Monday, December 27, 2010

The Holiday Rush continues.......week 23

Happy New Year

Dear Wonderful Family,

I don´t have much time today because we are running around crazy. I agree with Elder Russell, Oregon is one of God´s favorite places. Mom, you pictures look amazing. That class you are taking has really shown some fruits. Keep it up!

We had our baptisms. Amazing. I was a little bit sick but to be a part of the conversion process of Alfredo was worth absolutely everything. Family, I hope that everything goes well with you all and send my love to all the family. Don´t forget to thank Sister Nay for the emails of Alan as well as the comments of Brother Marks.

Merry Christmas as well as a Happy New Year!

Elder Russell

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A White Christmas

The best Christmas presents I ever received!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Preparing for a White Christmas.......week 22

Obedience because we love God

My dear family,

First things first, I received the first of my packages. Thank you so much. Elder Campos replaced the name tag of Elder Arreola but all is well. Also, Elder Campos told me that we are able to use Skype. I plan on calling you through Skype 2:00 my time or 12:00 your time. If I cannot use Skype then we are going to go the the church and use the phone there. We are just going to call from here because it is really cheap. Thus, you don´t need to worry about buying a card or anything like that.

Well this week, crazy but really good. We have really done a lot to expand the work here in Amilcingo. We have soccer nights that we are inviting a bunch of people to play, we are beginning to teach English classes at the church, and we are trying to organize a soccer tournament for Amilcingo. It’s been really fun as well as really amazing. I still have so much to learn and Elder Campos has been an amazing help. We have worked really hard this week and we are preparing for a White Christmas this Saturday. We have a lot to do in the next few days to complete this goal but we are working to have 5 baptisms this Christmas. We cannot wait.

I would like to share something from this last week that really struck me. It’s something that Elder Campos taught me. It’s about how we need to obey the commandments of God not out of a sense of righteousness but rather for a love of God. Two people may keep the same commandment however one would be quick to judge while the other would be filled with mercy. There is a grand difference between the two. It is something that I am striving to improve in my life.

Well, I will most likely call to finalize everything in the next few days so expect a call. I pray that all is going well with everything and enjoy the holidays!

Elder Russell

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas gift

President Alan Spannaus and Hermana Spannaus and 2 daughters

Querida Familia:

Les estamos enviando una foto de su querido misionero/a durante nuestras conferencias de navidad en donde tuvimos una experiencia espiritual maravillosa. Felicidades para todos y que en esta hermosa época del año podamos acercarnos al Salvador con todo nuestro corazón y servirlo hasta el fin.

Con amor,

Presidente y Hermana Spannaus

Misión México Cuernavaca

Dear Family:

We are sending to you a picture of your beloved missionary during our Christmas conference where we have had a wonderful spiritual experience. Best wishes for all during this Christmas Season, hoping to be closer to our Savior with all our heart and to serve Him until the end.

With love,

President & Sister Spannaus

Mexico Cuernavaca Mission

Monday, December 13, 2010

Saying farewell to Elder Arreola....Welcoming Elder Campos.......week 21

Craziness in Amilcingo

My dear family,

I hope all is going well with everyone. I only have a little bit of time to write today as we are in the middle of changes. Elder Arreola left for Cuernavaca today and I am receiving my new companion named Elder Campos. We are going to be running around crazy today and this week. I hope to hear from you all but I’m not sure what will be my timing. A brief side note, I am going to set up plans to send a preliminary call. I believe we are going to find a phone which I will send the number to you in which you will be able to call. Calls to Mexico are cheap but I am going to see what’s going to happen. If nothing else, there are phone booths that cost a think a peso a minute. I'll let you know.

Well this week was crazy. We were running around crazy to interview people for baptisms as well as prepare for a missionary concert that we put on. We had a missionary program with a band and missionaries singing. We have a bunch of activities this week as well. We have a missionary devotional as well as a ward party this Friday. We are working really hard with the members to try a bit of their faith to invite others to hear of the Gospel. Already it has wrought fruit.

Personally, I have been extremely impacted by the significance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I have realized in a much deeper sense how reliant I am upon this act which was performed so long ago. For me, I have felt so grateful as well as dependant upon this act. I have realized that when trials come, we must turn to the Savior. There are so many people who resort to so many different things to support themselves in their trials but there are few who truly resort to the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Atonement the central part. I have felt in large degree my personal inadequacies. I have felt that I cannot act nor be who I need to be without the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is everything to me. With so many opinions of people about what is most important in this world, I find my solace within the Gospel or good news of Jesus Christ. It is my faith, my hope, and my all. I do not regret it nor will I excuse it. It is the way to salvation. I know it and it is my privilege to share what I have come to know.

Elder Sean Russell

The streets of Amilcingo

Monday, December 6, 2010

I am not a Missionary but rather a "Called Disciple of Jesus Christ".......week 20

Dear Amazing Family,

Wow, congratulations to Joy and Josh as well as with the rest of the family. Everyone is really busy and sounds like they are doing really well. I don't have a lot of time to write but continue doing well family!

We are working with a bunch of people right now, particularly with families. We are working very hard to have a very white Christmas. Elder Arreola and I are hoping that we can avoid one more transfer as we have a lot of people that we can still help here. I will let you know more as things progress. We are preparing for a Christmas program this Saturday that I might be jamming out with some other Elders. Elder Arreola and I are thinking about doing some Caroling/ jamming in the streets this week. We are going to see how it goes!

Today we went to Tepozteco, a city about 30 minutes from Amilcingo to see some pyramids. I don´t think I have seen a city more beautiful than this one. We climbed a big mountain to get to them and I decided that it was about time to take my ¨Repentance¨ photo. We saw this sign that was written in Nahuatl. So cool! We also saw some vines that we had to climb. To say the least, I was thinking a bit about Boston Dr. Russell. The rest are a few of the pictures of the city. Hope you enjoy!

This week was an amazing week. I learned a great lesson this week. I learned in very plain terms that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is everything to me. There is nothing more important nor so applicable than the Gospel applied within the home. I realized that without the Gospel as taught by the prophets, I could not be happy. I realized that I cannot do anything without Jesus Christ. Without His Atonement, I am nothing. There is no other way towards happiness nor salvation except through the Gospel of Jesus Christ with His Atonement as the core of everything. Things changed dramatically this week. I am not a Missionary but rather a called disciple of Jesus Christ. The latter has a much more personal meaning to me.

Well family, I have to run but thank you for your continued prayers and love. Thank Brother Minor and Elder Alan Christopher for their letters. May you all enjoy this wonderful time of year to commemorate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. I know that He lives and that in and through Him we can receive all that the Father wants to give us. It is my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Sean Russell

A P-day trip to TepostecatlThe Russell Repentance shot....amazing view!Elder Russell looks exhausted! Or is he joking around....
AHHHHHH.....the Sean I know.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Engaging ourselves in the work.......week 19

The baptism of Guadalupe and Fabiola.

Dear Family,
I am glad to hear of your holiday adventures and as always, thanks for your stories, photos, and testimonies. I hope you realize that you have and continually influence lives here in Mexico and I believe it fair to say in Nicaragua as well. Thank you for being you family. I give my thanks for the Gospel in which we have as well as the wonderful family which He has blessed me. May you continue to be blessed as you go unto the Lord and rely upon Him.

