretty much ever since I got into the country and since Elder Zamora and I didn't really want to make another trip down there for church on Sunday, we got permission to go an hour in the other direction... to Usserisk! We surprised everyone there by showing up just before church and it was wonderful to get to see all the members and missionaries there. Needless to say, on the way home, we got stuck in traffic for an hour and a half but a 2 1/2 hour bus ride was worth it.

I guess to end this letter, I'll share a real quick experience. Lately, my letters may not be a very good reflection of this, but the mission has been kind of hard. Yeah yeah hard mission. What's new? I guess it's always hard but it's hard in different ways and in phases. Lately, it's been hard to have desire to keep going out there when success is just difficult to see. I know I should have stronger faith and know that if I'll remain diligent and do a little more every day, we'll see the fruits of our labor. For whatever reason though, lately it has just been hard. While I was in the temple after the first endowment session we went through, I was sitting in the celestial room and I prayed and prayed for guidance and comfort and desire to push forward and to become the servant the Lord desires I become. Because I'm so far from where He wants me. Yet, I had an assuring feeling of comfort in answer to my prayers as I sat there that I know the Lord loves me and appreciates the work I'm doing. Along with that comfort, I felt the need to continue to work harder because He expects that of me. But I know He loves me. He loves all of His children. Never let yourself think otherwise. The temple is a special place. It is the House of the Lord. Literally.

I love you all and I'm always super grateful for your support and prayers. I hope this next week brings you an abundance of blessings, laughs, and smiles. :)

Elder Bush

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Vlad on my way to Korea

Well everybody,

Hello From Vlad. I've made it here once again on another trip to get to Korea. It was a crazy flight to get here. Well, mostly, it was just the timing. Our flight left Irkutsk this morning at 1:20 and got into Vlad around 7ish. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much at all. So basically, I pulled my first all nighter on the mission, and right now I'm suffering for it. Not that I really had much of a choice. My eyelids are wanting to close every time I blink and let me drift off to sleep. Elder Zamora has already fallen asleep a couple times while writing home. :)

The spelling check on this computer is definitely set to Russian because everything I type is underlined in red. And if anyone is reading this or can see my computer screen from a distance, they probably think I'm completely illiterate and deficient in the Russian language.

Dad, I wish you a wonderful Father's Day! :) Hope it's a great one filled with lots of wonderful memories about how awesome of a Dad you really are. Thanks for all you've taught me and continue to teach me through your guiding words and example.

So, this past week has been as always another great one. Due to a slight lack in investigators at the present, we've been working more and more with members and less actives which has been fun because you get to know more people. I truly have loved getting to know people. We've also had lots of opportunities in trying to take advantage of finding people through contacting. Not the most effective, but you get to talk to so many wonderful people. I met a woman on the bus yesterday who said hello to me just before I got off. She said, "Hello Bush! Do you remember me? You invited me to English club." Unfortunately, I couldn't remember her name although she did seem familiar. You talk with so many people and the Russian culture doesn't usually branch out into a vary wide list of names. They tend to have the same names because it just works in their culture. For example, their middle name is called an Ochestva which is created from your father's name. For example, if my father's name was Sergei, my ochestva would be Sergeiivich. Or if Vladimir then Vladimirivich.For a girl, the ending becomes ~ona instead of ~ivich. And basically, if your father's name strays from the usual lexicon of Russian names, then your ochestva turns out kind of weird. Anyways, it was really cool to meet her again and talk with her and her family. She seemed very excited to see us again and said they were planning on coming to English club tonight. Remember, you may invite a ton of people, and immediately after, you may not see any result. But through time, you never know the results that could appear.

Probably the most exciting thing that happened this past week was that at sports night, I fell while playing soccer and scrapped up my leg and tweaked my shoulder a little. But, I'm completely fine. Just made things interesting. And of course, when any kind of trauma occurs, suddenly everyone becomes a doctor and is super concerned for you and tells you that you have to clean the blood off your leg. It really was no big deal at all. Not that I'm complaining that people were trying to care about me. It's just that it really wasn't a big deal and I would have rather just kept on playing without being troubled with cleaning it all up.

