Monday, March 5, 2012

My Last Letter from the Mission

Well my dear fam,

This is the last letter I'll be sending on home. Kinda strange to think about. I love you all a ton and I'm super excited to see you all soon. Yes mom, I would love to come to seminary. And don't worry about my sleep. I'll be completely fine.  Matt, HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I hope you had a wonderful birthday! I can't wait to see you, bud!! I love you all so much. And I know that this work that I've had the opportunity to participate in is the Lord's work. Jesus is indeed the Christ. God is our loving Heavenly Father. I know this with all my heart. See you outside of baggage claim!

Старейшина Буш

Monday, February 27, 2012

Elder Bush Speaking in Church

Spencer will be speaking at our church on Sunday, March 11 @ 11:00 am. Anyone is welcome to attend. The church is located at the intersection of Lake Emma Road and Greenway.  Just so that no one is uncomfortable, most men wear slacks, a dress shirt and tie, and most women wear dresses.

I wanted to point out that the open house (announced below) for Spencer is for his friends and our neighbors, not for the members of our church, who will be able to see him at church on Sunday.  We want it to be an intimate setting for Spencer to be able to visit and catch up with his friends.

Love for the People

Dear Fam,

I have absolutely no idea where this past week went. It seemed to have just disappeared. Winter has for some reason returned to Vlad. Seemed for a few days that all was getting warmer and winter would be all together a fleeting thought. But, it was either Tuesday or Wednesday when I awoke to a snow covered Vlad and the cold had once again returned. Well really, it was the wind that had returned which made it feel a lot colder. Some days, it's really weird to think that back home, it's warm enough to go to the beach.

It's amazing to me to see the Lord's hand in my life. And while the opportunities and spiritual sensitivity to recognize them have been greater, I know that we all have that chance to see His great hand in our lives daily. I'm thankful for the molding, trying, refining (if you will) experience that I've been blessed to go through. And it's an enormous blessing to still have another week ahead of me. It's taught me a lot. Mostly about me. And my Savior. I'm absolutely sure of one fact... I'm in need of His atoning mercy and love. His grace is greater than we can really understand. His love is pure and unchanging. He is the Prince of Peace, an everlasting peace that fills me in my time of need and in my time of rejoicing. I'm extremely grateful for the lessons I've learned and relearned and learned once more while I've had the chance to represent our Elder Brother, even Jesus the Christ.

One lesson I'll quickly share was impressed upon me since we had quite a lot of time dedicated this past week to contacting and our finding efforts. First off, the Lord wants to see our desires and our efforts. Our efforts, however monumental they may be, are meaningless when our desire is absent or misplaced. Sincere desire to do the Lord's work or more importantly, to fulfill His will, is essential to receiving the Lord's intended blessings. I know that. Second, even when we have a true and righteous desire and we put forth all of our efforts, we may not receive the results we desired or hoped for. And it's super important not to let that simple fact influence your faith, desire, or diligence. Really easy to say. Hard to actually do.

I had a neat experience this past Saturday when we gathered as a district to street contact. Every once in a while, we all gather in one area to strive to cover the whole area and increase our chances of finding someone who's interested. Just so happened that this past weekend, we gathered in the area of my birth where I served with Elder Waltman and where we made quite a lot of memories. It was neat to walk those streets once again and remember all the times Elder Waltman and I had worked there. That seems like so long ago! People weren't so interested. And while the reactions we got weren't really any different than what we got 2 years ago, I have changed. A lot. 1) I understand more Russian. 2) I think I love the people a little bit more. At least I hope I do. The hardest thing I encountered this past week was when we strive to simply do good, to share a message of peace, comfort, and hope, and people turn that away in such a way that you weren't expecting. Even after 2 years, those reactions from people who you're only trying to help are still hard to deal with. But you continue because you love the Lord and you love the people.

Lastly, I want to take a second, and express an enormous thank you to everyone who has ever once prayed for me and supports me because I'm truly grateful for your prayers and love. I have felt the power of those prayers. I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful family and friends, and I really hope that you all know I think about you, I pray for you, and I'm rather excited to share stories about this wonderful land upon my return.

