Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Far East

Merry Merry Christmas!!

It was super great to talk to you all and to see each of you! I know I was probably super awkward and can't seem to act like a normal person. ;) I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas.

This past Christmas has been a really neat one. It's been a little cold here in Vlad. Like I mentioned, it's really because of the wind. The last few days, I've had some pretty cold moments where you just have to close your eyes and hold on. My shopka has been nice and toasty. It's the shape of my head that's been undermining the shopka's furry warmness. Since my head is rather long from front to back, it makes it difficult to find a hat the fits well. I always have to get a big size so it can get on my head yet there's always a little room on the sides in between my head and the wall of the hat. So, when the wind comes rushing by, it tends to find that oh so little space and likes to freeze the sides of my head by my ears. I don't know if that makes any sense. But, basically, the size of my head is trying to do me in and keep me cold. Otherwise, my shopka sure does the trick. That and a scarf.

This past week, we held training for the leaders of the mission which included all the zone leaders and district leaders. We did it by Skype, and it went pretty well. Elder Steed and I had to spend some time preparing for it. We were both grateful that overall, technology cooperated with us and all went well.

We continue to work with an awesome family here in Vlad that has a son who's a member. The parents have 6 boys which is really unusual for Russia! I may have already mentioned something about them... It's awesome to see so many shoes sitting in the entry way. Feels like home.

Christmas Eve, we spent most of the morning participating in and translating for some training for using the church's MLS program. We're the first mission in Russia that doesn't have any districts which have been brought online to use MLS. A member from Moscow came to hold the training and it went rather well. Translating is always a blast and it sure keeps you on your toes. My brain was a little fried after it all, but it's always a fun challenge. Later that afternoon, the missionaries here in Vlad gathered at the Pratt’s and had a small dinner and treats along with a short devotional. It was a really neat experience. I was asked to share a little thought regarding Christmas and I turned as I often do to the hymns. I noticed that in Joy to the World, there is a line which reads, "let every heart prepare him room" and I thought and pondered about what we can do to prepare room in our hearts for the Savior. He is our Lord and we must let Him in. As we keep our covenants, we offer to the Lord the greatest gift we can. Our righteousness and faithfulness is completely in our control and that's what the Lord desires of His children. Christmas was a special day when I got to ponder about the Savior and His role.

I love you all a ton. I'm enormously grateful for your support and love. And humor (thanks, Trev) :)

Take it easy and have a wonderful New Year’s!

Elder Bush

p.s. Had a neat experience this past week stopping by a potential investigator’s house, whose number we lost. My comp and I were on a bus heading to some less active members and had planned to stop by this guy’s place in the center of Vlad. I was thinking to myself, "Should we maybe head to the less active member at the farthest point and work our way back? Or should we keep going?" I distinctly felt, "you need to go to Makar's" (the guy I mentioned). Turns out my comp felt the same impression and we thankfully followed it. When we walked up to his building and opened the door, he was walking down the hall to the door about to leave and we were able to make contact and get his number. Super nice guy. It was a very small but very real miracle. I love the tender mercies of the Lord.

Picture at the Southerland's in Korea for our last Visa trip.

Elder Bush's Christmas Call:  We got to use Skype this year for our Christmas call, which was great because we could see him and he could see us.  He couldn't believe how much his sisters have grown up.  He mentioned that he was glad he got to see them before he comes home or he might not recognize them at the airport.  He looks good and looks happy.  We enjoyed seeing him interact with people in the office and especially when he had to take a phone call and we got to hear him converse in Russian.  He also received our package while we were talking, so we saw his reaction to receiving some Twix candy bars (his favorite).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last Visa Trip to Korea

Dearest of dear families,

Thank you all again for wishing me a happy birthday! It was indeed a very happy birthday as I made my way back to Russia. Transfers and our visa trip were a little hectic, but as far as I know, we didn't have any major problems. So I would say that's a success of the week! As of now, Elders Zamora, Winkler, and I are the oldest missionaries in the mission. Weird. Super weird.