As I've reached this point in my mission, I've done a whole lot of pondering. A lot of introspective pondering. A lot of self analyzing. I realize I have so many imperfections and things that the Lord wants me to change and improve. The trick is to never let it get you down. Don't be discouraged when life gets hard, when your circumstances are less than ideal, and when you're not satisfied with how you're personally doing. Go forward with faith, relying on the Lord. And He shall guide thee. I've come to realize that lately, I haven't been relying on the Lord at the magnitude that I was earlier in my mission. I've slowly allowed myself to think that there are some things that Elder Bush can handle, that he can do on his own. You must be humble in this work, in this earthly life if you expect the Lord's matchless help. I'm trying to change and become more like the Savior and the greatest obstacle I think is trying not to get overwhelmed. Just take it a step at a time each day. I know the Lord loves me and expects more from me as His devoted servant. It has been a privilege thus far to serve as His representative, and I pray that I will be able to do an even greater job in using the Lord's time to fulfill His mission, not my own.

I'm super stoked to be able to have the opportunity to go to the temple. And because of changes in policy, Sister Brigham in our visa group will not be going alone with us but her Russian companion will be allowed to accompany her. Which is super exciting because now Sister Volkova will get the chance to go to the temple with us! I'm super excited for her! I'm really looking forward to the blessings that the temple brings. The peace, comfort, guidance, and revelation we can receive from the Spirit felt in the House of the Lord. It's incomparable. Don't ever take the temple for granted. I have a strong hunch attending the temple this next week will help me grow a lot and realize how I can better become the missionary the Lord desires I become.

Elder Bush

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another week west of Baikal

Well howdy everyone!
So, to begin, I will share some 'funny' more or less notable things that we went over yesterday in English club. 1st, we all established that Elder Bush is horrible at translating. :) Uliana said that to everyone as I was translating (she's one of the English clubbers). Needless to say, she's right. Lately, translating has been pretty hard. It's hard to translate from Russian to English because I can't get my brain to make the connections between English and Russian words. I just understand people when they talk. It's equally as hard to translate from English to Russian because I try too much to translate very closely to what the person said so nothing gets lost in translation, but that's really hard. So anyways, lesson one from this past week, is that Elder Bush has to work on his translation abilities. Yesterday in English club, I had the idea to talk about idioms, sayings, and phrases of English and Russian to see which ones we share in common between our languages and which ones are unique to each respective language. We actually share several but most of them are simply the thought that we share. They're simply said differently by the means of different words. For example, in English we might say something like "She's playing with her future." whereas in Russian, they say "she is joking around with her future." Or "Don't bite the hand that feeds you." In Russian: "Don't chop the branch upon which you sit." "A rolling stone gathers no moss." Russian: "Under a lying stone water doesn't flow." There's one in Russian that means something like don't make a big deal about it and it goes something like, "Don't make an elephant out of a fly." I love the intricacies of language.
Thanks to you Mom and Dad for the emails and the weekly updates. I hope you all have a ton of fun going out to Utah to get Trev all squared away and to see Grandma. Tell Grandma hi for me! And pass on my love! :) So... what to share with everyone at home... It's getting pretty hot. Ok ok I know I shouldn't be complaining because it's still pretty dry here but it's certainly summer now. The work is moving, slowly but surely. It was sure momentous to have a stake organized in Moscow a little over a week ago. It means the church truly is growing in Russia and while the church is still only 7-8 years old here in Irkutsk, it's slowly growing. My mission has been a unique and life changing experience because I've been able to see how the church functions when it's still so  young. There are a lot of challenges that we all face wherever we may find ourselves in the world as members of the church but there are also unique challenges to the church when it's still young. What an awesome opportunity to be a part of this all.
This past Saturday, we had another really neat finding activity where we rolled out a bunch of wallpaper on Kirova Square and we painted the Plan of Salvation and talked with tons of people as they walked by and starred at us. It was a lot of fun and we met several people who are interested in learning more. Elder Smith in our district met some girls from Germany who wanted to learn more, and so he's going to find out the address of the nearest ward in their hometown and get them the info. It seems to me that Baikal seems to be a hot spot for Germans. I sure wish my brain could remember German. It really has simply been overwhelmed and taken over by Russian. I'll definitely have to study some when I get back. Most Germans we've met speak at least a little English so we're able to have a little banter back and forth. :)
Yesterday was a fun adventure. We hopped on a bus and rode up north for about an hour to get to the other elders' apartment. From there we grabbed some extra chairs that they had and then took them to a member that asked if we could get her some extra chairs for a small room she rents right near the place she works. Basically, we spent at least an hour if not more walking around with these chairs trying to find the bus stop where we were suppose to meet. It was a sweaty, hectic and stressful adventure because I thought we were never going to find them and that we would be stuck with these chairs.  And yeah basically, it was turning into a little bit of a problem. But we finally found her and she was super, super grateful. It's been wonderful to see the change in her as we've gotten to know her and serve her and show her Christlike love. Service is always worth it.
Well, that about sums it up for the week. Keep on keeping on! Love you all and I hope you have a fantastic week!!
Elder Bush
p.s. apparently, we're going laser tagging today. I don't know how this is going to turn out. Stay tuned for updates next week!
p.s.s. Vlad UPS'ed our mail here to Irkutsk so i just got some stuff from Grandpa and the Frapps. Thanks Gramps and the Frapps! :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Meeting really nice people in Siberia