I love you all! I hope you have a fantastic week!

Elder Bush

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Open House

Elder Bush will be returning home in March, and we will be having an open house for Spencer's friends and our neighbors.  Feel free to stop by and say hello.

1349 S. Ridge Lake Circle, Longwood
Saturday, March 10 from 5-8 pm

Teaching a Family

Dear Fam,

Glad to hear from you today! All is well in Vladivostok. I'll quickly share some of the highlights of this past week... Well, actually, probably the biggest of highlights was that we had a fantastic lesson with the family we've been meeting with. As I may have already mentioned, one of the sons was baptized nearly 5 years ago and he's currently 15. It's been an awfully rewarding experience to get to know him and his family. His brothers are great! His youngest brother read 3/4's of the children’s Book of Mormon in only a few days! And they both came to church yesterday! That was probably the best part of the week. In fact, that was the best part of the last three transfers, seeing them at church with us and the members welcoming them back. They were surprised to see them and remembered them all being much younger since it's been several years since they attended. Interestingly enough, it's not just about getting people to come to our church or to go to church at all. This work is all about helping one another return home to Father in Heaven. Attending church is simply one way we grow closer to him as we enter into and keep our covenants with him. Honestly, I've really done nothing personally to make that happen. I've simply been an instrument in the Lord's hands.

I'm super grateful for the opportunity I have to serve the Lord. His work is the best. It's hard but it's the best. I know that the Lord is the Master Teacher. He is really good at molding us if we will just let Him teach us. I'm extremely grateful for all that He has taught me about me. I have so much more to learn and do. And that's the exciting part about this life, about the plan of our Father. We're here to grow continually.

We've seen a little more success this past week. The weather's been getting a little warmer. But I'm still wearing my shopka because other people are still wearing their shopkas. And besides, it looks great! :)

President Pratt is in Turkey right now for Mission President Seminar. So that's probably exciting for them! This week should be a good one.

Sorry I don't have much interesting to tell you. Oh! The new senior couple that will be working in the office flew in this past week and so Elder Steed and I have been helping them get around. They're from Bakersfield, CA.

Well, that's about it for this week. Hope you all enjoy sleeping in another day! Love you all a ton!

Elder Bush

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Best Two Years

Greetings from Russia once again,

How's the Bush clan doing? Mom, once again, I hope you had a very wonderful birthday! I love you a ton!! I was glad to hear from y'all and I pray you're all safe and happy. So here's the low down on my current doings:

I had the awesome opportunity to help with a financial training this past week that was put on by a senior couple who are currently living/serving in Moscow but travel all over the country to deliver this special training. The husband, Elder Heufner, served in the Navy for a long while and also worked for almost 30 years as a checker (I don't really remember what it's called but basically, it's like an auditor) for a large corporation and due to his background, he was called to serve as an Area Auditor for the Europe east area. Really wonderful couple and we (Elder Shannon and I) had the chance to show them around Vlad for a little bit. I was with Elder Shannon, one of the office elders, because both of our companions were in Korea this past week on a visa trip. President Pratt asked the both of us to take care of them by taking them out to lunch and then taking them to see the city. They enjoyed the pizza place we took them to and then we took them to a submarine/museum here in the city that I had never been to, but I've heard about. It was really neat! Especially because Elder Heufner had worked with submarines. We also took them to Cinnabon which they loved. :) Hard not to love a wonderful cinnamony frosting filled treat. :)

The training they did was really inspired. It really impressed upon me just how important the funds of the church are. The work our leaders do is vitally important and super sacred.

I was stuck working in the office this past week for several days while Elder Steed was gone. It was on the one hand, not so fun. On the other, it was great to get some good work done in the office and to help Elder Shannon accomplish important officy things.

