Monday, September 26, 2011

A Crazy Week of Travels

Dearest family,

Y'all ain't heard from me in quite some time! Sorry about that. We didn't really know where to go in Korea to find internet and we all thought that we would be able to write a little more at least in the airport but they closed the cafe right when we got there. To sum up, the week before I left was a little hectic in trying to prepare for Elder Phillip's and my absence since our greenie companions would be serving together and we wanted to make sure they would be prepared for all that. Saturday morning (a week ago) the branch did service at the new building cleaning up the territory around the building and it really looks nice there. The building is beautiful and we can't wait to move. The only reason we haven't been able to and they keep putting it off is they're having trouble getting the contract in place for water to the building. Something's not working in the communication between the church and the city and maybe some other people in between. So, anyways, someday we'll move there.

Elder Phillips and I left Ulan-Ude last a week ago Saturday at 4 in the afternoon and took a train which arrived in Irkutsk just after 11 pm. We hopped in a taxi and stopped by the senior couple's apartment to pick up Elder Zamora and then we were off to the airport to wait for our flight which left at 3 am Sunday. Waiting is never my favorite activity in the world, but we eventually got on the plane. (We flew Korean Air which was awesome!)  We got into Korea at about 6:30, got our stuff and headed to the temple where we were met by some members who took us to the English branch. That was really weird! It felt like being home, which at first I really didn't like that feeling. I've really come to love a smaller branch where everyone speaks and sings and prays in Russian, but I learned some great things from the speakers and it was a great experience. We found a Russian woman who lives there and tried to meet with her later in the week, but it didn't work out. We did a little shopping, met up with Elder Phillip's friend who's a member serving in the army near the South Korean, North Korean border and went with him and several of the Seoul Korean missionaries to a war museum. That was interesting and felt very touristy. His friend then took us on the base nearby to buy American food at the grocery store there, and that was intensely weird! In fact, I didn't like it very much because it was far too much like home. Literally, you walk on base and all of a sudden, you feel as though you've returned to America. The roads, the yards, the buildings, the people all speaking English, it was just plain weird. I did get peanut butter though which was a plus. I've been loving that the past few days. :) Elder Phillip’s friend thought we were crazy when we asked for 4 jars of peanut butter.

We got to go to a family home evening at an American member's home which was way fun! They have an adorable little girl who has started talking and it was crazy that I couldn't understand her! I felt as though I was hearing a Russian again for the first time and couldn't for the life of me understand her! She really is super cute. We had waffles for dinner and whole American milk. You all know how much I love my milk. ;) We had a wonderful spiritual thought afterward. I love the feeling of going from friendly conversation to teaching about the gospel. I always love conversing with people because it's always interesting to learn more about someone. Yet, the feeling of the spirit as He accompanies our words as we teach of the gospel of Jesus Christ is incomparable.

So basically, we flew home, got into Irkutsk late Wednesday night, got on a train Thursday morning and returned to Ulan-Ude. Oh before I forget, we also went to Costco thanks to the senior couple allowing us use their card, and I bought a new suitcase since my big one was is completely trashed. It's probably the same one that I looked at before my mission. It's a little small but great quality and hopefully, it'll hold up and do the trick. Saturday, we had a baptism here in Ulan-Ude which was, as always, a very spiritual and wonderful experience. The father of a family who had already all been baptized earlier was baptized and they're all looking forward to having the opportunity to be sealed in the temple. One of their daughters, on a mission in St. Petersburg, is probably SO excited to hear that her father finally made the decision to be baptized. The gospel is all about the family.

We have some awesome investigators we're working with now that just popped outta nowhere! One is a 10 year old boy named Misha and his mom and grandma. They all love coming to church because of the comfort they feel there, and they've expressed interest in being baptized. A little over an hour ago, we met with Misha before school and he prayed at the end of our lesson! It was one of the greatest experiences of my mission! To hear a 10 year old say such a simple and yet heartfelt prayer!

Saturday evening, we had a branch talent show and we (the missionaries) did a cooking show skit thing where we had the senior companions speaking with our junior companions behind us but they stuck their arms out and pretended to be our arms. It was absolutely hilarious! And we were glad everyone liked it and that we pulled it off since we came up with it last minute. We "made" American pancakes and made quite a mess considering our comps couldn't see what they were doing. Hopefully, I can get a copy of the video and show you once I'm home.

Well, I guess in a nutshell, that was my last two weeks. Sorry if it doesn't make much sense. Basically, I'm doing well and loving where I'm at. Hard to think I don't have much time left. 6 months is so short. Thus, I must thrust in my sickle with all my might and have all the faith I can muster to allow the Lord to work miracles through me. That's all I'm essentially called to do. Have faith and do His work. If you do it His way, miracles will come.