This week, where to begin. Each week goes by faster and faster as we are engaging ourselves in this work. Each day brings its challenges and rewards which test, prove, joy, and bless. This week we had the baptisms of Guadalupe and Fabiola. They are stellar people who have already demonstrated that they are going to be amazing members of the church. I have thought a lot this week about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the importance of this work. I have thought of our baptisms to this point. Each has a story in particular which we are so grateful to be a part. However, I have thought a lot about helping the souls of men. Through the baptisms that we have had, we have felt in a grand degree the love of God for these people. When I allow these feelings to penetrate my soul, I find that I have so much still to learn and do. There is success as well as times of joy. Something that I read from I believe Elder M. Russell Ballard really impacted me. He said something along the lines of ¨I am going to tell you a secret about the work within the church as well as in the family. Many of you have already discovered it. It is that there is no such thing as I have completed my work.

There is never a time in our families nor in our service in the church that we can say that there is nothing more we could do.¨ This has struck me deeply. There is no limit to the excellence of our lives. Particularly with our families and our service in the church, there is nothing as ¨complete¨. As long as there are people are walking this earth, the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will go forward. It will go forward until the Lord says that the work is done. It is my testimony that we are here in this world to have joy and prepare to live with God.

I believe central to that joy is missionary work as it is put into practice through the family. I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. As we come into the holiday season, may we think more poignantly about the relationships with our families and those who desperately need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel and go forward and open your mouths. Give the greatest gift this holiday session by your testimony to anyone who needs to hear it. May the Lord bless you all in your efforts. I love you family and know that I am so proud to wear your name each day.

Elder Russell

Monday, November 22, 2010

There is NOTHING more important than the Salvation of the people of this World.......week 18

My Wonderful Family,

I send my best wishes across the miles and hope that everything will go well for the holiday. It sounds like everyone is doing well. I know that the Lord is constantly overseeing my family and it is a great comfort and consolation. Please send my concern and love to the Whitney family. May they find comfort in this time.

Elaine and Oliver as well as another woman named Marcela were baptized this week. Marcela was baptized Friday and we have seen how the family that participated with her as well as Marcela have changed tremendously. They are member missionaries with a load of desires. We married Elaine and Oliver in a pueblito because it was much easier for them as well as us. So Saturday we left at 9 in the morning and returned around 5 with a wedded couple. They were baptized Sunday after church. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is cool! Pictures of Elaine and Oliver. I have to get pictures of Marcela´s baptism so forgive me on that one.

I second what Grant has said about patience as well as faith. We receive line upon line and we are molded day by day. The majority of the time I believe we do not recognize it but as we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we come to understand in greater degrees what it truly means to be a child of God who is capable of divine help each and every day. I have thought a lot about repentance the past few weeks and I would like to comment about the significance of this topic for me. The purpose of our lives is to prepare to meet God. In order to do so, we stop doing what is wrong and we do what is right. We show our faith by ceasing to do what is wrong in order to do what is right. This process of repentance has hit me very strongly. How many things in my life are not in harmony with the commandments of God? It doesn´t matter what it is, if it does not allow me to do what the Lord has commanded then it is not worth my efforts. The purpose of our lives is to put our will in harmony with that of God through repentance. What an amazing principle!

I realized that many of the things that I pause to think about or the things that occupy the minds of those whom we teach really are of little importance. I have seen people who will not open the door to their heart to hear the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because their work does not permit it. Or because they have to go to the store to buy new shoes. Or because they have studied the scriptures thoroughly and there is no way that two young missionaries are going to teach them anything. Sure, some may say that it is life. We live in an imperfect world. But this form of thinking never brought happiness to the human family nor salvation. I am amazed at the great pride of this world. I really appreciated what Grant said relative to the story of the tree and his investigators. For us to listen with open hearts, does the Lord have to take away everything that we have? Does the Lord have to bring us to the dust in order for us to notice how foolish we had been with the end that we will turn to Him? We speak to people everyday who for whatever reason, are too busy for the things of God. They are too busy to spend time with their families. They are not capable of change. How hard Satan works to hide the Gospel of Jesus Christ! It is the news that are lives are meant to be filled with joy. What is a job? The means to provide the basic necessities of life. The basic necessities of life. If this alone was implemented in the lives of people across the world, we would have a very different perspective of what is most important.

President Monson says in one of his talks that ¨we should never let a problem to be solved become more important than someone to be loved¨. When the prophet of God says never, I believe that it is an all encompassing word. There is nothing more important than the salvation of the people of this world. We are not working for the salvation of your car, house, dog, food, education, health, or anything else, but rather for your personal happiness and salvation alongside that of your family and the world. I reflect upon how often we truly contemplate the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Are we brought to our knees in great humility as we talk, walk, and live as He did? Do we consider the Atonement of the Savior of the world? Are we brought to a recognition of who we really are when we rise in the morning? For all these questions I respond that I want to be better. I will walk as He walked. I will do what He did. I will become as He is so that I will have the joy that I seek in my life and the eternal happiness in the world to come.

With my thoughts I ask the question to all that read this of ¨what is really most important in this world?¨ Be honest with yourself. Don´t excuse yourself or cast the blame on anyone else. Consider sincerely what is of most importance and if it is not your personal salvation, that of your family, and of the whole human race, you know what is needed. I say this with the greatest admonition of love for I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. I know that He was completely obedient the will of His Father. He was resurrected the third day and suffered for our sins so that we would have the ability to have happiness and joy here and in the world to come. The Savior of mankind did not suffer on the cross so that we would piddle away our time in things of little importance. He died to break the bands of death and sin so that we could be happy. He did not die to provide us with wealth, power, or prestige. He died to save us from death and sin. For Him I am eternally grateful.

I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. To bring us happiness, He gives us families and teaches them His Gospel through prophets. I know that if we hearken to what these prophets say, we will always have the peace of the Gospel in our lives. It is my testimony as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ that He lives and leads and guides His Church through Thomas S. Monson, His living prophet. May we always be more resolved today than yesterday to hearken to His counsels and receive the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer.

Elder Sean Russell

Elaine and Oliver's baptism Sunday, November 21, 2010.
They were married Saturday November 20, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Uniting families in the Gosple of Jesus Christ........week 17

The baptism of Giselle Cardenas Aquirre

My dear family,

Thank you so much for your past letter. I always think of the Mom and Dad when I read Mormon and Ether. With Moroni and his efforts with the Lamanites, I always think of Dad: It doesn´t matter if you have success or not, the Lord has called you to serve and thus you serve. There is very powerful doctrine within those books of scripture.

Before I forget, I have been taking out quite a bit of money from the checking account to purchase some things here in the mission. I´m not going to ruin the surprise but if you are wondering or have a question, here´s the answer.

First off, I this past week was absolutely amazing. We had our first baptism and I had the opportunity to baptize Giselle Cardenas Aquirre. The Cardenas family is a part member family with the parents who were inactive but their three daughters never had much contact with the Church. The mother and Giselle are stellar examples and through them, the family is becoming united under the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Giselle was baptized on Sunday after an amazing stake conference broadcasted from Salt Lake. Elder Christiansen, the Second Counselor in the Primary, Elder Bednar, and President Eyring spoke addressing I believe all of Mexico. Oh my goodness, it was awesome! Elder Bednar spoke of revelation and shared a scripture about as we live the Gospel through obedience to the commandments and keeping of convenants, we are enlightened by the Spirit, slowly, daily, but surely. He spoke about how we don´t recognize it but this type of revelation is very common. He shared a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants about Oliver Cowdry when he had desires to assist the prophet Joseph Smith in the translation of the Book of Mormon. This school teacher did not feel like he had a great revelation but this is the response of the Lord in DC 6:14-15

14. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast ainquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.

15. Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy amind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been benlightened by the cSpirit of truth;

The Lord told Oliver that his mind had been enlightened by the Lord through his prayers of faith. Enlightened. He had received revelation but didn´t even recognize it. Elder Bednar´s message, don´t fret if every moment is a great revelation. Through obedience to the Gospel you will be guided and directed. Sooo awesome! President Eyring spoke about claiming the heritage of the ancestors of this land through obedience to the Gospel. As well, sooo awesome!
But back to Giselle. She was baptized and was so emotional to have this direction in her live. It was so funny because she was so nervous the days before but it was such a privilege to see the Gospel in action con her. Elaine and Oliver came to the service as well as another investigator.

We have our baptism scheduled for I believe this Sunday for Elaine and Oliver.

We are helping them to stop smoking and drinking coffee. We have an appointment to marry them this Saturday. It is with this that I have been taking out money from the account. We have quite a few expenses with refreshments for baptisms, marriages, flyers / pamphlets for classes and baptisms, as well as the rides to and from Cuaulta and to help our investigators get to church. It is with these things that I have been taking from the account. Let me know if there are worries or questions about it. Nonetheless, we are very excited. The work is just beginning to explode here in Amilcingo. The ward is feeling more and more of the power of the work. We can´t wait.

Here are some photos of my first week as well as the baptism on Sunday. ¨how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that preach the Gospel¨.

Elder Russell

The heal of a new missionary. Walking in the paths of righteousness!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is taught to families through prophets. Joy comes through a home centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.......week 16

Dear My Wonderful Family,

Good to hear that everything is going well. I send my best wishes across the miles and thank you for all of your prayers in my behalf and for all the missionaries across the world. They are felt and through them we come in contact with those who are truly seeking the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Before I forget, I took out a bit of money from the checking account to buy a sweater and possibly a pancho in the next few weeks. I gets a bit chilly in the nights here. Just a heads up.

Well, where to start. We are working really hard with our investigators to be able to get them to church. We have had our ups and downs according to the responses of different investigators during different days. It is really funny actually. We had a lesson with Elaine and Oliver about marriage and going to church on Sunday. When they told us that they wanted to be married we were so excited. We have an appointment with them if I’m not mistaken this Saturday to be married. We are hoping and praying for their continual success. We have a baptism for one of our investigators this Saturday named Gisele and we cannot wait. She went to church with her mom yesterday and loved it. It is during these moments that we are just up in the clouds. Those that have such an energy and desire to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives truly emit to those around them.

Funny things this week. Well, I have to confess that I have never eaten so much bread in my life. The bread here is called pan dulce and it is the greatest thing in the whole world. I have tried different kinds but of everything I have tried, this morning with an authentic churro was by far the most angelic. The best part is that pan dulce costs more or less 25 cents. So good.

With our work, we are working hard to involve the members but it has been hard the past couple of weeks because there have been a bunch of conferences and special programs which don´t give us much time. Nevertheless we are plugging along and loving every ¨buenas tardes¨.

Something really struck me this week. It is about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One simple truth that makes all the difference in the world is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is taught to families through prophets. This principle alone sets the stage for every truth and blessing of the Gospel. When we understand this model of teaching from God, everything makes perfect sense. How do learn of God? Through the words of the prophets found in scriptures as well the words that they speak to us in our time. Our understanding of God is through the prophets. Where would we be without prophets? There goes the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible. Try to draw near to God without prophets. You can´t and it is exactly for this reason that there is so much confusion and so many churches in the world. The pride of man too and his inability to hearken to the voices of the prophets. It is with this understanding that I am moved every time I have the opportunity to say that ¨my name is Elder Russell. I am a representative of Jesus Christ who has been called by a living prophet. We are here to share a very important message about how we can be happy.¨ The prophets are the guides for us in our lives. I know that without the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith, I would not know of the true character of God and His plan for all mankind. It is through a prophet that I know anything about God. It is with this thought that I give my immense gratitude to the scriptures and the prophets.

I know that this is truly the Church of Jesus Christ in our times. We are not Mormons, we are not worshippers of Joseph Smith, we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ. We honor and respect the prophets of God as they direct us in what we need to do in our lives. But first and foremost, we believe in God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. I know that they live. We are guided by means of a living prophet today Thomas S. Monson who has the authority of God to lead and guide us. I know it and it is my grand priviledge to declare it. May we always hearken to the words of the prophets as they will never lead us astray.

Enjoy every moment of every day family. Know of my love and utmost gratitude for a home with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my grand priviledge to invite others to do the same. Remember that man is that he may have joy. This joy is through a home centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we continue to cherish the miracle of every day is my prayer.

Elder Russell

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Atonement of Jesus Christ........week 15

Dear Family,
Thank you so much for your letters. Thank you for your experiences and particularly the tender mercies of the Lord. I hope and pray that the Lord will continue to bless you in all that you do.

Another week has flown by. I am amazed at what is taught, learned, and molded in a single week. I would like to talk briefly about that which Grant mentioned. The Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is a topic that has impacted me significantly this week as everything is centered around it. I was reading the account of King Noah the other day and the priests of his court. His priests questioned Abinadi that through their obedience to the law of Moses they are saved. Abinadi then gives his witness that it is only through Jesus Christ that we are saved. Because of His Resurrection, we will be judged of Him purely by our obedience to the law. By this alone, no one could receive eternal life as no one is perfect. Thus, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, particularly His suffering for our sins, we can be cleansed from our sins through obedience to the laws and ordinances of His Gospel. Thus, we are not saved by the law. We are saved by our actions of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

I have thought much about this topic and I am impressed by the responses of different people relative to their definition of Christ. We ask people all the time, ¨who is Jesus Christ¨ and we get a wide variety of responses. Often, that He is the Savior. However, there are so few people who really understand why He is the Savior of the world and how do we apply His Atonement in our lives. Thus, the topics of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His Gospel have impacted me very much.

So we are continuing to work with Elaine and Oliver. They are progressing so well and we are really excited for them as they have committed to be married in the next couple of days. They are so desirous to learn about the Gospel. We have to cut our lessons each time because they just ask so many questions. I told Elder Arreola that though I have so much more that I am going to do during the course of my mission, if I could know for a fact that they would be married in the temple and sealed to their two children a year from now, everything that I have done to prepare for my mission would have been worth it. However, it is just the beginning. And with this family, they have been the fire for me personally. They have helped me to give everything I have so that perhaps I may find one more person, that I might invite one more soul to come unto Christ. They have taught me a very personal lesson. Oliver asked us a question during our last visit about prophets and he said, ¨they are like tools right, like you Elders¨. We responded, ¨exactly Oliver¨. It was simple and sincere but it left a deep impression. We are nothing more than the tools in the hands of the Master in His work. Like it is stated in Isaiah, does the tool lift itself up without the hand of the Master. No, it doesn’t. Each day is one more day in vineyard of the Lord. I wear His name. I declare His Gospel. I bear witness of His reality. Lives are touched not because of us, but because we carry His name. They are not acting upon our message. They are applying the eternal principles of the Great and Everlasting God. Our Savior Jesus Christ provided through His Resurrection and His Atonement, the way of happiness and exaltation through obedience to the laws and ordinances of His Gospel. Study His words, ponder them in your hearts, and pray unto our Father in Heaven and He will answer you. It is true. I have done it and I see the happiness of those who do it every day. Lean upon Him and He will guide your path.

My dear family, I give you my deepest love. I pray that the Lord will continue to enlarge your vision and expand your joy. Your examples have already touched the lives of many people here. Happy Birthday Dad. I pray that the Lord will bless you with a deeper sense of the love of your family for you. I pray likewise at this time for you Grandma. As Aunt Teri counseled me before I left, ¨Elder Russell, don´t you ever forget where you come from.¨ I have not Mom, Dad, Grandma. And unto my Savior Jesus Christ and my Father in Heaven, I have not.