We had a great lesson this past week with an awesome family we've been meeting with. I love teaching the gospel. I realize that I'm an awful teacher and I sure need to work on my teaching skills. Thankfully, I have the opportunity to learn for the rest of my life. In fact, I passed my two year mark this past week as you all very well know. And it's been really interesting to reflect upon all that I've learned. And it's sure been a lot. I can't really believe all that time has already passed. I'm immensely grateful for all that I've learned so far in these best two years and for the chance to continue learning in the time I have remaining.

I love you all! Sorry I didn't write a ton this week. There's tons of craziness as usual. I've been translating a ton for President since the last month we've been having branch conferences. Glad to have a little break from translating each week! Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Bush

Monday, February 6, 2012

Visit to Nakhodka

Dear fam,

Well, I finally got the splendid chance to see the wonderful city of Nakhodka! Guess that means I've finally made it to every city in the mission where there are currently missionaries. It was a really neat weekend. Well, to be honest, it was a very interesting, stressful, productive, and all around awesome weekend. It was slightly frustrating because President and Elder Steed had to work with some members who have been apostatizing and don't want to change/remain in the church. So in light of that, it was a little bit of a depressing trip to Nakhodka. But, on a positive note, I got the chance to work with some awesome missionaries there! It really was a super good experience to work with some missionaries who are tremendously younger than I and yet, I learned so much from seeing their examples. We had a great lesson with a member and later with 2 different investigators. One of them was really really interesting. And slightly paranoid. He thinks everyone and  his neighbors are after him and have been for several years. I'll tell you more about him later. :) Anyways, the more I'm involved in the Lord's work, the more I realize and am continually convinced that He leads the work. It's His work, His kingdom, His Spirit that directs us to bring about His will.

The city itself was uniquely beautiful. It's certainly a port city and from what I saw, it seems that a lot of the people there already know who we are. A lot of them immediately told us to keep on walking and that they were fine. Yet some of them were interested in hearing more from us or at the very least, they were willing to talk. The ride to and from Nakhodka was fun. We got the chance to learn from President Pratt what it was like for him to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir years and years ago. It's fun to get to know people better. I've really loved making new friends here while I've been in Russia.

I'm not really sure what else to share with you all. I've had some great studies lately in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. I love the verses in John 15 (specifically verse 2 and 5 I think) that tell about how the Lord purges us when we do what he wants so that we can bring forth more fruit as well as the fact that we must rely upon the Lord if we really desire to bring forth any kind of fruit. I know that the scriptures are from God. They're for us. Plain and simple.

Lately, I've been a little worried about my ability to love others. Let me explain why I say this... Charity, or the pure love of Christ, is what we're all striving to develop. There have been times when I've recognized in myself the beginnings and slow development of charity within me. Yet, at other times, I worry because I feel I'm losing charity. Because sometimes, it's hard to love everybody. It's difficult to feel that true love of Christ inside of you always. I'm simply grateful that I have the rest of my life to continue to develop attributes inherent in Christ.

I love you all! Just heard the Giants won the super bowl. Go Giants! Glad to hear Eli Manning is rocking it in the football world. I hope you all have a wonderful week this upcoming week. Sounds like things are clicking with the business, Dad. You're still in my prayers!

Elder Bush

p.s. the weather outside isn't so frightful. In fact it's warming up a bit. In case you were wondering. :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Visit to Usserisk

Hello from the Far East!

Well, I don't know that I have a whole lot of new stuff to tell you all. This week was full of important stuff like transfers and a huge Korea trip (a group of 15 missionaries was there at the temple; that's approximately a third of our mission). And we received two new outstanding missionaries, Elders Furhiman (pronounced just like Furman) and Browning. I wonder if we're related to him. We had the chance to work with Elder Browning while his companion was on visa, and it was great because we had some neat lessons we taught and he helped out a ton. I was blown away at how many words he knew that I didn't learn for several transfers into my mission! I did recognize though how difficult it was for him to understand. That's honestly the hardest part of the beginning. Besides being in a new place with new people trying to follow many new rules and be something you've been preparing for all your life, you can't understand hardly anything and it's just simply hard. But, I know he's going to do a great job.

