Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving in Vladivostok

Dear Fam,

Sure sounds like you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! And the holidays are off to a great start! I think my favorite part of this past week is being able to now listen to Christmas Music. There really is quite no other time like this. The Christmas season is the best. Right now, I've made a goal to finish Jesus the Christ before Christmas and it's been awesome as I've delved deeper into that book. Talmage truly wrote an inspiring book.

So, first off, I have to say a big thank you to Matt and Sarah for their letters! They really lifted me up and I was super excited to hear from both of you! You two are the best! :) To answer some of your questions, things are great here in Vlad. The work is slowly moving forward. We had an insane day of snow this past week on Wednesday! We got all bundled up and faired the boisterous weather. It was quite an adventure. We tried talking to people on the way but due to the weather, that didn't turn out to be very successful. :) The wind was insane! That was the best part. Wednesday's snow added on top of that made it super duper fun. I got to wear my new shopka and she held up greatly against the foul weather. Thursday wasn't nearly as bad. It stopped snowing, although the wind was still quite a factor. (more about that later)

Thanksgiving in Vlad was wonderful! Just like home! Except without the family and friends of course. But it was wonderful to be surrounded by my present family and friends here in the city. We had all the great foods, Turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing, fruit salads, and pies! It was all very very yummy. And unfortunately, I think my tummy has shrunk because I had a very hard time getting down one full plate. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and played some fun trivia games and scripture chase charades afterward. All in all, it was a great day to remember all the things I'm thankful for. I'm thankful for you all. Because you are a large part of the joy that I have in this life. I'm enormously thankful to the Lord for all the tender mercies He plants in my path. That He allows me to even be a part of His work here on the earth is a miracle in and of itself for which I'm enormously grateful. I'm thankful for Heavenly Father's plan for all of us. For the big picture that it gives me, that it gives us all.

Immediately after thanksgiving dinner, we scurried off to a lesson with a potential investigator named Valeri. We gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and he agreed to read it. I love meeting with people. I've noticed that the Lord has helped me really develop a love for the people as I've met with them. After that lesson, we hurried off to another lesson with a member and her friends. Trying to find her house was a nightmare! Needless to say, we eventually found her house. The hard part was the wind. It was blowing so hard we nearly fell over several times. I felt as though I was back home in a hurricane! But, it was freezing instead of raining. Boy was I glad to get inside after that adventure! Russians don't usually drink hot chocolate themselves. They prefer tea. But I've noticed lately that members have been making us homemade hot chocolate because they know we Americans love that hot chocolate!

Last pday, my comp and I played basketball outside our house and it felt great to get some physical activity into the day! We're hoping today will also work out. We kind of noticed that it's hard to get activities together here in Vlad, really just in our mission because in many cities, it's hard to meet up at a common place, have some planned activity and still have enough time in the pday to get everything else done that we need to.

As far as souvenirs, I should have plenty of room to get what I want to get for everybody. Again, if there's anything in particular that you all want, make sure to let me know/remind me because I'm now in Vlad and will most likely not be moving anymore. So, I can begin the collecting process. I stopped by the souvenir shop here in Vlad and found something I may end up getting before I head home.

Lastly, I'll end with this. The Lord wants us to have faith. We just have to have faith in Him and He will help us accomplish His miracles. So many people have no idea of the blessings that faith in our Savior Jesus Christ can bring. They are uncountable. Innumerable. I know the Lord and our Father in Heaven love us dearly. Never lose sight of that fact.

I love you all a ton! And I hope you have a wonderful upcoming week!

Elder Bush

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Hey there gang!

This last week has been fantastic! Getting to travel to the other cities and work with the outstanding missionaries of our mission is quite an honor. It was weird to return to both cities because it brought back so many memories. It's so weird how you look at things differently when you return to a familiar place because of the experiences you have had elsewhere. It really wasn't even that long ago that I was serving in Khabarovsk. Although it feels like forever ago since I've been in both Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude in the time span between. I love the members in all those cities. I got the chance to see several of them while we were there and they are inspiring. To give you a quick example, there is a member that is from Ussurisk that lived also in Vlad when I was serving here over a year and a half ago. My trainer, Elder Waltman and I worked with her for 3 months while I was here, and she came to church maybe once that I can remember. In the time that I've been serving in all the other cities of the mission, she has become super active and her mission papers are almost completed! That is just the coolest thing ever to hear! No effort ever goes wasted. And this past week, as we were in Usserisk, she helped us on a lesson with a recent convert. She has such a strong testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. She is truly a light, and I could see in her such an awesome future missionary.