I send my best wishes across the miles my dear family. May God keep you in His hands always.

With all my love,
Elder Russell

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dogs are not our Friends....... week 14

My wonderful family,
As it is always the case, it is such a privilege to hear from you and hear that the Lord is continuing to bless you. I send you my very best wishes and love across the miles.

There were some experiences this week that were immensely funny as well as some extremely spiritual ones as well. First off, dogs. To bring back the memories to all who have or are serving in Central or South America, they are everywhere. I have noticed that there are two types of dogs here, extremely lazy or extremely crazy. Long story short we were teaching this investigator the first lesson this week and her dog was absolutely insane. With no exaggeration, Elder Arreola not only traded principles of the lesson and testimonies but we also learned how to distract the dog. About 15 minutes into the lesson I noticed that the dog had a strange aptitude to jump on me randomly and lick my arm. As I noticed the pace of the lesson, I took the initiative to be the distraction so my companion could finish the lesson. I kid you not, the dog completely drenched my arm in about 5 minutes. After he discovered that I was completely soaked, he embarked on his task to chew on my arm. Imagine all the while that I was trying to make as little of a scene so the spirit could testify of the message. However, he continued to munch on my arm. During the closing prayer, my hand was in his mouth. One of the greatest moments to date!

This Sunday, Elaine and Oliver came to church with the two kids. I could not stop smiling. Though I am not able to converse freely with them, I was so excited to help them during church and see their reactions. We had another investigator come to church that was really special for us. We are working hard and we are slowly but surely bringing about the work of the Lord in Amilcingo. The Lord requires a bit of creativity in His work which always makes me laugh. For instance, we were trying to motivate a less active family but they were a bit hesitant to let us in. After a rather large lunch, I was prompted to ask to use the restroom. My companion was then allotted some time to talk to them. I think I am going to use the tactic more often.

In reality, I absolutely love it here. With the work that we do everyday, I find it very easy to not realize the amazing blessing of every day. Each day is a gift from God which we are given to have joy and prepare to meet Him. I have been deeply touched by people that we meet for the first time, we teach them the first lesson, we ask them to say the closing prayer and it often goes something like this. We thank you Heavenly Father for everything. Thank you for these missionaries that you have sent us and bless them that more people will open their doors to them. Bless those who do not have bread to eat that we will help them. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Each one of these prayers touch me deeply as they are often given as we are sitting outside of a house held up by ropes and rebar. Bless the missionaries and those who do not have bread to eat. It is true that amongst the poor in spirit the Lord finds His most valiant servants. There is a tremendous beauty here. It is found within the hearts of the people who look out for one another. We have the great blessing of drawing their hearts unto Christ. There is absolutely nothing better.

Well family, take care. I love you and I feel the power of your prayers. Never stop offering up your hearts unto God. He will always answer you. I know it. I know the Book of Mormon is true, that Christ lives. Because of this, He is the foundation for everything. Always go unto Him. He is always anxious to hear from you.

With all my love,
Elder Russell

Monday, October 18, 2010

"That's NOT the language they taught me in the MTC..." ....... week 13

Dear my wonderful family,
Glad to hear that all is well. Thanks for all the emails and photos of the family. It is good to hear that all is going well and congratulation on deciding to take the photography class mom. I hope you love it.

So, I have successfully completed my first week in Amilcingo. I don't know where to start. First off, I don't know anything. That has been a wonderfully humbling experience for me. In reality, most of this week has been just adjusting to things. So first things first, Elder Arreola is a my companion that looks like an American but is actually from Torreon Mexico. More or less, if you could picture Tyler Russell as a Mexican, he is my companion. Its pretty funny. Things are going great here. The members are absolutely amazing. They are the nicest people in the world. I am becoming more and more certain that I will put on some pounds in this town. It is rather funny because almost every dinner conversation starts with "Elder Russell, do you like spicy food?" I then proceed to give my definition of spicy which always brings a laugh. Despite the initial difficulties of adjusting to a completely new culture and such, the members and our investigators have been ever patient and kind towards me. Don't worry mom, though we don't have a mamita here in Amilcingo, they are in the rest of the mission however, there are so many absolutely amazing families who feeding us more than we can handle.

So Amilcingo. If you can imagine the area of to the side Hillcrest Road in Medford, from the Merrill's until Cherry Lane, closest to MT Roxyanne, you have about the size of my area or larger. My area is really small. But it is really fun because you see members all the time as well as your investigators. Almost everyone walks or takes the combi which in essence a chevy van with the inside gutted out to put benches in it. It is so awesome!

The language is coming along better than I give myself credit for. Mexican Spanish is pretty funny because it really is a song. Its a song that the people like to write their own lyrics to. There are a lot of phrases that are solely Mexican which at first took my by surprise. For the sake of posterity, its true, the first few days were "what language are they speaking". By no means am I able to communicate fluently but I can talk to my Mexican companion and the investigators without utterly destroying everything. I count my blessings everyday.

So funny things thus far. I mentioned that Mexicans sing when they talk right. I love just listening to the people talk. The accentuation of their voices is so different but I absolutely love it. I thought often of Troys mission as the people here drive Mercedes, have huge tvs, abnoxiously loud stereo systems, and so much food but buy bottled water every day. Its so funny. I woke up one day to study and heard our neighborly rooster and goat say their morning prayers alongside our neighbors blare their music at 8 in the morning. More than anything, its just so funny. I absolutely love it. I have never seen so many PA systems strapped to trucks as a recorded announced blares through the streets. Most go something like this. Super great deal at the store, store, store, store, free, free, free (repeat until the truck passes by).

Spiritual experiences this week: we met an absolutely amazing family this week as we were knocking on doors. A young woman greeted us and told us to come back in and hour and a half. We came back, taught the first lesson, she was really interested and invited us back to talk with her husband. We did so and they are committed to baptism and attending church this Sunday. Elaine and Oliver are their names and we are so excited to continue with them. We are working with quite a few other people whom we are working hard to come to church. Its so great.

Well, my time is running short but know that everything is absolutely wonderful and I know that this is exactly where I need to be serving right now. President Spannaus told the new missionaries something that really stood out to me. It is found in Moroni 8:16 and relative to us as new missionaries. The latter portion of "do not fear what man can do because perfect love casteth out all fear". Thus, though I cannot speak fluently nor do I know every member, I am striving more than anything to love them. Thus, I am becoming truly fearless. I know that it is true. It has helped me tremendously even thus far.

Well family, take care. It is a privilege to wear your name alongside the Saviors. Know of my love for both names. I wouldn't want any other.

Elder Russell

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Companion... New Area... A Whole New World week 12

Dear Parents:

These are the assignments and companions of your wonderful sons. The picture was taken this morning when they met their companions. After the picture they all went to work to their areas. They will write to you this coming Monday.

Elder Sean Russell
Companion: Elder Arreola
Area: Amilcingo
Zone: Palmas

They are all very happy, and we are too. Have a great day!
President Spannaus

Mexico Cuernavaca Mission

Monday, October 11, 2010

4 hour flight and 1 hour bus ride...Finally in Cuernavaca!

Dear Russells:

Attached you will find some pictures we took this afternoon in the bus station and tonight in our home that you may enjoy. Dear family, your son is in the best hands he could be, in the hands of our Savior Jesus Christ, and I will be co-worker with him in this part of the vineyard. Thank you for raising this fine young man, he will be a great missionary.
With sincere love!

President Spannaus
Mexico Cuernavaca Mission

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October 5, 2010 MTC....... week 11


My exceptional, wonderful, amazing family,
Thank you for being so fantastic. I mimic Elder Russell's (the older) words about how conference always helps me realize how much I have truly been given. I am so blessed to have been raised in a home where there was so much appreciation, respect, love, and devotion to the Gospel. I truly appreciate it.

