Monday, October 24, 2011

Zone Conference in our new building

Dear Family,

WOW! This past week has been awesome!!! Mostly because President Pratt and his wife and the assistants were here this past week along with the elders from Irkutsk. I love seeing Elder Zamora! He is honestly one of my best friends.

First of all, after I wrote home last week, we hopped on a bus and drove for about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the biggest datsan here in Ulan-Ude. A datsan is a Buddhist temple and at this particular one, they sell a lot of things there in the area from Mongolia! It was cool to see all the stuff they had. Elder Steed and Elder Bean bought some really sweet slippers made from camel fur! Yeah, I tried them on. They're the most comfortable things ever! We took a ton of pictures and it was really neat to see more of the culture here that is quite unique to Ulan-Ude since many of the population are Buddhist.

I had the privilege to be on an exchange with Elder Steed and man do I love serving with him! He is such a great Elder and friend. Like I've said before, I always love serving with him. This past week, as we were praying before our daily planning session at the end of the day, I listened to him and realized just how much he has grown in the last 4 transfers since we served together. Those days in Khabarovsk really shaped us and he has become an awesome trainer here in Ulan-Ude.

On Thursday, we had the awesome privilege to have zone conference at the new building! It was very exciting! I was asked to translate for the native Russian elders who are serving in Irkutsk which was a really neat experience. It was pretty hard at times, especially when we watched some small film clips for the training we received. But I had a really neat experience in listening to the Spirit's promptings. Some people may have heard of the gifts of the Spirit and that some of them include the gift of tongues and of the interpretation of tongues. If there's one thing my mission has taught me (which it has taught me far more than one thing) it's that the gift of tongues is real. Think about it, no amount of studying or really good language skills should really allow a person to be able to communicate as fluently as missionaries can in a matter of two years. After studying German for 3 years and comparing my experiences, I can testify that the Lord has blessed and helped me immensely! As I translated for the elders, I felt the words come easily to me. It wasn't difficult or at least as difficult as I thought it would be because the Lord's hand was in it. He helped me so much and it was really a neat experience to feel the Spirit guiding my thoughts and helping me recall the words I have learned previously but may not have used. That all being said, I also ended up with a huge long list of words I don't know yet and that is by far the greatest way to find out what you need to learn. Just try speaking or translating in different circumstances or settings and you'll always find you don't know something. There's so much I don't know!

Saturday, we did service at the branch to prepare for the first meetings that would be held the following day. It turned out to be a cold day and the first real snow of the year fell. But shortly thereafter, the sun broke through the clouds and melted all that had fallen. It's definitely getting colder and I have a feeling winter here in Ulan-Ude must be awful! Anyways, yesterday's meetings were wonderful in our new building! It's such a beautiful building and one of the coolest things was that 100 people were there at sacrament meeting!!! 100! That hasn't happened here in a long time! Never since I've been here. The most I had seen was high 70s maybe 80. It was great to see many new faces and many less actives return. I hope they stay! Because the blessings of the Lord we enjoy as we keep our covenants are astronomically awesome!

Basically, I'm doing really really well. I told President Pratt in my interview that I've never been doing better. That's mostly because I love my companion so much. He really has been such an awesome companion and example for me. He's pushed me and supported me in my weaknesses and it's been so awesome to learn from him each and every day! I love Ulan-Ude. We'll see what transfers bring in about a week.

I love you all and I'm super grateful to have you all as part of my family! Please, tell Sean congrats for me! (All my cousins are going to get married before I get home!) And tell all the extended family I say hi! And I love them!

Elder Bush

p.s. Sorry I forgot my camera cord again. Have no fear! Pictures shall be on the way ASAP!

p.s.s. OH! And, since my huge suitcase died and now I'm left with a medium one and two that are basically carry ons, I had an idea. If you all or anyone really really wants to send me a package at any point between now and when I go home, the only thing I would ask for is for vacuum space saver bags because that would be awesome! Just an idea. If it doesn't work out, no big deal. Thanks!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another great General Conference

Well family,

It's great to be a member of our family. Really. Think about it... we all love each other. We get along (most of the time). We enjoy each other's company. It's great to be in such a family. It is a divine blessing from the Lord. Don't ever let yourself take that for granted.

This past week, like I said I would, I bought another shopka. It's black and super super nice fur. It's made from mink which is one of the nicest furs you can get a shopka made from. It was a little expensive but I bought one along with my companion, Elder Patterson and Elder Bell got a muskrat one. So, we'll all definitely stay warm this winter. 

The work has slowed down a little bit as of late. But we keep on working hard and trying to do our best. My favorite part of the past week was undoubtedly general conference. So many things were impressed upon my mind that it will probably take a few days of reviewing my notes to really recall everything I enjoyed. One thing stuck out to me from Elder Waddell's talk as he quoted President Monson who said something to the effect of, "Missionary work is one of the hardest labors in which we can endeavor." As I pondered on that, I had to agree and yet, I know that coming from the prophet, who I'm sure is a lot better at giving up of himself for others, does a lot more than what I or any other missionary is called to do. It truly is a demanding work but it prepares us so well for life ahead. I could think of no other thing I could possibly do right now that would be more worthwhile or important than a mission.