Our travels all went well. I brought my shopka with me to Usserisk (it wasn't really quite cold enough to be needing such a hat, but I knew we would be going to Khabarovsk and had a feeling it would be needed and appreciated there, and sure enough, it was pretty cold up in Khabarovsk. I talked with a woman on the street in Usserisk and explained to her why I looked a little ridiculous for November weather (since hardly anyone wears big fur hats there) and when I told her I was heading off to Khabarovsk that night, she quickly agreed that it was a fantastic idea I brought my shopka with me. I had the privilege of being on an exchange with Elder Johnson (my former BYU bishop's son) and Elder Collinsworth (you all know who that is - or if not, he played basketball at BYU) and it was an awesome opportunity to learn and grow from them. I love the friends you make here serving the Lord.

While in Khabarovsk, we contacted during the day and then had a sweet activity in the evening with several of the members where we learned how to make "позы" (pozi) or "бууза" (buza) in buritian. It's a special food that I think I told you about while I was serving in Ulan-Ude and it's unique to the people that live there. You make a pasta like dough that you wrap around meat and you steam cook them. Then, with your hands, you bite a small hole in the side and drink out the juices that have been cooking inside and then I like to fill the little dumpling like thing with sauces (like ketchup) and then scarf him down! They're really tasty. I'll have to get an actual recipe and then make them once I'm home. It was a great activity, especially for the members because they need opportunities to bond together, to talk, and the just become better, closer friends. We w home the next morning on a really old plane. I had to laugh because I think the seat I sat in was the most uncomfortable airplane seat I've ever been privileged to sit it. BUT, it did recline a considerable distance which made up for it. Upon landing (which always seems to be the best part) several panels in the ceiling came loose and were dangling down as we taxied into the airport. I just had to laugh. :)

I love you all a ton! Hope you have a fantastic week and enjoy your Thanksgiving! :)

Elder Bush

p.s. Fallon, I got a letter from you! I wrote to you a letter already but I have to get some envelopes! I'll try to get it off to you ASAP!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stress, Prayer and Miracles

Dear group of people that birthed me, raised me, and suffered me to be in their midst, (aka my family)

Yeah, so I was trying to be funny with the above phrase but it's not really working. Anyways, before I forget, it turns out my long lost letter that I thought was from Fallon is actually from a Bush (not sure which one) and it has been officially lost. So, I'm sorry Grandma, Grandpa, or Uncle Derek if you sent me a letter and I haven't gotten it. I love you all and hope all is well in California! I think about you often and keep you always in my prayers.

One other person I thought about last night and I'm hoping he's doing well is Mr. Martin. (I sincerely apologize that my English sounds awful.) Pass on a big hello to him and my best wishes. Also, say hi, if you get a chance, to Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Whitcomb at Lake Mary. Can't wait to see them again someday!