So notes real quick, I purchased a backpack here which has worked rather well for me. It has a side strap that I can use if I find carrying it on my back is a nuisance. I received the package and thank you so much for it.

Well family, I want to title this email "Viva Mexico!" I am extremely excited to announce that Elder Russell has received his visa and is heading to Cuernavaca on Monday. I went to the Consulate yesterday, the travel office received my visa, and gave me my travel plans today. Elder Egan and I leave Monday morning with the 9 other Cuernavaca missionaries. I still can't believe it. We are going to Mexico. President Spannaus sent me an email with a talk that he asked us to study as companions. It is amazing. It seems so surreal. Before I forget, I can call for a 5 minutes before Monday. It doesn't matter to me when I call but please send me a Dear Elder sometime this week so I can know when to call as I will be checking my next email in Mexico. I'll give my parents the courtesy this time of being informed when a missionary is calling (enjoy the laughs mom).

So, with every moment of this work, it is a constant learning curve. All of my personal studies and lessons in classes brought such a perspective to General Conference. General Conference in turn brought tremendous perspective to this week and the talk that President Spannaus sent us. I feel so propelled from everything. It is progression and each and every day brings so much more to our lives. This past week was so powerful for me because I felt more and more that I was getting to where the Lord needed me to be before I left for Cuernavaca. I know that His timing is not mine but even with the minor perspective that I have of my mission thus far, I know that He is ever aware of what is going on. I cannot wait to share what I know to be true with the people of Mexico in the coolest language in the world. I love these people so much. The advanced district that came in are such great Elders who are going to be amazing missionaries. Elder Egan and I have enjoyed every moment to speak with them and practice. Oh, and Elder Egan said that it is his cousin that served in Russia. It's a small world.

Well family, I need to be running. But I want to let you know that I am immensely grateful for your dedication to the Gospel and your family. With the little that I do know, I know enough to say that my parents knew it. I don't know a lot, but I know enough. I know that we are literally children of our Heavenly Father who loves us. He gives us families and prophets to help lead and guide us. The Book of Mormon is true and His Gospel is in the earth today. I know it without doubt. If there is anyone who is reading this who is thinking about this message, I pray that you act upon it. Find out for yourself. I know it is true. And if anyone is considering whether to serve a mission or no, do it. It has changed everything.

Elder Russell

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September 28, 2010 MTC....... week 10

Dear Wonderful Family,
I'm glad to hear that you were able to slow down a bit this past week. It seems like it was due. I am running a bit low on time today so forgive me if it runs short. Never a dull moment in the Lord's work.

So I am plugging away in the MTC. I absolutely love it to be honest. Of course there is the anticipation of getting the notice to go to the Consulate but it will all come in time. I count my blessings every since day for this great opportunity. Its funny how the Lord knows exactly what you need to learn, how to do it, and in what time frame. So for me, this time frame is the biggest cram session of my life. It is so awesome! I am learning things that I wasn't even considering a week ago. Once again, He knows where we are and where we need to be. I'm loving being able to be part of it.

So for me I really have counted my blessings this week. There is so much to be grateful for first off but something struck me the other day that I'd like to share. So the Elders who are waiting for visas are being placed in different upcoming classes to have teachers, a district, and the like. The Lord knows exactly who I am and my goals. One of my goals for the MTC was to be able to leave the MTC in an advanced Spanish class. I am so blessed to say that its going to happen. Come Wednesday (tomorrow), Elder Egan and I will be joining a new advanced district for our time here. The Lord knows me so well that He has allowed me to achieve my goal. It really is amazing. Thus, Elder Egan and I will be in this district until we here further notice. We are asked to check with the travel office every day to see if there is a trip to the Consulate that day. Thus, the Mexican missionaries are very commonplace in the travel office.

Well family, it really is amazing to be serving as a servant of the Lord. I look at what I have learned and how much the Lord has molded me that it is hard to look back and believe how far I come. It is my testimony that He lives. He loves us and wants to bless us with everything He has. But He will never force our ability to choose. Through the truth of His gospel restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith we know who He really is and who we really are. It is my testimony that it is true. I am so grateful for it and I desire more than anything else to share it with others. May the Lord continue to bless you my dear family.

Elder Russell

PS Tell Linda that the chocolate milk is absolutely amazing!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21, 2010 MTC....... week 9

Dear my wonderful family,
I hope that everything is absolutely wonderful. I want to thank you so much for the package, I received it yesterday. I really am grateful for the fact that I have such a supportive family. Also, thank you for your notes on Elder Bednar's talk. They were awesome and helped out a bunch. Thank you so much for everything you do.

Well family, your overly anxious son / brother is remaining in the MTC until further notice. It is really rather funny because there are only about 5 missionaries from our zone including Elder Egan and I that have permisos. None of us know what we will be doing but we have been told a few things. Right now, we tentatively have 3 options. We could form a new district with the remaining Elders and have a teacher, class, etc. Second, we could be moved to be with the upcoming advanced district on Wednesday until further notice. Lastly, we could be put in another classroom and have study / temple time every day (I bet you can guess which one is weighing the heaviest in my mind right now). None of the Elders really know neither do the teachers nor travel desk. In all reality, all of us are just loving it. We are having a great time and we will really be happy with whatever.

So family, as usual, I am constantly amazed, taught, and molded each and every day. This week was a very powerful week for me. First off, a bit crazy because the first members of our district are heading off to their temporary reassigned missions. It has been a tremendous blessing to rub shoulders with each and every one of them. Secondly, something immensely powerful struck me this week. I thought deeply about two concepts: Preach my Gospel and the Restoration of the Gospel. We were taught a lot about Preach my Gospel and what it really is. I believe it was Elder Holland who said that "if we didn't feel that we wanted to make a few changes to it, it would be cannonized in the standard works." We were told of all the revisions and work that the apostles and others put into Preach my Gospel. As we are not capable of being instructed directly from the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency like as in the days of the Language Training Mission, Preach my Gospel is the personal training for each missionary from the Brethren. So amazing! I made a goal to use every part of it and even thus far I have seen how inspired this book really is. Every portion of it is inspired. My goal was to become a PMG missionary and I am loving the fact that I am working towards that. Second, was that I wanted to be a Restored Gospel missionary as well. I realized in very poignant moments how extremely unique and absolutely vital the Restored Gospel is. It is everything. We teach, preach, and speak of Christ as He is the means of our Salvation. Yet, without the Restoration of the Gospel with the Priesthood authority, the keys, the Book of Mormon, etc., we could not truly come to Him. I believe it was Elder Ballard who made a comment that without the Restored Gospel, we cannot have full access to the Atonement. Its amazing no?

Thus this week has strengthened me and helped me realize that my faith is very simple. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. It was through him that we have the Book of Mormon which has the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by which we can come to know of God and His plan of us. Simple, yet absolutely essential. It is this message that I cannot wait to share with the people of Mexico.

It is my testimony that He lives. I know that Christ is the head of this Church and leads and guides the affairs of the church for the salvation of His children through prophets. I know that Thomas S Monson is the Lord's annointed prophet. I know it to be true, and of how great importance to share it with the world.
I know these things are true. I love you family and may we always look to the Restored Gospel as the foundations of our faith.