To one and all, I send my love and greatest grandest wishes from Siberia! Siberia is pretty sweet I must add. Just the word... Siberia really has quite a ring to it. So, first off, thank you as always for the updates about home (man my back sure aches, I just realized that I've been leaning forward typing and reading for the last little bit when I could have been leaning back against a nice wonderful chair). It's always quite encouraging to hear from you all. I must say, talking about food in your emails sure made me pretty hungry. (My comp doesn't like to eat a whole lot, so I sort of suffer by forgoing dinner most evenings which is probably good for me as far as losing weight BUT man oh man I sure would love some good pancakes and holy griddle hash browns!) :)

So, what's new with me...? This last week was a bit frustrating because nothing seemed to work out. I should be thankful though because the other elders have in general had it worse than us. The work in their area has been going better but they keep running into problems. (SIM card got locked up, got a new SIM card and then the phone got lost on a small bus, had to get a new phone and another new SIM card, they moved into a new apartment yesterday/today but yesterday, after having the moving truck take all their stuff to the new building, they found that their key didn't work and so they waited all day for the landlord who never came and they ended up getting another truck to take everything back. That was a little frustrating I'm sure, but they did get to play soccer with a bunch of the local boys while they waited and it sounds like they made some great friends. :)

We've been on the streets a lot this past week talking to lots of people. We sure have met a lot of really nice people. Most not really interested in the gospel but still, really really nice people. We've also got a lot of interesting reactions. But, that comes with talking to a lot of people all over the city. We also had the opportunity to perform some service this past week for a member as well as a branch in a city just outside of Irkutsk called Angarsk. At the member’s place, we're helping to build a greenhouse. A very very simple and primitive greenhouse. I love serving because it truly is one of the greatest ways to develop charity and love toward others. In Angarsk which is about a little over an hour drive outside of the city, we had the chance to help clean up the grounds of a camp for an orphanage there in the city. It was actually a lot of fun. Mostly, we cleared away pine branches that had previously been cut down and gathered together. We loaded them up into a Russian pick up and hauled them off to be dumped for firewood. I miss work. It all reminded me of the many hours of cutting down trees and hauling tree after tree when we had all those hurricanes come through. That, and working at the ranch. For some strange reason, I thought to myself, I could do this kind of work for hours and hours. I don't know why, but I really do enjoy work and getting my hands dirty. Probably learned that from Dad.

Saturday, the day we did service was City Day here in Irkutsk (то есть) the Birthday of Irkutsk. It's crazy to think this city is older than America! 350 years old!! They had a parade and festivities in the evening but we really didn't see much of anything. There sure were a lot of people though in the center of the city.

Sunday, we had the privilege of hearing from the one of the Patriarchs that travels around Russia. He gave blessings on Sunday and Monday to several of the branch members and then spoke during the third hour. He speaks really great Russian so he didn't need translation and it was awesome to hear from him. He was pretty funny and shared some wonderful thoughts about missionary work and his family and past experiences he had serving his mission in Germany. He's from Provo, I think he taught Russian in college, served as a mission president in St. Petersburg and now travels all around Russia giving patriarchal blessings to the members here.

Well, that's about all I’ve got for this week. I know that this church is Christ's church. I know He leads this work of which I'm striving to be a part of. I know that attitude makes a huge difference in this life. Just smile. :) Like a man told me this week on the street, no one needs to complain. Just be happy, have a good attitude, and life will be a lot more fun. I love each of you so much!! Pass on a big Siberian hello to Fallon and the Frapps!