This past weekend, we went with President Pratt to Ussurisk. It was a really rewarding trip, at least for me because I was able to recognize some fruits of the work I've been a part of. It's really neat to see people who have accepted the restored gospel of Jesus Christ because they are changed people. The light of Christ shines in their eyes and you know that there's something different about them. I unfortunately also saw a member that joined the church while I was serving in Ussurisk that completely avoided us and acted as though he didn't know us. We had some great meetings while in Ussurisk however and some great changes were made. I always love being in that branch. I love the members so much! The senior couple there will be going home this next month.  So, a new branch president had to be called in the place of Elder Rahi. While we were there, Elder Johnson (the son of my former bishop at BYU) was called to serve as branch president and I'm sure he'll do a great job. It's cool to see yourself grow on your mission because you often forget to even look for that growth but it's also really awesome to see the growth of the missionaries serving around you.

We also did a street drawing activity (yeah despite my best efforts to stay warm, my feet and legs froze while we were out there for several hours) while we were in Ussurisk. Elder Winkler (the other elder in the group with Elder Zamora and I) is an outstanding artist as you may remember and he does fantastic street drawings on the back side of wallpaper. I talked with one really really nice guy named Boris who was really interested in reading the Book of Mormon. He was so interested, he came back twice after taking the book to double check and make sure he had written down our number correctly and then to tell us that we were doing a great thing. I hope and pray he reads that book because it's true.

I guess that's my week in a nutshell. Nothing too crazy. Hope you're all doing well. It's great to hear from you each week. Can't wait to tell you more stories! Love you!

Элдер Буш

Monday, January 23, 2012

Trip to the Wild Wild West

Hey there everyone!

Well, I'm writing to you all a little later than usual since we flew in from Irkutsk today and didn't get home until a little after 3:00 in the afternoon. Honestly, I'm wiped. Traveling this last week was rather hectic. But, it was a great trip! Like you said, Mom, it really is a huge blessing to be able to return to previous branches where I've served and see those who I had been in contact with. I don't even know where to begin. Actually, I take that back. I'll just start from the beginning.

So, Tuesday, we had a great meeting with President and discussed transfers and upcoming events in the mission. I found out not too long ago that I actually won't get a chance to go up to Magadan since it's not going to work into President's schedule to make that trip in February. Instead, they're going to go sometime in April. I'll have Elder Steed take some good pictures he can share with me later. We began logistics (information for transfers and visa trips) Tuesday and continued into Wednesday. Tuesday night, we had a really neat lesson with a family that we've been meeting with here in the center of Vlad. I'm positive I've already mentioned to you all about them, but they have 6 boys. Yes. Six. It's awesome to meet in the home of a big family. It was neat to meet one of the older sons this past week and the second youngest offered the closing prayer. It was really, really neat to hear him talk with Heavenly Father. All of them are usually shy and never want to pray but one of them finally said he would try and he offered a great prayer. When we really realize the importance of missionary work and helping others come closer to God, than you start to realize why on earth we would ask someone to try praying. It's not just because it's our "job" or what we're supposed to do. It's because praying or reading from the scriptures literally brings us closer to our Father. We invite others to take steps closer to Him. And that's exactly why we have to do those things daily because otherwise, we move away from Him.

