Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them;
and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain,
and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. Jeremiah 16:16

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dylan: An Amazing Mission

Матушка Россия

Dear family and friends,

Well I have finally entered the Motherland! Our plane ride to Russia was quite the experience, I was sitting next to a very Jewish man from Israel who only spoke Hebrew, but I tried to have a decent conversation with him by pointing at my bible maps and using his translator. But there was a Babushka sitting by my companion so we talked to her for practically the whole flight from NY to Moscow and we were able to bring the discussion over to the gospel, and we tried giving her a BOM. She was interested but wouldn't take it, but I might've slipped a little card with a note in her bag. At Moscow we drove through the city to the American embassy; it was quite the experiance. It was so cold and windy and I didn't have a coat yet, but I was so excited it didn't matter. Russia is even cooler than I imagined, all the buildings are so tall and gray, and everyone drives so crazy (like our bus just started drifting today and nobody was phased) and everything is so dirty and depressing, and so cold and humid that it pierces your clothes, and the winds are insane!

We got to Rostov and met our mission President and his wife. I love them. They are great! The next day I met my trainers, I have 2 trainers. One has been here for less than a year and is from Pennsylvania. He's awesome. His name is Elder Sweeney! My other trainer is a Russian! He is the coolest person ever and he is super friendly and fun. He is 25 and he is also engaged, haha. His fiancee is also on a mission and he baptized her. Missionaries met his mom on the streets when he was 2 years old. This is his last transfer but I'm so lucky to have him. I love both of my companions so much!

I am seving in East Rostov, the city is really big. Our apartment is on the top floor of a typical Russian apartment building. We are on a hill and have an awesome view of the city. People light fireworks ALL the time, and it's always the loud ones, so we always have a show. The best part though is that all the cars have alarms, and they all get set off at the same time, it's so funny. There are also a ton of stray cats and dogs all over the place. And the dogs bark all night. We walk or do public transportation. We usually take the thing called a Marshrootka, which is like a  super ghetto van that is stuffed with people to the max, and they drive crazy. It's really fun. It's so true that nobody smiles are talks, unless they are asking for a cigarette or change, but I still always say hi to everyone and try to say a little convo or phrase in Russian. It smells like sewer and is really muddy. Nobody takes care of anything, and the water tastes like dirt here. And in case your wondering, people do wear the fur hats here and all the babushkas practically wear a bear. The winter is finally starting up in Rostov; there was few days with good snow, but it's really starting to pick up today. 

The members here are amazing! Our little branch has a little over 20 active members. They are all converts, and they are all so faithful. The branch president and his councilor both have 2 little children. I've found that Russian children are the cutest there is, the woman are beautiful, and the men are tough and scary looking. On Sunday I gave my first talk and introduced myself to the ward. My trainors already built up a good trust with the ward, so that's helpful. We also had 7 investigators at church so that was awesome! We have 6 investigators with baptismal date! We are currently teaching an amazing single mom with 4 children who are all over 8, they are the golden investigator family who always goes to church. They are all planning to get baptized. This is quite a miracle because baptisms are first quite rare in Russia as you can imagine, and when somebody gets baptized, they are usually the only one in their family. So the fact that there is a whole family is miraculous. Our other investigator is a older man. He was suppose to get baptized this Saturday but he hasn't gone to church since my trainers have been here so we are pushing it back. He is amazing though, he is the most loving man. He has been talking to the missionaries for a while but his wife wouldn't let him get baptized and thinks he is foolish. His wife died a month ago and after that he threw his BOM out and was done, but something happened very recently where he came back to the missionaries and now wants to be baptized. We have another investigator who is an English teacher, so we talk quite a lot, but he tries to question everything. But he always shows up to church, but we are working with him, I love him and I know that he knows these things are true but he won't come to it. I think he is afraid. We actually had 15 lessons this past week which is the most my trainers have ever had, we usually only get 8-10, so we never had any time to do any finding yet, besides starting up conversations on the bus. It's really hard to find here. No one really knows what to do since you can't just talk to people about the church, so we have to be creative and invite people to play ping pong with us at the church or so fourth, I'm still not so sure but I can promise you we will come up with some ways how to do it, because with God's help we will find the people he has prepared and bring them home. 

This is an amazing mission. I love it here. It is quite an adventure. You can see the difference of happiness between the people with the gospel and without. I love the people; they are so great. (they have found all of the 12 tribes just in all mission alone, it's crazy!) God's work will press forward no matter the obstacle, it is truly amazing to see it here in its full work and glory. God doesn't abandon any of his children.