Love you all,
Elder Bush

P.S. The longer I serve, the more I realize I know nothing about the Russian language. And I'm sorry I can't seem to remember anything that I thought about during the week that I wanted to share with you. Maybe someday I'll actually learn that writing stuff down is an invaluable tool and method of remembering things.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Getting warmer in Siberia

Why howdy everyone!

First off, congratulations to Trev for finally finishing school. :) Doesn't it feel great?! Hope you had a great graduation ceremony and just enjoy being done with that phase of your life. But don't ever forget the lessons you learned. You'll need them for sure.

Thanks Mom and Dad for the updates! I'm glad to hear things are coming along with the business despite taking longer than anticipated. It's been funny to tell people about what Dad does because I don't really know or understand what it all is. But, it'll be fun to see and learn more once I'm home. I'm excited that Grandma and Grandpa are visiting! Hope you all have a fun time together! That's the part that I miss the most. Just spending time together and laughing. But you already know that.

So what's new? Not much. Well, the weather is getting warmer and warmer. Which is good and bad. I love the warm weather, but not as a missionary. Warm weather is great in a t-shirt and shorts, not so much so in a shirt and tie. I tend to prefer the winter months here. Then again, it is nice to not have to get all bundled up just to go to the store or to take the trash out. But I also like the winter because girls actually wear clothing when it's cold. Once you start noticing see- through clothing (I know that sounds weird but it seems to be part of the fashion here), you know that summer has hit.

I've been thinking about things lately, things that you might all find interesting. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I'm just used to being here in Russia now. The things I used to notice that are different than back home just don't seem to be different now. Russia has truly started to become home to me, or at least things don't seem to be as different as they were when I first arrived a year and a month ago. Man how time flies. I wish it would slow down because I don't feel I've done enough here yet. Not for the people of Russia or in my personal growth. I feel I have so much more to learn before I go home.

This past week on Saturday, we as a district did an interesting finding activity. We got some sheets of wallpaper, taped them together, and placed them on the ground near a square by the river that runs through Irkutsk. We painted the question, "What are you thankful for?" and asked people about things that they're grateful for. (logical right?) They were free to write or draw things on the paper if they pleased and we invited them to know more about the plan of Salvation and invited many to English club. Several members helped us and even an investigator came to help that speaks pretty good English and really wants to start an American football team here in Irkutsk. During the activity, we met many nice, interesting, some not so nice or interested (even a couple anti-American that completely didn't understand the point of English club) people and it turned out to be a lot of fun. We also met some American members of the church that were here visiting and happened to be walking by the river and found us. I'm sure that must be interesting to be traveling around the world and to run into missionaries when you may not have even expected it.

Afterward, we had dinner before we had Sports night and you'll never believe what we ate... Papa John's pizza. Real Papa John's. It absolutely blew me away. Apparently, there's Papa John's here in Irkutsk not too far from the church. And they do free delivery too. Anyways, it was exactly Papa John's and it was kind of weird to be having American pizza. Then, at sports night, an American girl named Faith from North Carolina came with someone from English club and so we got to know her a little bit. Turns out she was teaching English in Korea for the past year and a half and after finishing her contract, decided to make a trek towards Italy by taking the Trans Siberian railroad. Afterward, we helped her get to the tramvei that would take her to the train station. It is always nice to do something nice for someone. She graduated from UNC and noticed my Furman shirt I was wearing at sports night.

Sunday was interesting... A week ago, the branch presidency in Irkutsk was reorganized so this past Sunday was the new branch president's first Sunday. About 5 minutes before sacrament meeting, Elder Zamora and I were asked by the branch president to speak. Needless to say, we were both a little surprised but agreed to speak and I'm so grateful for the Lord's help in guiding my thoughts and my words. And despite all the mistakes I'm sure I made while speaking, I hope those in attendance felt the spirit of the words I shared. I spoke a little about service and the qualities that we must strive to develop in order to serve more sincerely and effectively. Thank goodness for the gift of tongues and the guidance of the spirit.

Well, I guess that's all for this week. Thank you so much for your letters and encouragement. I love you all so much. Take it easy y'all! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Bush