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