Wednesday evening, I translated for President Pratt's Presidency meeting over Skype while Elder Steed helped Sister Pratt by finishing the dishes of the dinner we scarfed down during the meeting. That way, she could finish packing for our trip. At 9 pm on Wed, our mission driver, Pasha, picked us up from the Pratts' and took us to the airport. We checked in, waited for a bit, and then boarded the bus outside on the tarmac that took us about 50 ft from the airport doors to the steps leading up to the entrance of our plane. (I absolutely love how they do that here in Russia.) Our flight then left from Vlad at 11:30 pm and arrived in Irkutsk at about 2:00 am. (There’s a two hour time difference) I could not sleep for the life of me on that plane! But that's alright. We got to Irkutsk, boarded the bus after getting off the plane and got to the terminal to pick up our bags. Everyone, including Elder Steed and I received our baggage except for the Pratts. Everyone left the baggage claim and we were left looking at the conveyor belt that was empty. So, I talked with the woman working there and explained in a rather urgent manner that there were supposed to be two more suitcases for the Pratts and that they had to be found. The flight we had been on was continuing on to Yekaterinburg (where Justin Ebanks and Jonathon Tharpe served) and we reallyyyyyy didn't want their bags to be sent there. Especially since we had lots of important things happening on this trip, including zone conference and the building dedication in Ulan-Ude. After I filled out some forms, a man came in with their bags and we were extremely relieved. We got into two taxis and the Pratts headed off to the new Marriott hotel in Irkutsk. We went to Elder Zamora's apartment. And it was just our luck that our taxi broke down about a km away from them. We sat there and waited while the taxi driver tried to fix it. But it didn't work out so he called someone else to get us and finish the distance. We got in around 4 am and finally got a little shut eye for a couple hours. Later that day, we had a really powerful zone conference with the Elders from Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude. We also ate very well... Papa Johns. :) My favorite part of the trip though was seeing some of the members who I had close contact with when they were baptized when I served there last summer. They're so strong now! And it was such an awesome reunion to see them again! It's amazing the friendships that are formed through the gospel of Christ. That night, we hopped on a train to Ulan-Ude and while in Ulan-Ude, I got to work with Elder Patterson, the missionary that I trained, and it was in short, fantastic. The building dedication was held after some branch council training President Pratt conducted on Saturday evening. The meeting was short to dedicate the building but it was one of the most powerful meetings I've been in in a long while. As soon as President Pratt began to offer the dedicatory prayer, the Spirit flooded the room and was ever present and noticeable throughout the prayer. Great experiences I'll never forget. To wrap things up, we left last night around 6:30 pm and got to Irkutsk a little after 2 in the morning. Then we waited at the airport for our flight to leave at 7:15 am and we got in around 2 pm earlier today. Long but worthwhile trip.

I love you all a ton. Sorry if this email's a bit boring. I got to wrap it up though. I pray for each of you always, and I know the Lord looks over His children.

Elder Bush

Sunday, January 15, 2012

An Exciting Week of Travels

Hola семья моя,

Well would you look at that... I'm trilingual!

How's everyone doing in the Bush family? Glad to hear from you as always and I pray you've all enjoyed this past week's adventures. I'm convinced that life is simply full of adventures, one right after another. I realize my letters always seem to say stuff like that, but pretty much, I'm convinced that each week on the mission is an adventure.