I love you all. I pray for each of you. I'm so glad to hear how the Lord is blessing all of you. :)

Elder Bush

Monday, September 19, 2011

No letter this week

We did not get an email today.  Spencer was traveling to Korea and must not have been able to get to a computer.  If something comes later in the week, I will post it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hello from the other side of the globe

Do you ever stop and wonder how far apart we really are located from one another? Crazy. You're all on the other side of the globe! The best part of it is that I know the Lord is watching over me and you, and despite the distance, everything will be okay. First off, thank you Mom for your email and your insights. The atonement really is such a beautiful subject. So deep and yet so simple. The more I learn, whether it was in school, or Russian, or the gospel, I realize just how little I really know. Thank you, Dad for your email too. To answer your questions, I would have the means to listen to a talk on CD if you were to send it. Just let me talk with President Pratt to make sure that would be ok to listen to and I'll get back to you (hopefully) next week. A week from now may be a little crazy since I'll be going to Korea which requires me to take a train out of here to Irkutsk and then fly who knows where to eventually get to Korea. While traveling is a bit of a drag at times (especially taking a flight at 1 am and arriving at 7 in Vlad or the flights Elder Waltman took with Elder Jones for ZL's council... remember those, Elder Waltman? Not the favorite part of the mission) traveling is however at times pretty exciting and always an adventure.

The work is picking up some here in Ulan-Ude. Honestly, I would have to say that it's not really picking up because of anything we the missionaries have done. It's all from the Lord. Random people just show up to church who want to know more and meet with us or members invite their friends who desire to know more about us. The important thing I've learned on the mission thus far is that we must do everything we can to bring about the Lord's work and then He can begin to work miracles through us and amongst our surroundings.

One thing I wanted to mention to you all, especially to Mom and Dad is that I'm super grateful for how much you write to me. You always write to me just enough to keep me in the loop, and while to someone else, they may just seem like meaningless details, they're really important to me and it's super helpful to know more about what's actually going on at home.

I'm not really sure what I should share with you all about this past week. Got to meet with a young guy who's pagan. Yeah we'll see how that progresses. He prays to many gods and he also speaks a bagillion miles an hour. It takes just about every ounce of my being to follow him when he speaks. We also met with a woman that Elder Patterson talked to on the bus about the Book of Mormon. It was really neat to hear her as she told us that normally she's never interested in talking with people about religion or about God, but for some reason, when Elder Patterson asked her if she believed in God, she felt something inside that really got her interested and led her to want to read the Book of Mormon. We helped her identify that as the Spirit. It's so awesome to see how the Spirit works and to realize the power that His impressions can have on us. It reminds me of President Joseph Fielding Smith's comment in the Gospel Principles manual chapter 7 on the Holy Ghost. He talks about how seeing an angel or even the Son of God would not produce the same convincing feeling as can the Holy Ghost. How true is that?! Just look at Laman and Lemuel! They saw an angel. They heard the voice of the Lord and yet with a little time, they seemed to forget it all and returned to murmuring and breaking the commandments. We also met with this guy named Aleksander. It was a very interesting meeting since he has a hard time focusing on the topic at hand and he seems to be a little more interested in the fact that we're Americans. Although, he did tell us yesterday he has two dreams: to go to France someday and to see where Mormons live (Utah). Due to his research and things he's heard and seen, he's become super interested in learning more about the Mormons. I guess why I tell you all about this is because this past week, I've really come to love in a small way each of these people. Despite their differences, they're all children of Heavenly Father. They are my brothers and sisters, and I love them and want them to have the joy the gospel has given me. Many people we talk to daily share that they're already happy or they already have joy. Some even think that it's insulting that we Americans would come to Russia (a very historically rich religious country) and assume that what we have is "better" than what they already have. The point is not that what we have is "better" nor is it a question of nationality. We share with everyone the fullness of the gospel as it has been restored in our day by a living prophet. Why wouldn't you want something that would make you even happier, even stronger in your faith in Christ, or even closer as a family? If I hadn't received a personal conviction that the Lord in our day did call Joseph Smith to be a prophet, if I didn't know the Book of Mormon to be true, the last thing I would ever really want to do in this life is walk around and talk with people about probably the most controversial topic ever in the history of mankind: religion. But, I know it's true. And I cannot deny it. I am compelled to share what I know because it's true.

I love you all. Sorry this letter this week may not be all that interesting. But I hope and pray we will all realize how blessed we are to have the fullness of the truth. That knowledge most certainly doesn't make us "better". It makes us more responsible.

LOVE you!
Elder Bush

p.s. Tell Grandma and Grandpa Bush and Uncle Butchie thank you for their letters! I love them so much!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

A little paint on my suit... yeah that's worth it.

My dear family,

How is everybody doing? Sounds like things are well. And it sure sounds like things are going well with the beginnings of the business. I continue to pray for you dad and I know the Lord will continue to bless you all.