старейшина ВанБускирк

Derek: Captain's Log week 9: Estandarte de la Libertad

19 And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:
20 Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them. (Alma 46: 19-20)

So, I have literally just finished paintballing and I haven’t been home yet, so I am a hot, sweaty, mess. I'll get into that but first let’s talk about the work. So we got one new fecha for our noche blanco next Saturday. It's a friend of one of our investigators that went to church last week. She kept asking us questions like, “So, what do I need to wear on the 27th?”, before we even committed her to baptism. We now have 8 fechas for next week. I feel confident that they will all be baptized next week, but my comp says that most likely 5 for sure. But I guess the worst cases scenario is that we move some back a week or two.  But I think if we do our part, it should work out. These numbers are not average or anything here. My comp only has 10 baptisms and he has been out for 17 months.

 So we are getting some good work done which is surprising because my comp doesn’t schedule anything until after 4 o'clock. Or we would go to a member’s house to eat and teach a lesson but instead he would just play pool for 4 hours. Then when I was like “hey are we gonna teach the lesson?” he said “sure, if you want to get it started”, and then started another game of pool. It's stuff like that. Or, since we have a big area, flipping huge, he will refuse to meet with referrals that are outside of walking distance. It's stuff like that.  But what bothers me the most is that with me he is doing so well and, though I’m trying my hardest, I don't speak Spanish. Wich means he is doing most of the teaching and why we have success. So, I know that if he applied himself even more he could do really great things in his last 6 months. So my goal is to show him the potential that he has if he applied himself more while we are together, and hope he keeps that fire even after he leaves my area. 

Ok, now to paint ball. So it was my whole district and the APs and the mission president was there to. So apparently when we asked the president if we could do it he had no clue what it was. So the AP Elder Wolf, (he and I are tight, we even took a road trip together on my first day in the field) talked him into it. The president even called the area authorities and they said no, but if he was there maybe. 
Anyways, it was super fun. We played some regular death match for a bit, then we played some capture the flag. So, earlier I made this super cool Title of Liberty which we  used as the flag. We played two games with it and I was the one to get the flag both times. Because everyone else was too chicken to just make a run for it. Then we played a tournament of comps verses comps. My comp and I destroyed every other team. Then in the last game there was some problems of deciding if my comp got hit first or if one of the guys on the other team did. So we decided to settle it with a one on one game. It was me verses Elder Clarkson, (I went on exchanges with him but not much happened,) and I completely destroyed him. Yeah, I pretty much single-handedly won the capture the flag games and the comp tournament, but no biggie.

The ward also planned a Temple trip the same day as the noche blanco in the morning which is good because we are going to take our investigators to the temple and teach them about it then take them straight to the church building for the noche blanco.

I was also asked to give a talk next week so we'll see how that goes.  I also have mission interviews and a 4 week training meeting this week.

Sorry, I don’t have the cord for my camera so no pics.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Dylan: Safe in Russia

Dear Parents, 

We are thrilled to let you know that your sons are here safe in the mission home!! They seem happy and alert for how long they have been traveling. They will stay here tonight with us and their trainers will come in the morning to meet them for orientation. We will take more pictures tomorrow and I will put those in our mission newsletter. Their preparation day will be on Monday so that is when they will  write you. They can forward the mission newsletter to you on Monday. 

Thank you for raising such outstanding sons!! We can tell they will do well in this mission. All of our children served foreign missions so we have been on the parent side many times. We will love them and watch over them while they are here. 

With love, 
Sister Miner  

Monday, January 8, 2018

Derek: Captain's Log Week 9: Fecha

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring topass the immortality and eternal life of man.(Moses 1:39)
So, this week was a really good missionary week. So as of today I've been on my mission for 2 MONTHS. And that feels like a long time, but then I remember I have to do what I've already done 11 more times. Anyways, this week we committed 5 people to baptism. That gives us 7 all together, and we plan to ask one more tomorrow. This means that we should have, hopefully, 8 baptisms at our noche blanca on the 27th. And these investigators were not even being taught until I got there. They are all super cool. We have; 2 sisters who are getting baptized for sure, a mother and a daughter who are really into it and the daughter bought a friend to church, and 3 friends one is a friend of a convert, another is a brother of the same convert and the other is a sister of a different convert. Yesterday we had 12 investigators come to church, which is apparently super crazy. And two of those are new investigators. We also spend a lot of time working with inactives.