I think one of the neatest things I saw this past week was the examples of such stellar missionaries that are in our mission. I love each of them so much and they teach me loads each and every day. This past week, I had the awesome opportunity to do an exchange with Elder Johnson in our area here in Vlad before Zone Conference. (That’s the Elder Johnson whose dad was my bishop at BYU - small world.) I loved learning from him and seeing just what a mission has done for him to help him shape and grow. Zone Conference here in the South Zone was held in Vladivostok as usual. The South Zone has the most Russian native elders in it so I translated for that conference and it went really well. Translating is super fun and super hard at times, but I really can't impress you all about how influential the Spirit is in helping the Lord's servants bring about His work. There are those that may read about the gifts of the Spirit and feel that those may have existed in previous times like in the Bible. But I testify they are real and are among us in our day. For I have seen them amongst the Lord's servants. Each zone conference has similar topics and yet unique topics that are covered and discussed to meet the needs of the mission and obviously each zone. President and Sister Pratt both focused a lot of their training on the doctrine of Christ. They broke down the differences between the doctrine, the principles, and the applications of the gospel and how we must strive to teach clearly the doctrine in order to answer the question “Why?” The principles of the gospel then answer the “What?” and the applications answer “How?” It was a really neat training that opened my understanding as to how I can improve in teaching so as to invite others to act based on a clear understanding of the doctrine of Christ. After the South zone conference, Elder Steed and I hopped in the mission van and went off to the airport to catch a flight to Sakhalin. We got in that evening in time to get to sleep and arise for a day of fun while on exchanges with the Zone Leaders. It was really weird and awesome to be back on Sakhalin and to see all the snow and meet with some of the members! I love them so much! The next day, we jumped on a plane early that morning (Friday) and were off to Khabarovsk for zone conference. It was certainly a little colder there, but I felt great to back in Khabarovsk. The branch has moved and so we got to meet in the new building, had a great conference, and Elder Steed and I even did a little work in trying to check up on some people that may have fallen through the cracks and stopped meeting with missionaries due to transfers. We met with one family, and it was so good to see them again. I hope and pray they will continue reading the Book of Mormon and act upon the message it contains. The mother is the sweetest woman from Georgia (yes the country, not the state). Sadly enough, it was probably my last time to ever be in Khabarovsk and it was hard to say goodbye and realize that I will most likely never see again that city and the people there that I have come to love so much. We had a bit of a surprise right before sacrament meeting. One of my substitute teachers/tutors in the MTC who is from a city outside of Khabarovsk came to visit and showed up at a sacrament meeting. I don't know why but I was super excited to see her and it was simply strange to think that she helped us learn Russian on the other side of the world and then almost two years later, we saw each other in Khabarovsk where she was baptized. Crazy. Later that evening, we had some dinner at the senior couples' apartment and then headed off to the train station to catch a night train back to Vlad. It was the nicest train ever!!! And I slept great! Oh, and my favorite part of the week... we found chocolate chip cookies in the store that tasted and looked like Famous Amos cookies and they were made in the Netherlands. We ate them on the train. :)

I certainly can't forget to wish Grandma a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! Hope it was a wonderful day! :)

Basically, that's my week in a nutshell. Should be a fun week coming up. We'll be taking a late flight to Irkutsk on Wednesday and be in Ulan-Ude for the weekend. Should be exciting! Love you all a ton and I'm grateful for your prayers and support. It means the world to me!

Elder Bush

Monday, January 9, 2012

Working through illness

Hey there everyone!

I was glad to hear from the both of you and glad to know that all is well back home. I share your feelings, Dad. I've been down and out with a nasty little cold these last few days. It all started on Thursday, but we had some good plans set up so I shrugged it off and we kept working. I woke up Friday and was faced to battle the consequences, but I hadn't learned my lesson and we were out working that evening. The cold probably wasn't very good for me, and I paid for it on Saturday. It was awful being cooped up at our apartment, but I kept telling myself, it's better that I get better than make things worse. To my surprise, I still wasn't feeling better yesterday but worked through it because I couldn't take being inside anymore. I guess that was even the case on Saturday because I finally told Elder Steed, I've rested long enough. We've got to get out and at least talk to some people out there! Yesterday, we did meet a really cool guy on the street and hopefully, we'll be able to meet and help him understand more about our unique message. Don't worry, today I'm feeling loads better. Still not 100% but I'm getting there.

So, this past week, we had some great opportunities to see the hand of the Lord in the leadership of our mission. I've loved the opportunity to be an assistant because I have the chance to see and interact with President, Sister Pratt, and all the Zone Leaders. It really is a neat experience to be a part of the process to receive revelation from the Lord and carry out His desires for this part of His vineyard. Yesterday, during our Sunday school lesson, President Pratt made a comment that for whatever reason, really touched me and totally made sense. His comment pertained to how he had received a testimony or witness that the Book of Mormon is true. He mentioned that he couldn't remember a single moment in time or the first time for that matter when he prayed to know of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. He simply said that he had had so many countless experiences over and over again that confirmed to him that the book is true. As I look back on it, I can remember times that I have knelt in prayer to ask Heavenly Father about the truthfulness of that book. And I remember the feelings I have felt and the thoughts that have entered my mind upon asking, which I know are answers from my Father in Heaven sent through His Spirit. Yet, I don't remember the first time I did that or a single moment when my conviction regarding the Book of Mormon became firm and unshakable. I've always been able to rely on the Spiritual promptings and feelings that have continually confirmed that little blue book is true. I know it is of God. I'm convinced that that is what our life is all about. The Lord intends for us to search Him, to come to know our Father in Heaven and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, whom He has sent and we must do so continually. By so doing, we receive spiritual witnesses that we are on the Lord's path. Not just a good path. But we're on His path. For He is a God of order. And with all of these spiritual witnesses, we continually and gradually become stronger and stronger in our conviction and desire to obtain life eternal. Perfection. To become like our Heavenly Father. It's a simple yet arduous process of enduring and continually nourishing the gospel seed planted in our hearts. A process intended to last all of our lives and on into eternity. It most certainly doesn't end with death.

