My dearest of dear families,
How art thou? How dost thine doings go back home in the homeland? Ok enough of this gibberish. I'm so glad to write to you all this week! This last one has been another great chapter in the mission. Hard to believe so much time has flown by and that so little time remains to serve the Lord. (Yeah I know I still have a little over 6 months but honestly, that's nothing.) This is the time to shine and it really is quite exciting to be a missionary of the Lord at this time. Mom, Dad, and the whole rest of the family, I know that this work is not just a good idea or a good thing that we do because we want to do a little good in the world. It is the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am his representative, and that is a lot of responsibility. Some may wonder why the Lord entrusts such a great responsibility with such young inexperienced folks. But I'm starting to really understand why. It's because the Lord loves us so much and he knows what we will become if we will give up ourselves in His service. He molds us and shapes us. And boy, do I have a lot of rough edges that I thought were already smoothed over. It will take a lifetime in fact to really smooth out most of my rough edges. But, serving the Lord is the Lord's way to jump start and in reality begin that arduous process. I've never done anything harder. Probably never will. It is really hard sometimes to fulfill the Lord's will when inside you have reservations or don't want to because you know how hard it will be or how much effort it will require of you. I must testify to you all though that it is worth it. I know that the Lord knows me inside and out. He understands me perfectly and is probably frustrated with me sometimes. But I'm certain He is pleased with me as well when I strive to give it my all and fulfill His will. I know Jesus is the Christ. He has overcome the world and through Him, our burdens can be lifted and our sorrows can disappear. He restored His church again to the earth in its fullness through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Of that I am certain and can never deny.
I love my mission. If you can't already tell. Probably because it's not 'mine'. Once I started to realize and continually remember that this mission is not mine but the Lord's and I am simply here on His behalf, I started to understand much more the meaning of the work in which I was participating. This past week has really been a test of my faith and thanks to my companion with a ton of greenie fire, I have been stretched and pushed and I know that I am coming closer to being the missionary the Lord desires of me. I love the elders in my district, so of course, district meeting went well. They all are so awesome and full of desire to serve the Lord sincerely that it's hard not to feel the Spirit in their presence. We talked mostly of logistical things during district meeting and about changes in the mission and unfortunately, we didn't really get to anything that I had planned. But that will be saved for tomorrow's meeting. Anyways, what has really struck me about this past week is the faith, desire, and diligence of the new elders. They truly have been called at a time when the mission is in need of them. They have no fear. Elder Bush has a lot of fear at times in his mission. I have also let the people really get to me at times. Khabarovsk was a difficult city that really beat me down and kept me from opening my mouth and declaring the good news of the gospel with all those amongst whom I was serving. But these new elders, despite their enormous language barrier, talk with everyone. I mean everyone. They're not afraid to say what they can. It reminds me of earlier times in my mission when I overcame my fear and really pushed myself. Irkutsk was a great city in which I really pushed myself as well. But these elders, especially my companion have helped push me and teach me like no one else before has been able to. Wednesday of last week, we had no lessons that worked out. The whole day was going to be filled with street contacting. So we set some admirable goals. We both figured we could probably talk to 60 people during the day and receive a few contacts. 60 people is a lot, and it takes a good effort to reach a goal like that. We left our apartment just after 11 after language study and returned around 2 for lunch. It that short time, we reached our goal and surpassed it by 20! I was blown away. I had never before talked to so many people. Many of them weren't interested. Many of them were really really nice. We later set a goal to try to speak to another 60 people in the evening with the remaining time we had after working a little in the area book and finishing some studies we have to do as part of our new training program. We again started talking to everyone. And I mean everyone. If they walked past us, we talked to them. Again, we were met with many people that weren't that interested. And with about 4 minutes left, right near our apartment building on the way home, we met our goal and talked to 2 more and in the end, we had spoken with 142 people. Only one man had expressed much interest and was willing to take a book of Mormon and gave us his number so we could get in touch. And we met him just before we got home. It was a long hard day in which we talked to everyone we could. The best part of that day was during my prayers that evening as I knelt beside my bed. As I prayed, I thought about all the people we had talked to. Their faces and words ran through my mind over and over again. And there were so many!! The Lord knows each of them and loves them so much! As my mind reflected on all of them, I was overcome with that feeling of love for all of them and I prayed so hard that he would bless Igor and Hatasha, Vladimir and Sergei, Alexander and Sasha, Yulia and Dima. We continued to talk to tons of people the rest of the week and testified of the divinity of the Savior, of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and that the church of God has been restored on the earth. I know all of that with every bit of my heart, and I am privileged that I can declare that message each and every day.
We also got to see the new church building that we'll be moving to soon. It is almost finished being built. It looks awesome!!!!! I'll have to send you pictures soon. (Unfortunately, the battery is dead in my camera.)
Well, I'm doing well in short. My health is good. Although I miss really working out. I may start waking up a little earlier to get a better work out in in the morning. Oh that reminds me, Ulan-Ude doesn't have hot water right now in the apartments. And hasn't for a while. It's supposed to get turned back on today but we'll see. So, basically, we've been taking cold showers for the last week and a half. Which is awful. (not that I'm complaining) but cold showers are certainly not on my list of "wow that's awesome! I’d definitely do that again!" things. What we usually do is boil water when we first get up, kind of like I did with Elder Waltman over a year ago and then take it in the shower with me, get soaked with the ice cold shower water, soap up, and then rinse off with the warm water in our huge soup pot. Yeah, it gets the job done but I will be so happy when the water gets turned back on.
Oh and Mom, you would be so proud of me. I'm actually able to cook some things that my companion compliments (I think he's just being nice since I'm his first comp in the mission field).
Well, I love you all to death, to the Spirit World, the Resurrection, Judgment, and the Celestial Kingdom! (hahaha aren't I just hilarious?) But seriously, I really do love you all a ton. Hope your week's a grand one! Good luck back at school!