Elder Holland's talk in priesthood was outstanding. Very Elder Hollandish. And just what the priesthood holders of the church needed to hear. Elder Scott's talk helped me realize again that I really need to buckle down once again and memorize more scriptures. Not just so I can teach more effectively or know the scriptures better, but so I can enjoy the Spirit of the Holy word of God that He has blessed us with. Yesterday was a very hard day for me. Mostly because I was struggling inwardly in my attempt to do all the Lord requires of me and to be moldable. If that makes sense. As we spoke with people on the street between general conference sessions, I felt the Lord bless me with more love and desire to help the people amongst whom I serve. I looked into the eyes of a man named Sergei, who we often see near our apartment building, who was drunk and smoking a cigarette down the last bit he could. I looked into his eyes and knew he is a son of God, my brother, and I wanted so badly to help him overcome his addictions. It's hard for me to pass on my feelings in words but I want you to know that I know that our Heavenly Father loves each of us so much. More than we can understand.

This next week, President Pratt is coming for zone conference and we'll finally be meeting in our new building! Should be exciting and simply uplifting to see and learn from him and his wife. I've really come to love them too. I love all the missionaries that I'm serving with. They're great young men. Today, we're going to head off to see a datsan which is a Buddhist temple. Should be fun! I'll be sure to send pictures. Sorry that this email is so short. Promise to write more this next week. Remember that I love each of you a ton! Please tell Grandma Gee I love her! And Grandma and Grandpa Bush and Uncle Derek that I love them and have been thinking about them!

Elder Bush

p.s. There can be miracles. If you believe. It's all in the faith and acting diligently. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm blessed to work with great people

Hey there everybody!

All is well here in Ulan-Ude. It's funny how each city I've served in becomes my favorite with time. This past week has been a spiritual one, mostly due to prayer and the camaraderie we share amongst the elders in our district. I really have been tremendously blessed to be the district leader of such stupendous missionaries. One because individually, they're great people. But secondly, because they work so well in their companionships. I've seen a lot of successes and miracles amongst the elders here in Ulan-Ude. More than ever before. And most of all, I've seen wonderful changes in myself and in the elders of the district in becoming closer to the Savior as we labor together in His work. The longer I serve, the more I realize that I am so far from perfection.

The senior couple here had us over for cake and milkshakes today before they left on their Korea trip for the birthdays of Elder Bean (Elder Steed's comp) and Elder Patterson (my companion). They really are such a funny couple and so loving in their own special way. We've really come to love them and feel very much a part of the Price family (that's their last name). They shared a tender experience with us just before they left about how the Lord has been blessing them since they've been gone. I know the Lord protects and watches over and blesses His servants. He loves us so much.

To tag onto that thought, I'll share with you all something I caught a glimpse of this past week. I've always wanted to know how missionaries were able to always come home and share with family and friends that they had come to know the Savior on their missions. I guess for the last little while, I've felt a little jipped because I've wanted to feel closer to the Savior, to feel as though I've come to know Him better through my missionary service thus far, but I felt as though that desire just hadn't been fulfilled yet. And I didn't really know what to do in order to fulfill my desire. I study the Lord's word every day. I pray now more than I've ever prayed before in my life. The book, "Jesus the Christ," in company with the New Testament has helped me to better understand the Lord Christ and His mission, but yet something still has felt as though it lacked. This past week, I didn't really have a monumental spiritual experience or manifestation. In fact, I don't really know that I did much of anything different in my daily routine besides simply trying to do better than I did the day before. At some point, I came to ponder about the Savior and the work in which I labor presently and it hit me. The experiences I've been having all along have been helping me come to know the Savior and I didn't really even notice or realize it. Now, I ask you all to please not misinterpret my words here because I in no way will or can come close to comparing myself with our Savior, Jesus Christ. But I strongly feel, thanks to the impressions of the Lord's Spirit, that the experiences I have gone through thus far on my mission have helped bring me one small step closer to Gethsemane. Speaking of our Redeemer, He willingly drank the bitter cup and took upon Himself the sins and infirmities of all mankind, a cup He would rather not have drunk. He had so much love for the Father and for all of us that he went through with the greatest act of love that has ever been completed. Again, I in no way compare myself to the Savior. I simply can say that I know in a very small way what it feels like to do things or press forward in a work that at times can be very discouraging and on one hand, your natural man self doesn't want to continue on. And yet, you go on because you love the Lord Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven. I apologize if my feelings don't make much sense. It's hard to adequately pass on in word what I feel. In short, my mission has taught me things that I could not learn in any other way. I know the Lord loves us. I know Christ is the Savior of all mankind. I know God is our Heavenly Father. And I cannot deny what I know to be true.