The language is coming slow but surely. I am doing my best to study and read the Book of Mormon out loud. I am understanding a lot but I can't talk very much. But it's gonna get there. Today we got to go to this botanical garden in the capital. It was super cool, and I got to wear my crocs. Anyways, I was real cool and I took a lot of pics but my camera is super dumb and I haven't been able to upload anything since I’ve been here. But I just got it working so I’ll show some new pics then some old ones. And next week for P-day our whole district and the AP's and the president are going paintballing. So I'm super excited for that.

So my companion and I all getting along a lot better but we both still have some differences. We are being honest with each other and it's really helping. We are both helping each other with our weaknesses. He is helping me with my Spanish and trying to figure out the mission, and I am helping us become more obedient and helping us have a better work ethic.

So I found a cocoa fruit the other day and kept it and decided to try to make homemade chocolate out of it. It seems complicated and I can’t find a good receipe so this may be a long process. And apparently all the other elders brought Hawaiian shirts except for me, so I really need to go shopping. We also ate at this member’s house and it was super funny because, they have a daughter who has won a few beauty pageants and so they did the thing any average person would do: they put a larger than life-sized portrait of her on the wall. I’m talking BIG. Ceiling to floor and just as long sideways. And its super hard not to stare because its super werid, but I don't think my comp minds. We also made a deal with a member where we give them some money and they feed us lunch every day. It's good homemade food and cheaper then anything else we would eat, so I'm excited. We start that tomorrow. 

Anyways the work is great, the church is true, and God loves you.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Dylan: Trying to Speak Russian

Dear Friends and Family,

     So first off, I am transferring to my Russian email next week. I have to switch over so that wonderful Russian Government can watch everything I send and receive from out of the country, so my pictures and stories and things I say on my email will be limited. I also found out I get my own personal lawyer on speed dial, haha! I am so stoked. I can't wait to get there! 

Language Update: So this week in class I was trying to speak the Russian Ordinal numbers and my teacher, who never laughs, laughed so hard for so long that he couldn't stop that he had to leave the room. So that should give you an idea of how well I'm doing. 

Nothing too spectacular happened this week but 3 of my favorite missionaries in my zone left. And apparently another Rostov missionary is coming in tonight, so I'm stoked about that!

I love all and I hope you gain a love for the scriptures and of following the Lord's commandments! 

-Elder VanBuskirk

My beloved brethren in the vineyard looking fresh at the temple before they headed off to St. Petersburg Russia Mission!

Singing hymns at the temple in our language with my zone (which speaks 7 different languages) The tower of Babel is a good comparison on how we sounded.

We threw a Christmas party since the temple was closed on our P-day.

A really good looking drawing some Elder in my district drew ;

Hi mom,
WOW you really out did yourself in that Christmas party! I have the best Mom! That sounded like so much fun! It looked amazing! Awe I'm so proud of Alex I wish I could've been there at his farewell. He has turned into such a great man. That sounds like a great week! Sorry about the trip, that's a bummer. So for Christmas I am calling not Skyping but I think it is still on the computer, its at 12 noon Utah time, and It's only for 30 minutes. So they told me Nathan was coming down?  Awe poor Alex he just needs love. So I think I'm going to transfer over to my Russian email next week, just heads up.     Oh, and  can you send me an email with basic piano theory and how to read basic piano and stuff so I can print it off I and  give it to an elder in my zone, I'm teaching him how to play hymns. And also if you haven't sent that last package yet can you send me a bunch of .38 pens they don't have them in Russia and I need the small ink, some white flash cards that I can fit in my scriptures and one of those little flashcard boxes, I have a study plan thing I want to try out, Thanks! Nothing really happened this week but I love you!!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dylan: Saying Goodbye to Superman

Dear family and friends, 

  This week was a wonderful week where I learned many great lessons. The BYU Men's Chorus came Sunday night and gave us a concert! It was so powerful and reminded me of my choir days. The choir in the MTC is just the best! For all future missionaries, if you can sing or not, go join the choir in the MTC! The choir director gives the greatest spiritual thoughts and the spirit is always so strong when we sing.

   One of the presidency of the 70 came and talked on Tuesday about the importance of goal setting and why you always need to remember your "why?" in all that you do so you will be able to reach your goals and purpose. He struck my heart and opened my eyes to the importance of planning. 

   It was Elder McCallister's Birthday on Monday and you already know that we had the most insane Missionary Minion Themed Party (before quiet time of course) you could ever imagine in your most wildest dreams! I love him, he his actually going to serve in the Adriatic California Mission (L.A.) Armenian speaking. I'm very excited for him. 