Elder Russell

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14, 2010 MTC ....... week 8

Dear my wonderful family,
Thank you so much for your letters. I love hearing how everything is going. I give you my best wishes and love across the miles. I would also like you to give my special thanks to Brother Marks, Minor, and Sister Nay for their letters. I haven't always been able to respond to them but please let them know that theirs as well as yours are very appreciated. Before I forget, I don't have anything on my mind that I'm thinking of in terms of a package. The only thing is to just have a few extra dollars if I decide to buy some more books.

Well family, this past week has been miracle after miracle. It has been a continual round of where are the Mexican missionaries going and who is able to go. There are about 150 missionaries who are expected to leave a week from today to Mexico and we were informed that there are only about 50 who are going to be able to obtain their permisos. Long story short, Elder Egan and I are on the list to obtain them. Thus, they are going to keep us here to meet with the Consulate with the hope that we will be leaving on time or a little bit later. All of the Cuernavaca missionaries and I believe Merida missionaries are obtaining permisos and the rest is random. Thus, we don't know exactly our timing but we do know that we are leaving for Cuernavaca if not in a week, shortly thereafter. It truly is nothing less than a miracle. I'd like to tell a bit why this is so special to me.

So these past few weeks I have been changed and molded in ways that only the Lord knew how to do. Each day I am tossed into a furnace for something else that needs to change or needs tweaking. I have felt that the time I have here is precious and I feel that if I continue to use it as I have been, the Lord will magnify my ability to do His work. For some reason, I have always felt that the time here is small but if I utilize it, I will be blessed tremendously. I have felt such a strong drive to give it everything. When I heard yesterday about my permiso, I was at ecstatic beyond belief. However, I found myself been deeply moved almost to tears. The Lord's work is the same everywhere but I had been called to serve the people of Mexico. For all the talk of not being able to go there was hard and led me to great introspection. Each day with different news brought more desire to serve these people. I hoped and prayed silently in my heart to let me serve these people. From the moment I opened my call until now, I don't want to be doing anything else or be anywhere else. I struggle to write what these people mean to me. I have waited my whole life to serve them. All my talents, abilities, and desires have been cultivated and facilitated to teach these people. I felt it so strongly when I met Elder Nunez. When he told me about his home, the progress of the church, and the missionaries who have served there, I wanted nothing more than to be there. This is everything to me. This gospel, these people, my family. I feel as if the Cuernavaca missionaries are being sent because there is such a need within this mission. I will never take for granted this amazing blessing that the Lord has provided. I have more determination to work for the Lord for these people right now than at any other time. The MTC has fulfilled something very sacred for me. Through it, the Lord has taught me to want it more than anything. To desire to teach the Gospel with everything you have. I am so blessed for it.

May the Lord continue to bless you my dear family.

Elder Russell

PS Mom, I will never forget your quote at the pear farm. "50% do 200% of the work." Lets get to work!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September 7, 2010 MTC....... week 7

Dear Family,
Tell Landon happy birthday for me. Wow, three years old already. That flew by. Glad to hear that things are becoming somewhat consistent. Sounds like you have been running nonstop for the past couple of weeks. As usual, questions first before I forget. First, I fasted for Troy as you asked and feel free to relay that as you see fit. I have 2 sandisks and I have only been using one. I have had quite a few friends of mine roll in the past few weeks. For instance, Elder Beal is not only here but he lives like 100 feet away from me. It has been rather fun. I haven't used any of my 100 dollars that I had for emergency. It is good to go but I have spent a little bit of money on the debit card for extra language materials. I would rather have more language books than food so I have spend a bit on it. Hopefully that was everything!

Alright, where to start. So first off this past week has been filled with gratitude. Elder Egan and I were released from our callings as Zone Leaders on Sunday. We were expecting at a week or more until we would be released but we were informed on Sunday. It came with mixed feelings. It was a bit difficult to have it happen as I have grown to love each member of our Zone. I felt so priviledged to be able to help and hear the testimonies of the Lord's army. Our Zone is the largest of all the zones in the MTC and I had the great opportunity to rub shoulders with amazing missionaries and help others in small ways. During our Sacrament Meeting, as I sat looking at each of the missionaries, I had a small impression tell me that "Elder Russell, this is only the beginning." I sat reflecting that day and feeling so grateful for the opportunity to serve them and the amazing opportunity to serve the people of Mexico.

So this week has been filled with more time to study which has been received with much delight. I have enjoyed every moment to dive into the scriptures and attend the temple. Each and every time, I learn something new. I feel each and every time that the Lord leans over me and says "that will make a difference for one, this another." It is a wonderful way to study knowing that it has everything to do with others. What a way to live!

So the language is coming along very well. I feel that my time here will be the perfect amount to learn what I can. It is interesting to learn a language when you are not speaking with natives. Graciously, I have a teachers and others to talk to but nonetheless, there is some that I am not going get until I arrive in Mexico. But as I continue with it, I really love the Mexican people. They are hilarious. Their outlooks and faith are amazing. I can't wait to talk to them each and every day.

One thing that has really struck me this week is the principle of gratitude. I have noticed strongly this week how much I truly am blessed. I see so that as I am grateful, the Spirit comes much easier, I learn much more and much faster, companionships work easier and better, and each and every day is the greatest day of my life. I have never been so happy to wake up each morning (its ok mom, give it some time to sink in).

Well family, I need to run. Give my best wishes and love to all. Know that I keep you in my prayers and that the Lord is ever watchful of you. Puede el Senor bendecirles con feliz todo sus dias!

Elder Russell

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 31, 2010 MTC ....... week 6

Hey Family,
I'm running a bit behind on my time so I hope that I can get everything out. Did I get the package full of love and edible delights? Absolutely. Thank you so much. No worries there. Glad to hear that you were able to get home safe and sound and that the family is doing well. Thank you for the information on the family and their email information.

Hmm, where to start. Things have been absolutely wonderful this past week. Constantly learning, constantly changing and realizing more and more that I am so blessed to be where I am at this time. I told you that I would send the letter and here it is. Family, I owe so much to you. I realize each and every day that the things that I was taught and raised by were not mere parental advices but principles which brought rich blessings. Each and every day I find myself learning more and more and realizing that the principles by which I need to abide and obey have been taught to me since my youth. I truly am grateful for all the ways in which you have raised me to succeed as a missionary and as a member of this church. It is not nearly enough but I want to make sure that you know that. I find myself reflecting upon the teachings of my mother or father or my siblings often. I am deeply appreciative for it.

This week. Well, last Tuesday we had Elder Holland come and speak at the devotional. To say the least, AWESOME! I was expecting a fireball or a lighting bolt from heaven as he bore testimony of the importance of missionary work. Such an amazing opportunity to have been able to hear him. Language is going well. I am often blessed by the Lord to have something click, just long enough to find that there is something else that I need to study which in turn brings me back to my knees. Its a great process. And the more I learn about Spanish, the more I love Mexican Spanish. It appears that it is not drastically different but it is much faster and much more like a song than a language. Every time I hear Mexican phrases I think of my siblings with their stories of Spanish street vendors. I can't wait to get out there and I've heard that I will be on time to leave for Cuernavaca. Three weeks. Its crazy.

All in all, it has been a miraculous experience. I cannot truly express the degree of how much I love this work even thus far. I am so anxious for each and every day. It is such a blessing.

I love you all family and I pray for your continual success. Thank you for everything you do and all of your support. May God continue to bless you and you continue to put your trust in Him.