Last week after writing you all, we got a phone call from the other elders that they had met one of our investigators, who has been impossible to meet with lately, at the bus stop near the church. So, we ended pday a little early and headed off to the church to meet with him. We talked outside for a little while (he didn't have time to go inside the church and actually meet because he was in the area to see someone else) but while we talked, we began talking about the plan of salvation. After talking some, I offered him a pamphlet so that he could read more about the Plan of Salvation, but he didn't express interest and told us he wouldn't read it. We continued to talk and Elder Patterson then grabbed his pamphlet and tried to give it to him. This time he grabbed it and showed interest. Funny thing was, it was in English. But, he expressed interest in reading it and reading the Russian translation as well and pretty much I learned from that experience, sometimes you have to try again with maybe a little different approach. You never know what will happen. Later that evening, we had FHE (family home evening) with the branch president's family, and it was wonderful to be in their home! You could immediately feel the spirit as you entered the home and as we started FHE. We're really striving to work more and more with the members and the branch president and branch council, which he invited us to attend this past week, and basically, things are going well in Ulan-Ude.

Tuesday, Elder Phillips (my zone leader) and I had a sweet experience. After district meeting, we headed off to the church together to attend a meeting for zone leaders and district leaders that would be held via Skype. How cool is technology? Yeah, it's way cool. From Vlad, the assistants were able to join together elders on Sakhalin, in Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude. We're all pretty far apart. Think about that... From Vlad to Irkutsk is practically the distance between you all and Trev right now. It's so cool how technology can be used to help the Lord's work to move forward. It was such a helpful meeting because now I know what I'm supposed to do as DL! and how I can improve district meeting.

To go along with what I just wrote above, I have a couple really neat stories about prayer and faith. When we arrived to the church on Tuesday for the meeting, we got into the family history center and turned on the computer and realized we needed a password. We then attempted to call the family history center consultant but she was unavailable. (Her phone may have been turned off or didn't have service). So I prayed silently that we would get through. The next time Elder Phillips tried, we heard a dial tone and got through and she gave us her password. Once we got Skype opened up, we realized something was wrong with the internet because we couldn't get on to add President Pratt as a contact. As I examined all the possible internet related stuff I could find while talking to the assistants by speaker phone, I said to Elder Phillips, we should pray. As I began to bow my head, I looked over to the router and I began to see the status light, which had remained off the entire time, flash which meant we had service again! All I had to do was simply express faith in the Lord, and he made everything work. I feel He sometimes waits to see if we will simply turn to Him for help when we're in need and once we've made the turn, he shows us a very simple but evident answer that I cannot deny. Anyone could tell me, oh Elder Bush that was just a coincidence. There was just a problem with the internet connection but it came on with a little time. No. I know the Lord answers our simple prayers and I know He did last Tuesday because I felt the Spirit testify to my heart that that was the Lord's hand we saw. And boy was that a great meeting we had. The Lord made possible that meeting for us (the alternative was linking us by telephone into the Skype conversation without video which would have been awful because cell phone reception in the church is awful). To add onto this all, as Elder Steed and I were on an exchange, we were searching amongst the dacha's (basically all the little Russian homes that are on the outer parts of town) for a member’s home and we couldn't find it. Once we thought we had found it after asking several people, we realized the house didn't have a doorbell and the fences were too high to be able to see inside. I had tried to call her several times already, but she too had been unavailable. So, I turned to Elder Steed and said, "Let's pray right here in the middle of the road." So I prayed that we would be able to get through to her and after I finished, as I called, I also got a ring back tone and soon got through to her and figured out she would meet us at the church later that day. So cool!!! Prayer works in very simple yet very real ways.

Being on an exchange with Elder Steed was great! I love serving with him. Elder Patterson and I got to teach a few lessons this past week with investigators which was especially great for him because it's hard when you don't have that many people to teach.

This past Saturday, we decided to go try the painting here in Ulan-Ude. It was pretty fun and successful in Irkutsk and so we decided to try it here. I was the only one who had done it before, so I was kind of in charge of the drawing and painting. At first, no one seemed interested at all. As in no one was even coming up to see what we were doing. Think about it, six guys in suits painting on the back side of wallpaper in a crowded street with shops on either side... yeah I'd be super interested to see what on earth they were doing. (By the way, have you ever really thought about how funny that sounds in English? "What on earth are you doing?" Translating that into Russian doesn't make any sense.) So anyways, with time, people began flocking to us and were really interested. We got to talk to a lot of people. And it really was a lot of fun. I don't know how, since we, the missionaries, completely blanked and didn't tell the members what we were doing, but somehow, some of them found out and showed up to help. We'll definitely include them even more in the future because it's super helpful having them there. Through it all, I got lots of paint on my hands and a little on my suit. At first I was a little bummed but in the end, I realized, whatever doesn't come out will remind me of what we did that day. Who knows? Maybe what we did, talking to people about the Plan of our Heavenly Father for us, about why we live here on earth, where we came from, what will happen after this life ends, why this life is so important, maybe all of that will help at least one person come closer to Christ. Two girls called us yesterday and showed up to church all by themselves. Might I emphasize, by themselves. We never truly know the fruits of our labors.

It was great to have the youth back in the branch yesterday since they returned from the YSA conference in Yekaterinburg, which seems to have been a blast. That stuff is so important for the young people, especially in Russia.

Well, I love you all a ton. Hope all is just dandy back in the sunshine state! The weather has been getting colder here the last few days. Crazy to think soon it will be time for jackets and coats and scarves and shopkas. Good luck to each of you!


Elder Bush