   So the highlight of my week and one of my most favorite moments of the MTC was saying goodbye to my dear friend Elder Duran (aka Superman). He was serving here in the MTC so I was able to get to know him these past few weeks. We went to his dorm to say good-bye to him last Friday night, and it was very special to my heart and the spirit was so strong as he shared with his wisdom he had learned and his testimony, and shared with us some very moving scriptures, and even sang us a beautiful song. He is a wonderful example to me about always being happy and loving everyone you meet unconditionally. I hope to be half the missionary he is someday.

   I am out of time, but I love you all and will always keep you in my prayers. Never give up your hopes and dreams because that is what makes life worth living! That is how you keep going day after day, always hold on to them.

Elder VanBuskirk

Yes, Thank you so much again for the package! That would have been fun to see Nate. If he ever comes to Utah he can come see talk to me for like an hour. I'm so excited see him when I get back to him and we get to talk Russian!! He better not forget because I'm planning on only talking to him in Russian so we can keep it up hahaha! Well I don't miss Derek yet, but the thought of 2 years and then going to different colleges where I will never see him makes really sad. Speaking of Derek, I'm not on his weekly email list!!! I'm glad you and the family had a good week! I can't believe Winder is leaving soon! How is he feeling about it? Everything has been great here; there is so much I want to improve on and change. Tell Nathan President and Sister Clarks says hi and gives them their love; they were asking all about them and can't believe he is already home! A couple thing I need that would be great if you could get them: pictures of the family and friends, Ensigns of the past couple General Conferences, a jump rope, a tie rack, and some more pomade cream for my hair. I love you so much mom, always in my prayers!

Love, your son

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Derek: Praying and Pranking

Captain's Log Week 5: El Campo

Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come; and your tongue shall be loosed, and you shall declare glad tidings of great joy unto  this generation.(D and C 31:3)

This is our last full week at the MTC, and we got a lot of praying and pranking done. So, on Friday we got to go on exchanges into the field.  I went with this guy named Elder Cook and we took a 45 minute bus ride to the area we were going to. By the time we got there the culture shock hit! When you spend 6 weeks straight just inside a nice Americanized building you kinda forget that you are in a 3rd world country. There were houses (shacks made of wood planks and sheet metal) stacked on each other, with wild dogs, cats, and chickens. And everything was super loud, because everyone was blasting music as loud as they could. There are no traffic laws, or at least no one enforces them, and everyone has a motorcycle. We got to our appointment and I gave the opening prayer, shared a scripture, asked her how she felt about it, and bore my testimony. My companion did the rest of the lesson and I had no clue what was going on. But, afterwards I found out the she was an inactive member and apparently she told my comp that that scripture was exactly what she needed at the time. That just made me super excited to get out there and teach these people. I found it humbling to look at these people who literally had nothing, but to see them as children of God. And to see the potential they have in not just this life but in the next one too.

On Sunday I was called to give my 3rd talk in a row. It was in Spanish, but the first thing I did when I got up there was in English and I said, "maybe it was president or maybe the Holy Ghost, but somebody has a sense of humor." It went well but right afterwards Elder Jackson and I sang a duet of '' I'll go were you want me to go". It went super well; we litterly made the girls cry and even my companion (don't tell him I said that). I also had a really great lesson on patience that day.

There has been a lot of pranking going on here this week. We didn't start it but you have my word that we are gonna finish it. So they have been trying to hide alarm clocks in our room so they go off in the middle of the night, but we're not that stupid so we would always find them first and hide them in their room. One of the alarm clocks is stuck between their cabinets and their wall and its set to go off at 2:20 every day. We also got one of the kids’ inflatable dinosaur, Elder Rex, and hung him from the ceiling with a note that read, "Good Bye Cruel World" and they are kinda mad about that because that was their district’s mascot. This is all in good fun and nobody is going too far so its super fun. Today to celebrate Elder Jackson's birthday we all set up mini golf courses in our room and we are going to use some of the balls and putts that one guy brought to play mini golf. It's going to be super fun so expect pictures next week.

Today was my last time going to the temple for a while. I've really have grown to love the temple and to truly know the importance of the work done there. I always learn something new every time I go and I never want to leave when I get there. But I am excited to serve these people starting Monday.

Hey, I love you. Tell everyone I said hi, and if you have time can u send me the vid of my party with me and the duck? The kids here don’t believe how great it was.

Hey I don’t know how to check how much is own my card so if you can find that out before next week that would be amazing. And my camera is being dumb, so sorry for no pictures. I set the Christmas tree up and it looks super great, so thanks again. We leave on Monday so I might email again then or maybe not at all. I love you and I hope everyone is doing well.