This past week has been a stressful one but a great learning experience. If you all don't mind, I'd like to share a really special experience that I had this past week that accompanied most of the stress. As you all are very well aware, we have to travel every 3 months to Korea to renew our visas. I guess to be more specific, we go to Korea to pick up our second passports that already have our new visas for the upcoming 3 months. A few weeks ago, I made, what seemed like, the enormous trek from Ulan-Ude to Vladivostok that took me to Irkutsk and then to Khabarovsk, and then finally to Vlad. This past week, Elder Steed was scheduled to go on his Korea trip and it would require him to make a similar trip with the exception of a layover in Khabarovsk. He began his trek Tuesday afternoon which was already cutting it close considering his flight to leave for Korea left the next day at 2:00 from Vlad. (Quick side note: Tuesday was actually the beginning of a series of events that just didn't seem to go or work out as they should have. We had a weekly meeting with President and Sister Pratt and after lunch, we returned to the meeting to find we had no power and we were scheduled to have a Zone Leaders' Council at 2 pm mission wide by Skype. But that had to be rescheduled. Then we spent the remainder of our day trying to record the conference I told you about onto DVD discs to be sent to the different cities that don't have satellites and there was craziness that went into that.) Anyways, so, Wednesday morning, I was awoken by a phone call just after 6 am from Elder Steed (this is 4 am his time) saying that their flight has been delayed by about an hour. So, this wasn't great news, but we figured if things still went forward from there, there wouldn't be any problems. After several phone calls with President and Sister Pratt and Elder Steed, we came to learn that his flight was delayed until 10 o'clock his time, noon our time and he would most certainly miss his flight to Korea. This in and of itself wouldn't be awful but the big problem was in the fact that Wednesday was the last day on his visa. So, he had to get out of the country then or we were all afraid he would be deported. My companion and I discussed all the possible options and talked more with Sister Pratt. In the end, we decided to fast for him that the documentation he had received saying his flight was delayed and therefore, did not catch his connection, would be enough and that things would work so that he would be able to return and continue serving the Lord and His children. We knelt down, and I offered the prayer. As soon as I began to speak, the Spirit flooded the room and a feeling of comfort filled me. I knew immediately that everything would be okay. Tears filled my eyes and I had a very hard time getting the words out as I both felt the comfort of the Spirit and thought about Elder Steed and my love for him and how desperately I did not want him to be forced to leave our mission. With a little stress, we (Pasha, our new mission driver, an returned missionary who served in Moscow; Tatyana our visa person; and I) all got in the car and raced off to the airport. President Pratt, his wife, and my companion, Elder Williamson, had already left to go to Korea by this time. And so I was feeling a little stressed and I wanted to make sure everything would work out. Yet, as I would begin to worry, I quickly remembered the comforting assurance of the Spirit that I had earlier felt, and I once again knew all would be well. We got the documentation and everything worked out to extend his visa by one day since he couldn't make the latest flight from Vlad to Korea on Wednesday. So, he flew out on Thursday without any problems, thankfully. To make a long story short, Elder Steed made it to Korea and returned to Vlad on Sat with my companion and by now, is already in Ulan-Ude. I'm so grateful for the assurance of the Spirit that gives us peace and comfort. A peace and comfort that cannot be duplicated or matched by other sources. I know the Lord is mindful of us. Sometimes, life is crazy. But He is always mindful of us and helps us through the crazy moments.

I got to work most of the week with Elder Clark, Elder Steed’s brand new companion. And we had a blast. I got sucked into the office and had to take care of some problems related to last week’s Area Conference and trying to make it available by internet to the other missions of the Europe East Area. But thankfully, that all got figured out and all is well. Yesterday, I was privileged to sit in on ZLC (zone leaders' council) that we started by Skype and then our internet died so we conference called for the remaining hour. It was a very spiritual meeting that was certainly inspired. I really love working in this mission. I love the Lord and His work. This next week, we're traveling to Usserisk and Khabarovsk to do exchanges with the Zone leaders there. It should be an awesome week! Hopefully all will run smoothly.

I love you all so much and I'm extremely grateful to have you all supporting me. I pray you have the best week this next week! Have fun! Stay out of trouble!

Love you!
Elder Bush

Monday, November 7, 2011

Oh shucks, my pictures are gone

Well, my dear family,

I'm trying to stay positive but I think that the computer I'm using just deleted or corrupted the file that I had on my thumb drive that contained previously all the pictures for the first several months of my mission. And I'm not too excited about that. But, I'll try not to think much about it and hope that my companion and I can figure out how to maybe fix it. I did absolutely nothing which makes me not all that happy. All I did was plug it in to see if it worked and to check my pictures, they were all there, so I safely removed it and then realized I needed to add some pictures to it so when I plugged it back in, for some reason, the file was corrupted and says all my pictures are gone. Not cool. But what can you do? Just shake your head at technology I guess. Sometimes it's fantastic and other days, it bites you.

So, back to more important things. I'm loving being back in Vlad! As I mentioned before (maybe) Vlad looks a lot different. Everything just seems nicer than I remember it being. For example, the road from Artyom (the city where the airport is) to Vlad is completely redone finally and is absolutely wonderful! You can sleep in the car on the way there if you want! Before, it was the craziest, ricketiest, loudest car ride ever! I don't really know how to put it, but things just seem newer and nicer and now I understand what's happening around me and what people are saying. So in general, the city just has a new yet familiar feel to it. I called Baba Galya last night, my dear babushka that I came to love my first two transfers here and it was so awesome to talk to her! She's doing great although she can't see anything anymore. She said she remembers me although I doubt it. She's had tons of missionaries here in Vlad since then so it wouldn’t surprise me if she was just trying to be nice by saying she remembered. Oh, how I love that grandma!

Serving as assistant sure is a little crazy. The phone is always ringing and you always seem to be busy with one problem or another. But it really is an awesome opportunity to learn and grow and I hope the Lord will continue to mold me these upcoming months. So, here's the update on the past week...