Elder Russell

PS: Troy, Tyler, and Grant, I learned this phrase from our teacher from mexico city. He says that it is said all the time there with the canastas. I think about you everytime I say it. It has been canonized. "Eh, pasele joven! Aqui le tenemos unos ricos taquitos!" I love you all and keep up all the amazing work!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24, 2010 MTC week 5

Dear Family,
Thank you so much for your letter. As I love to say, good to know that my family is always busy serving and working hard. Good qualities! I was able to see Sister Corbin and talk to her for a bit. There have been quite a few more missionaries from school that have rolled in and more presumably will be coming in the next few weeks. Real quick before I forget, I will be sending some hard copy pictures that Elder Egan took and I'll be sending them in the next week or so. And I was also wondering if I could get Grant's mailing address as I don't have a lot of time to email each week but I could get a hard letter off to him. If you could get that to me that would be great.

So, updates for this week. Well, amazing to start off. One thing that I am realizing more and more each day is that the Lord is in charge of His work. As I am called to represent Him and declare His gospel, He takes little persuasion to start molding and adjusting His missionaries. Each lesson, devotional, personal study, song, companionship study, person I meet, etc. is a testament to me that He knows exactly where I am and exactly where I am going. Elder Egan and I have had some wonderful conversations about how much the Lord is guiding and directing our efforts and studies.

I have realized being here that there is so much to do and improve on. Particularly, I have really tried to improve my ability to teach and resolve doubts. Our companionship taught our first Spanish only lesson the other day and it was great. We felt great about it. We of course have some improvements to make but having completely changed our approach on teaching as well as trying to speak in Spanish, we all felt pretty good about it. I am loving it!
What else. Well, the language has been coming on really well. The funny thing is that your son is a nerd. There is no doubt about it. I believe I have bought close to 1000 notecards as of yet and I believe I am on the 500's right now. That's not stated to say that I actually know anything but if you thought a college student with a huge backpack, glasses, a laptop case, and books was bad, imagine a missionary with his glasses, hundreds of notecards, pens in the pocket, planners, highlighters, scriptures, a backpack and happier than ever to be doing so. So yes, being a missionary is the coolest thing ever and I love it so much.

I have been immensely impacted by different lessons and studies about teaching, doubts, commitments, goals, and the Spirit. What has struck me so powerfully is how everything in missionary work is based upon the Spirit and faith. I have had so many amazing study sessions which started with inspiration, were studied in inspiration, and concluded in inspiration. I have been realizing more and more how every moment of our lives is an opportunity to exercise faith. Each morning I arise and do my best to seek inspiration as to what I am to do today. Each study and each class is started and concluded with a prayer. So of the most powerful lessons and most significant study sessions which have had which have drawn me closer to my Savior happened when I wrote a small impression down during the day. It is absolutely wonderful. I know that when I listen better, He talks more.

It is so wonderful to be part of this work. I am so blessed to be part of it. May the Lord continue to bless you as you continue to have faith in Him. I love you all and thank you for your prayers and your examples in my life.

Elder Russell

PS tell the siblings that latinos are the best. I have never said "guapo" to cooler people in my life! :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 17, 2010 MTC .........week 4

Two peas in a pod....Two cousins in the MTC at the same time....a tender mercy!

In the MTC with my cousin Sister Aubree Corbin. She is waiting to go to the Sao Paulo, Brazil MTC. She will serve in the Brazil Belo Horizonte mission. Good Luck Aubree. See you in 2 years.

Dear Family,
It's good to know that the family is still staying as busy as ever. Congratulations on the new calling mom and hopefully you not killing yourself helping out Joy. Sounds like everyone is just plugging along right now. Always good to know that my family is always working :)

To answer your questions first off, things have been great. I have been taking quite a few pictures but I am not able to upload them until I get out into the field. I am thinking about making some hard copies to be precautious but I'll let you know. To go down the list, I have seen Elder Gschwend, the Wrights, a bunch of Elders from school such as Elder Rouse and Elder Arnold (other executive secretary), and some others. Don't worry, I have pictures or I am in the process of getting pictures. Oh and a sweet story that I failed to mention earlier. I found myself going to my sacrament meeting the first week or so and I thought I recognized someone in my Zone. Long story short, I approached this Elder and lo and behold, heading to Spain was Elder Fagerston. Yeah, not like that was 10 years in the making. It was amazing to talk to him again and swap stories. It really is wonderful to be able to be here and reacquaint with so many people.

So this week, where to start. It is amazing how much the Lord teaches you and how much you find yourself growing within such a short amount of time. I would like to share a story relative to how much I feel this mission is something much much more than I really understand right now.

I was sitting in one of my classes and I our teacher was talking about experiences from her mission. It was her last day teaching us so she gave us her parting words and advice. It was a very powerful meeting. I was taught something very powerful during that meeting. I realized that so much of this work has to do with a love for the people you serve. I was moved by her remarks and they caused me to reflect deeply upon my feelings upon the matter. Nonetheless, after that meeting and having the opportunity to speak the Mexican people that are here, I know without a single doubt in my mind that these people are those who I am to serve. Even at this point in time, I really can't describe who these people mean to me. I have wanted all my life to be able to serve in this capacity and I know that I have the tremendous opportunity to serve this choice people. I am constantly moved by the stories, struggles, testimonies, and faith of these people. For instance, a dear friend of mine named Elder Nunez is from Guerrero Mexico and is heading to Chicago. He leaves this Friday and is super excited to go. I had an amazing conversation with him about why I love the area where he has lived. He mentioned the beautiful scenery of the towns within Morales and of the coasts of Acapulco expecting that this was my motivation to serve there. He told me of stories of different missionaries he saw within his mission and how there hasn't been any missionaries within his ward for quite some time. After talking to him, I realized something really important about why I am going where I am going. I am going to serve in this mission for no other reason than for the love I have for my God, my family, and these people. I realized that this is what will really make the difference in the lives of those I will teach. I am so grateful for the opportunity to do so. I was able to talk to him and he is going to give me the address of his family and visit them if my area permits it. Likewise another missionary from Mexico gave me the address of his grandparents in Cautla and told me that I need to visit them. I know that this is the place where I am to go and as Visa issues are constantly being discussed and as I have the opportunity to talk to these people and read the scriptures, my love for this work and these people steadily grows. May God continue to bless you. I know this work is true and I am so immensely grateful to be part of it.

Elder Russell

Elder Joseph Fagersten from our ward in Cedar Falls, Iowa. We love the Fagersten family. He was reunited with Sean at the MTC in Provo. Who knew? I love the networking of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 10, 2010 MTC week 3

Dear Family,
Thank you so much for your letter. It is amazing to see how much happens in so little time. Give my best wishes and love to the family. I am constantly reminded and appreciative for my family and how much they have and still do for me. Missionary life isn't that foreign, its the same principles with which I have been raised. Don't worry Mom and Dad, you will get a much more detailed and more expressive letter about how amazing you are and how grateful I am for you. That installment is coming shortly!

Things here, once again, where to start. Things are so busy but so rewarding. Elder Egan and I have made improved our companionship a lot this past week. It is such a blessing to be able to make adjustments so we can be more obedient or be more efficient with our time. We had a really good discussion about setting goals and how we can better accomplish our district, companion, and personal goals. I absolutely love it.

New stories. Well, there are quite a few. This past week was starting to get consist with where we needed to be and at what times. Personally, I was starting to really get my goals set and just begin to start working towards them. We were getting ready for bed when the Zone Leaders stopped by our apartment. They mentioned that they wanted us to meet with the Branch President on Sunday morning. They left and I leaned over to my companion and he said, "I'm kind of worried it might be a chastizement." I responded, "are you kidding?!?! A chastizement would be the best result for this meeting." So that Saturday I was thinking about how much I was able to improve and start to get things done. Good thing the Lord has a sense of humor. Long story short, we went to meet with the Branch President and he called us to be the new Zone Leaders. I thought to myself, "perfect timing. Just when I was about to start really get going with my studies. Good thing the Lord has a sense of humor." So nonetheless, the past few days have been cram sessions about learning how to serve in this new capacity. I was not expecting the call at all but I feel very strong that it is something that the Lord will help accomplish and I may be helpful in serving these other missionaries of the Zone. It is definitely His work and I will serve in whatever capacity He asks of me.