Really quick, before I forget, I'll let you know about our Christmas calls. So, we can use Skype this Christmas! Well, other elders and sisters were able to last year as well but since I was on Sakhalin without a senior couple, we didn't really have the option. So, this is the plan... I'll be at the office in Vlad to use one of the computers with Skype at 8:00 am my time on Monday the 26th of Dec (that works out to be 4:00 pm on Sunday the 25th of Dec, Christmas Day). So, I'm pretty sure I'll be using the former senior couples' skype account that is on the office computers. I'm not sure what their account name is but what I'll do is call you from their account. So, by Monday morning, send me an email and let me know which Skype account you want me to call. In the event that our building loses internet (which isn't uncommon) I'll give you my phone number and you can call me at 8 if I haven't already called through Skype. Can't wait to hear from you all!

So, to put it in a nutshell, the past week has been a whirlwind. Monday, my companion spent the evening packing and getting ready to head home. Tuesday, the other elders and sister heading home arrived along with my new companion! (He’s actually a former companion... Elder Steed!) I'm super excited to get to work with him again! He was my comp while we served in Khabarovsk a little less than a year ago. Hard to believe time has flown by that fast. There was a little stress throughout the day as transfers were already beginning and missionaries were beginning to move from city to city. I'll have to tell you more about transfers once I'm home but it really is the craziest process. Trying to coordinate getting missionaries to and from the cities, making sure they all have companions throughout the process, making sure they'll make their buses or getting them taxis to hop on a flight or a train. And on top of it all, my visa trip coincided with the transfer. So, there was a little craziness but like I've said before, what's the mission without a little crazy? On Tuesday night, we had the chance to be at the departing fireside at the Pratt's apartment and to hear from the departing missionaries. It was a neat experience to see them as they prepare to move on the next part of life. Although, it was a little hard because hearing them and realizing they're going home throws you off your focus a little. You start to realize you don't have much time. And part of you wants to return with them because being a missionary is super hard. Yet, the other part of you wants to remain and do everything you possibly can to fulfill the Lord's will and further His work amongst His children. It was an enormous blessing to be in the temple and to return and refocus on the work. I flew to Korea on the same flight as the missionaries going home. It was neat to say goodbye in the Korean airport. (Side note... I realize I've mentioned this before but I'm a firm believer that Korean Air is one of the best airlines ever. The food on the flight which only lasted 2 hours was fantastic! So much better than a bag of peanuts.) We got to Korea and while we were there, we found out our flight that was suppose to return on Friday had been canceled. Thankfully, there was a flight that returned on Saturday. So, we were able to make it back. While in Korea, we had dinner at the Southerlands, the couple that lives there. It was a wonderful little early birthday present to me to be in the home of such a loving family. We had dinner, made cookies, and sang Christmas carols. A simple little Christmas celebration. As we finished, some of us took the chance to bear our testimonies of the Savior. And the Spirit was felt by all. The flight returning to Vlad was great. It was a ginormous plane! It had 2 seats on either side and 4 in the middle. I can't remember which Airbus model it was. But anyways, it was a smooth flight. We grabbed some donuts and bagels at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks before we took off. Funny how a donut and a bagel are the best thing ever when you've gone a while without them. Lastly, as I already mentioned, the temple was wonderful. The Korean temple workers are heavenly. As we stayed to do more sessions, they simply told us in their English, "We love you." It was touching and a sweet experience for maybe the last time to be amongst the Korean Saints.

So, I'm back in Vlad. Yesterday, I spoke in church and it went ok. I talked about covenants. Something I feel we all need to strive to understand better and be sure that we're always mindful of keeping our covenants. Had the chance to do a little tracting yesterday. Needless to say, it wasn't that fruitful. But, it sure was fun and we did meet some nice people!

I hope and pray you all are safe and in good health. Merry Christmas to you all! Can't wait to hear from you in a week!

Старейшина Буш

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Week in the Office Organizing Transfers

Hello everybody,

Thank you so much for the birthday wishes! Weird to think that I'm going to be 21. I really don't even feel like I'm getting older.

Anyways, this past week has been a bit of an office week, which has been a little hectic and slightly stressful. But it was good to get a lot of work done that will hopefully help transfers this next week run smoothly. Transfers really are quite a big deal here, along with visa trips, which by the way, I'll be in Korea (hopefully) this Wednesday. And I'm not really sure when I will return. Again, hopefully, that will be on Friday. But we'll see.