We met with President before we held Zone Leaders' Council by Skype on Wednesday. I love the Spirit felt as we discuss the work of the Lord. It's always harder when we're in the field, in the moment, striving to bring to pass the desires and plans we discuss in meetings. But, that's where we grow. I love working with inspired leaders. Leaders who know how to love and yet don't mince words when needed.

This next week is Zone conferences here in the South in Vlad and then we'll be on Sakhalin for exchanges and off to Khabarovsk for Zone conference for the North zone. Should be fun. :)

Love you all a ton. Super glad things are well back home!

Elder Bush

P.S. The first picture is from our dinner last night. I was very excited to eat. And the 2nd one is showing one of the new bridges being built and the ice and ships sitting out in the bay. Yesterday, we saw a ton of people walking out of the ice and some crazy people swimming in a cut out section of ice water. Yeah, crazy.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year Greetings from your son who's far far away on Far East Russia's plains.

Dear Fam,

Happy New Year to y'all! Hope you had a ton of fun! Thanks for your letters. I'm thoroughly convinced that the best part of pday is hearing from your family. Likewise, I'm sure that (or at least I hope) you all enjoy mine.

So, this past week has been a fun one. Especially with all the New Year's festivities. Unfortunately, (and I will try to be positive about this) alcohol plays a very important role in these festivities. Fortunately, since we were indoors Saturday and Sunday evening, we didn't really see much of that. However, what we did see is a testament to the unfortunate effects of alcohol. I sometimes wish people would simply strive to have fun and forget about their troubles or worries without burying themselves in alcohol. But anyhow, enough about that. Elder Steed and I spent some good time this past week doing some great work. We're still trying to bring back this area and get some success happening in it. It's been pretty cold lately. Honestly, the wind has been the worst! But, once again, have no fear! My winter gear has been holding up rather nicely. If I've learned anything on my mission, it's that a good hat, mittens, not gloves, and a trusty scarf will get you through the cold. (And it helps to have a good pair of socks.)

I absolutely love serving with Elder Steed. He is such a great companion. New Years was great with him. After freezing our buns off while contacting all day long, we headed home and got some pizzas. They were delicious! And juice. I love Russian juice. I'll be keenly interested in comparing our juice products upon my arrival home. Elder Steed finished reading the Book of Mormon New Years Eve night while we were home and while he did so, I cleaned the apartment. Yes, Mom, you would indeed be proud of your son. ;) We really didn't even watch the clock to see if it was midnight. We simply knew midnight had struck once we heard all the fireworks going off and people screaming and shouting outside. Although our apartment is on the first floor, in probably the least ideal position to see fireworks, we did manage to catch a glimpse of some ok fireworks thanks to the fact that everyone here does them. The days following new years are always interesting since it seems that the entire city is dead. No one is out on the streets. Yesterday, we had sacrament meeting which went really well and then we (the missionaries) headed to the Pratts' to have a little New Year's celebration. It's great to be in the company of friends and family, even if those people may only be family by 'adoption'. I sure have come to love my mission family. There sure are great people in this world.

I learned this past week that it's super important to serve others. When we do all we can to show love to others, that softens hearts and is truly how we can be examples of Christ. His light shines through us when we show love to others.

Lastly, I love you all. Thanks for all you do.

Have a wonderful year! And next week!

Love your son and brother,
Элдер Буш