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