I might have mentioned this to you, maybe I haven't, but I took a train from Ulan-Ude to Irkutsk and met some really neat people on the way and talked for a while with them. My flight from Irkutsk to Khabarovsk and then to Vlad got delayed by 12 hours so I spent the night in the airport with Elder Miller, the senior couple from Ulan-Ude, and youth from Ulan-Ude going to a youth conference on Sakhalin. That wasn't one of my more favorite memories, but I will say I was extremely happy to sleep in a bed finally come Tuesday night. Wednesday, we took a taxi to the airport and met the new elders coming in! We then took them back to the Pratts' apartment and had dinner there and got to know them. There were three new elders and 1 new sister! The sister's name is Sister Huber and she's from Magna! She went to Cyprus as well and knows Lisa! What a small, small world we live in. Thursday, we worked in the office some and I was feeling a little sick but that happens. The new elders got to participate in drawing on the street with Elder Winkler and the Vlad missionaries and it went really really well! One of the new elders that will serve in Ulan-Ude with Elder Steed was given 1000 rubles by some drunk guy (the equivalent of $30). Crazy. Your first day, you get money and the guy refuses to take it back and leaves you with it. Yeah, that 1000 rubles is definitely going in his journal. Friday, planning day and we ended up in the office again finishing up some things.

This past weekend, we had a special regional conference. Saturday there were two sessions and the topics were under the direction of the general authorities who spoke, but the talks were delivered by local leaders and members. It went pretty well. I had the privilege to translate for President in both the priesthood session and in the general session. Thank goodness I grabbed a Russian Handbook 2 because President talked a lot out of the Church Handbook and it was so much better that I was able to read some of what I translated. The Lord really does help us to do what we are called to do. Sunday, after dealing with a few technological problems, we were able to watch a broadcast in Russian and in English that was from Salt Lake and our speakers were (I think, I missed the first speaker because I was helping with trying to get the Russian to work) Elder Clayton Whitney, Sister Barbara Thompson, and Elder Oaks and President Uchtdorf. The talks were wonderful once we got the problems fixed. Thankfully, there were a few members that speak English in the branch that translated while we tried to get the Russian translation on. But man, is translating hard!

One last thing... Just in the last couple days, I've really come to recognized just how much President Pratt does. I don't think anyone can really understand until they're in his spot but honestly, he has to wear a couple hats in a very very big area of the church. He's a Mission President and he answers for all the missionaries in the largest mission in the world geographically. He's also in essence the acting stake president so he answers for everything related to the church and its members in the same area. He really has a huge, full plate in front of him. The only way it's possible to do what he and his wife, what any servant of the Lord does, is due to the fact that it's the Lord's work and He helps His servants enormously. Otherwise, the plane would have crashed a long time ago.

I love you all and I'm super grateful to have your support! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Bush

Friday, November 4, 2011

What does an assistant to the Mission President do?

President Pratt sent this explanation in a letter to Elder Bush:

As an Assistant you will help train and set the tone for missionary work throughout the mission.  You will have a direct impact on every missionary serving in the Russia Vladivostok Mission.  In this new calling you will continue to be an example of obedience, scripture study, work ethic, language ability, proselyting skills, and all other aspects of missionary work.  Your burdens will be heavy at times, but your blessings will be great.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tansferred back to Vladivostok

Dearest of dear families,

I know this email may be a little off in regards for timing but I wanted to let you know why I wasn't able to write home on Monday. So, I got transferred. You probably already figured that one out. I left Ulan-Ude Monday midday and took a train for 8ish hours and got into Irkutsk to meet a snow storm. Our flight was supposed to leave around 1 in the morning Tuesday but our flight was continually delayed until 1 in the afternoon. At last, we made it to Khabarovsk and my flight continued onto Vlad and I got in around 11 that night. Didn't sleep much. None at all really. And because of that, I'm getting a little sick. But I'm super excited to be here in Vlad again serving with Elder Williamson. He's a great missionary and he goes home in 1 transfer. I'm sorry to keep this short but I don't have a lot of time since there’s always a ton to do. I would however ask you to keep me and the missionaries of this wonderful mission in your prayers. I don't know why but President and the Lord decided to give me a huge assignment and made me assistant to the President along with Elder Williamson. So, basically, I could sure use your prayers and most assuredly, the Lord's help.

I love you all a ton. So much. Thank you for your letters and your updates. I always love hearing about the news back home. Mom, I'll get back to you ASAP about the vacuum bags. Thanks so much for buying some! I may just need a couple. We'll see, I actually packed up all my stuff when I moved here and threw some junk away so I'll probably be alright with just a couple.

Good luck to everybody back home! Love you!

Elder Bush