So, like I was saying, transfers are a huge deal. It's such an ordeal to organize and make transfers run without any problems. My companion and I went through the travel information Sister Pratt had gathered and wrote out instructions for all the missionaries to make sure they get to where they need to and don't forget anything.

Thankfully, we were able to have a few lessons this past week as well. I've really enjoyed rebuilding this area here in Vlad for the assistants. It's had its challenges just like any other area, but it's been fun. I've really loved to be able to interact more with President Pratt. He really is such an awesome leader. That's one thing I've come to learn while serving here. Our leaders may never be perfect in the church, but they are truly inspired. The mantle they wear is super important.

I love the Lord and His work. Lately, I've felt the burden of my assignment. There's a lot to do and a lot to keep track of, but I know that the service we all render on behalf of the Lord leads to enormous personal growth and blessings for those we serve. I'll always treasure this enormous experience I've had.

I love you all so much. I'm really sorry my letters lately have been really short and not very descriptive. Partly, it's been because I have had a harder time lately knowing what I should even write. Partly, it's because I'm in the office and it's easy to get distracted. Please remember that I love you all a ton. Your support means more than a million bucks.

Старейшина Буш

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Week Full of Little Miracles

Howdy folks!

Things are great here in Vlad! This past week has been a fun one. I'm super jealous you're all watching the Christmas Devotional. We don't get that here. Although, we could watch it on the internet I guess if we wanted to watch it on pday. Real quick, I just wanted Grandma Gee to know that I got a letter from her today! Thanks Grandma! To answer your question, yes, I have had the privilege to meet and work with Elder Collinsworth. He's a great missionary. And super tall!

Anyways, during this past week, I started writing down little miracles that I see each day. It's been a really cool experience to see the Lord's hand in the work each and every day. We've had a lot of success these last few weeks working in the area book, which is the book where we keep all our records of past missionary work that has been done in our area. In fact, we've done something really interesting this past transfer here in Vlad. In the past, the assistants have spent a lot of their time dealing with taking care of all the little problems and have worked in the office along with working with president and leaders of the mission. And in this past transfer, we've had a returned missionary here in Vlad hired on to work as a driver for the mission and to work in the office, so we've been able to get a lot off of our desk and now we're able to get out of the office. In the past, the assistants have struggled with being able to work in a specific area because there simply isn't time or the possibility with all the other things they were being asked to take care of. But, this past transfer, we've brought back our area and have had the opportunity to do a lot more work in it to try to "bring it back" if you will. We found, or rather the Lord led us to, 4 new investigators this past week. It's actually a family that has a son who's a less active member. They are super nice and there are 6 boys in the family, which is super unusual for Russia! It's really really comforting to walk into their home and to see tons a little kid shoes in the entry way and to just feel the feelings you get in the home of a big family. They have a son living in America presently, in New York to be exact. I love getting to know people while here. People are so cool!

Some other really quick miracles: as assistants, we help President Pratt by translating for his presidency meeting held weekly by Skype. Since one of his counselors is on Sakhalin and another in Irkutsk, technology really comes in handy. I translated into Russian during this last week’s meeting, and I have really come to notice how much I love Russian. It's such a beautiful language. I know the Lord helped me so much to speak clearly, almost correctly, and loudly. (You’d be so proud of me dad, speaking loudly.) We often go to Subway for lunch or dinner when we're near the church. And usually, the service isn't the greatest. They're almost always out of things. And I mean like essential things to make a sandwich. Like cheese. But, this past week, they had great service! That was a miracle. And the sub was actually really reallyyyyy good. We also have had a lot of fun tracting. I'll tell you more stories once I'm home. Although, I will tell you really quickly, it was really neat this past week because we met with a less active member and then went tracting in a building not too far away and the first stairwell that we tried, there was a family that knows the member we had just met with and we're planning on meeting with them. I know the Lord leads this work. I have no doubt. We just have to have faith.

I love you all to death. You're all so awesome. Tell everybody back home I love them!

Elder Bush