I've really come to love the people I serve. I realize that much of what I've written today has probably been repeated in my previous letters. But I just want you to know just how grateful I am for the Lord's benevolent and generous hand in my life. It's been a rewarding experience to train a new elder because I've come to realize just how much Russia has become my home. I love this place, and rarely do I find myself discovering minuses or things that are less than desirable or for that matter, comparing what's here to home.

This past week had a little bit of the usual craziness since one of the companionships had to move to a new apartment. So we spent one day packing up and moving in. I will say, we did do a great job getting everything up four flights of stairs in the narrowest staircase ever! I'm surprised the fridge made it.

Lastly, rely upon the Lord. Because you're a lot better off when you do. I was called upon last minute to teach Sunday School this past week and was extremely grateful to have Heavenly Father's help. He is mindful of us. And aids us as we rely upon Him.

Oh yeah, last week, I saw a kid walking around with a USF sweatshirt. That was really weird and completely unexpected.

I love you all a ton and wish you all a wonderful, fruitful, safe, fun week!

Ст. Буш

p.s. I think I might buy a shopka today. Maybe next week. I don't know. I'll send you pictures once I get it!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Week of Miracles

How is everyone doing?!

Great to hear from you all! Glad to hear conference was so good! Hopefully, we'll get the disks and be able to watch conference this upcoming weekend. We'll see if things work out. 

This past week has been a fantastic one! I had one of the greatest lessons of my whole mission this past week with a woman and her daughter who are interested in the gospel. They really are so awesome! The Lord is preparing His children to come closer to Him. Elder Patterson talked to the mother on the bus one day after district meeting and all he really talked about with her was that he was a missionary from the Church of Jesus Christ which really struck her as interesting, the fact that our church bears Christ's name. After that, she wanted to read the Book of Mormon, and she continues to tell us, "How could this book not be true?! Or be made up? Of course it's true!" Now we just have to help her see what that means for her, that the Book of Mormon is true. For the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and our message leads us to act and not simply to learn helpful or nice information. They love the feeling they have when they meet with us. We helped explain to them several times that that is the Spirit and He helps us know that what we're hearing or learning is true. We've also continued to meet with several other investigators, and simply put, it's been great to be a part of the Lord's work in this very special part of His vineyard. People often ask us, why on earth would you come here to Russia or even to this part of Russia, to this city of all places to do what you're doing? Because we're all children of Heavenly Father. And He loves all of His children. They probably ask that question because all they recognize or see are the material imperfections or unpleasantries (sorry I can't spell or think of any other words that make sense in English) that can be found in their city when in fact, if you take a moment and just look around, you can find a lot to love. Mostly the people. Why do missionaries always say "Love the people" when they tell future missionaries advice? Because it's the key to success in the Lord's work. For He loves each of us perfectly. And how can we expect to get anywhere in His work, or for that matter in this life, if we're not willing to do it His way?

We had a little miracle this past week. Yesterday, at sacrament meeting, we had 10 investigators in attendance! Isn't that crazy?! I think it is! One of those in attendance was a woman we had talked to on the street the day before and had invited her. I'll be honest, people don't usually come when we invite them. Rarely does that ever seem to yield any fruit. But this woman came! And brought her granddaughter with her! The rest of our investigators had member friends invite them and had support there and it's just awesome to witness and be a part of! The members here a really great at helping us and doing missionary work all on their own. They love to share the blessings the Lord has poured out on them. How wonderful it is to behold!

I had a neat experience on the bus ride to the library where we write home each week. We were talking to people on the bus and as we were about to get off, we walked up to the front of the bus and there sat a man who collected money for the bus fair. I thought to myself, "should I talk to this man?" And I began to doubt that he would be interested. He had seemed pretty angry at one point during the bus ride and I thought to myself, "I really should talk to him, but it would be a lot easier to just get off the bus." At this point, this rough looking Russian man turned to me, and with a smile began to talk with me. We got to know each other and he asked for an invitation before I could even turn the conversation to the gospel. His name is Aleksei and he taught me today that I should never hesitate to talk to anyone, no matter what I, imperfect Elder Bush, may think. I pray the Lord will touch his heart and that he will call or show up someday just as that woman did yesterday. The greatest thing I've really begun to grasp lately is that there's nothing that happens in this work without the Lord's hand in it. For it is His work. If we expect to assist in His work, we better expect miracles. If we doubt miracles can happen, we will not assist in this work. I know it.

This past week is probably such an awesome one because I've seen little miracles each and every day. And because I've felt the spirit witness to me that this work in which I am participating is true. There is nothing more important on the face of this earth than the work of the Lord. I didn't understand that for myself 1 1/2 years ago. And as I'm starting to come around the bend to the homestretch of this mission, I'm beginning to realize that 2 years is not enough. I have so much to learn because I know so little. 

I love you all so much and I pray for you always. I hope this next week brings lots of smiles, fun, and blessings from on high.

Elder Bush