Other things this week. A lot of personal changes to make. That's for sure. I was greatly moved by some recent talks of the Atonement and what that really means for us. I have so much to do and so much to learn. However, I am loving the fact that I have the capacity to be involved in it. I am so blessed to be able to serve as a missionary. This church is true. I know that. There is no variance or discrepancy in my mind. My real task is to live to faithfully serve within it. I am so excited to continue doing so. Thank you so much family for all you do. I love you so much and pray for your continued happiness and success.

Elder Russell

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August 3, 2010 MTC week 2

Dear Family,

What a week! To say the least, being a missionary is the coolest thing in the whole wide world. Just putting that out there. So this week, where to start. I guess first to say that it is such a blessing to be here. We have the opportunity to listen to different speakers every Sunday and Tuesday evening. Each have been phenomenal. The language is coming along really well. It is so very helpful for me to be able to study and work knowing that this is not for me. It is such a wonderful feeling knowing that I am serving as a missionary for Jesus Christ. It sounds rather silly but each night before I go to bed I reflect on the fact that the next day I get to put the name tag back on. It is such a wonderful feeling. Today we had the opportunity to go to the temple. It was so good to be able to go. We are preparing to learn and teach the plan of salvation and it was a tremendous way to start this week off.

So interesting things real quick. My companion and I have been working hard and we are finding so much joy in the work. Every time I go to class or hear a devotional, I feel that much more of a desire to go out and teach. It is so inspiring. I don't remember if I mentioned it but our zone is so awesome. Our residence hall is filled with international people. We house the intermediate and advanced Spanish speakers. We have been able to talk to people from all around the world. We have people from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, the US, Uruguay, and Spain. I'm sure that there are others too but it has been a tremendous blessing to be able to talk to them and help each other out in their respective languages. Yesterday, during a personal study time, Elder Egan and I went to make some phone calls with some people we had talked to at the referral center. As we joined with our district during lunch, we saw that they had the biggest grin on their faces. We starting eating and they told us that they had just shook hands with President Uchtdorf. They said that he was there taking pictures with two of his grandsons. Two people in our districts were practicing talking about prophets and they said their study session went something like this. "God has always called prophets and through Joseph Smith, we have a living prophet today. We have prophets today who can receive revelation and guidance for the world. Actually, there is one right there." (at which time their eyes widened, picked up their stuff, and started following him.) Nonetheless, they will be talking about it for weeks to come :)

I'm glad to hear that everyone is doing well. Good luck with the new lines at work dad, sounds like you'll be a busy man. Likewise mom, I know you are super busy. I'm pretty sure that Joy is extremely grateful right now. I got Grant's emails and pictures, very very cool. Make sure to tell Grant that I'm right here with him on this. Remind him that he is serving the Lord to God's people speaking God's language :) My companion and I have been talking to a lot of missionaries about their visas, particularly Mexican missionaries and they are having a lot of problems. Elder Okleberry from school I believe was here for 14 weeks and is serving in provo until further notice. Hopefully things work out ok. Oh, tell Grant something for me. Tell him that he better be glad "porque esta sirviendo la gente de Dios." It is truly wonderful to be here and I love you all so much. I know that this is the work of the Lord and I am so glad to be part of it. May the Lord bless you all with your endeavors and I know that He blesses us as we obey His commandments.

Elder Russell

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July 27, 2010 MTC Week 1

Dear Family,
Well, where to start. You are serving as a missionary for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Has it been a humbling and amazing process? Absolutely. So the first few days have been roller coasters of where to be, what to do, and how to do it. I have learned so much about the work, what is expected, and how much I need to learn. The biggest realization for me has been the necessity for the Spirit in this work. There is so much to do, learn, and understand. I have learned that it is all in the Lord's hands. I believe it to be nothing less than essential for me to not only teach by the Spirit but to learn and live by it everyday.

My companion has been great. Elder Egan is from Cottonwood Heights, Utah and has been an amazing companion. It has been a learning curve for both of us. I realized that when it really comes down to it, I need to work, pray, have unity with my companion and my district, be obedient, love, and testify. I am loving it thus far. It of course was a transition but a remarkable one nonetheless. I had a really cool experience yesterday that has really helped me to realize the blessings of the Lord. So coming into my district has been a remarkable experience. Each of the Elders within the district are great. There are ten of us, eight Elders and 2 Sisters. Elder Bullock from Wilsonville Oregon and Elder Cook from I believe Boston Massachusettes are going to Mexico City Northwest. Elder Carter from California and Elder Roberts from Colorado are going to the same mission. Elder Egan and I are going to Cuernavaca Mexico, Sister Vela and Elder Virgi are going to Lima Peru and Elder Illagan is going to Boise Idaho and Sister Whittle is going to Peru Central. It has been an adventure for sure.

I had a really neat experience yesterday during my classes. It has been interesting trying to learn and teach the Gospel and the language when there are so many different approaches to the same goal. We are just starting to get into the swing of things for our schedules and what is expected of us. I was working on some language study yesterday feeling a bit like I was in a rut for expanding my language skills. I have been doing my best during class to pick up the language and talk as much as possible with my companion. I have my personal language goals that I have been setting and I want to really start working hard on them. I asked my teachers a few questions yesterday about some things. The teachers answered my questions and something just clicked. From studying and reading the amount I did over the summer, I have felt like I have understood the material fairly yet lacked the connections I needed to really start studying and practicing hard. It suddenly clicked for me yesterday. I realized that it was not because I had been particularly studious but rather it was a direct answer to my prayers. It was a good reminder for me that when you are doing the things which you are supposed to be doing, the Lord will provide the way for everything to work out. When you are on the Lord's errand, you are entitled to His help. I have felt that thus far.

This past week has been a tremendous lesson of how much I need to learn and the weight of what I am doing. Nonetheless, it is understanding that as I do the things I am asked, I will have the direction needed to make it all happen. I have found that it is necessary for my companionship, my study of the Gospel, my love for the people, my study of the language, and my service for the next two years. It is faith that it is His work and that He will provide a way for it to be done as long as I do what I am asked to do. I know that it is His work. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that I have the tremendous privilege to declare it. I know that this is the true church of Jesus Christ. It truly is the strength of my life and I cannot wait to teach it for the next two years. Let's get to work.

Elder Russell

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

His Bags are packed, he's ready to go...

He's leaving on a jet plane. Pictures say a thousand words. Sean was picked up by his brother Tyler in Salt Lake Airport before he arrived at the Mission Training Center (MTC). Sean had one of his friends, Elder Jordan Harmon, on his plane going to the Mexico Veracruz Mission. Another Elder, Elder Clement from Central Point Stake also flew with them. A day of mixed emotions for this mom. Our last son, our last Grant use to say...I've waited "His whole life for this day". Hurrah for Israel!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Tonight I was officially set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve in the Mexico Cuernavaca Mission. As an Apostle for the Lord, how awesome is that! What an awesome experience it was. Many ward friends joined with my father...Neff Russell, my new Stake President...President Daniel Morris, my newly released Stake President ...President Keith Woodley, my Bishop, Evan Merrill, and former Bishop, Kirk Waggener, and Brother James Eagar. What an incredible experience it was for me. Each of these brethren and their families have had such an influence and impact on my life growing up. Thank you to you all. One more night...I can't wait to go forth and serve. I now join my brother Grant as we serve the Lord together in the mission field.