Tuesday, April 29, 2014

greatest country on earth (TEXAS)

So this week I got my new companion! He's straight outta the MTC. He's from Spanish Fork and his name is Elder White. He's awesome! He has been so good to work with. He is a really hard worker and has great desires and a great testimony. It's been a really eventful week. We've met a lot of really great people. It's starting to get a little warmer now (around the high end of the 80's). I'm ready for a good summer! There's so much that's happened in the last week that I can't pick out anything in particular to talk about.... haha but it was good. I'll just make this week a little short update and say that I love the Lord and I love y'all. Life is great down here in the greatest country on earth (TEXAS)
Love, Elder Russell

Monday, April 21, 2014

"worthy is the lamb that was slain."

This has been a special week. The resurrection has grown so much in meaning to me on my mission. I wondered before my mission what was so important about a body and in rising again and why was it such a big deal that Christ rose in a physical body as opposed to His Spirit?
I don't have a lot of time so I will summarize my testimony. When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit the consequence that had been declared to Adam was brought forth--that he would "surely die." this happened; he physically and spiritually suffered death. We all suffer like consequences for our sins. "for the wages of sin is death" as paul put it (Rom 6:23). That consequence along with sin is everlasting, yes lasting forever (2 nephi 2:5). We were more incapable of paying in full our consequence and reconciling the estrangement than a 6 year old boy who accidentally breaks a window would be of paying the hundereds of dollars it would cost for the young innocent child who is unfamiliar with the consequence to pay the cost. Just as a debt of a bill or fine isn't cleared until it is payed in full, the debt of our fine--death, isn't cleared until it is payed in full. Can we pay it? Can we resurrect ourselves and gain the victory of death? We are incapable. We are unable. We cannot satisfy the laws of justice alone. "O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil to rise no more" -2 Nephi 9:8. We are resurrected "that thereby [we] may be brought into the presence of the Lord" -Hel 14:15. If we weren't resurrected the debt of our sins would still be on us and we would be found unclean and incapable of dwelling in the presence of God. We would even be unable to be judged of Him. I know that Christ overcame death. "worthy is the lamb that was slain." I love Him. This plan is true and we can through faith become what God has promised. I love y'all. happy resurrection Sunday (Easter).
Elder Russell

Monday, April 14, 2014

Music is great.

How'r y'all doin? it's been a good week for us. We did some service this week with our friend named Rob. Rob is pretty interesting. When we first met him he wasn't really open to any kind of religious message or even missionaries but we got to know him and talked to him more and listened to the things that he likes in life and what he's into and the gospel started coming up. Anyway, he puts it best, he's a "work in progress" haha. I think a couple of the times we've had meeting with him he's gone through two beers and 3 or 5 smokes. Haha, he showed us a project he was going to do on his roof. We told him we'd love to help him out. It kind of seemed like a project I wouldn't have dove into by myself but he was pretty confident. It was a connection from his roof of his house to his garage and we had to replace some of the studs and redo the whole top layer and put on a new covering instead of shingles. It was really fun. He's a good guy. The other day before the project he was talking to us on the phone working out some details for the project and he said, "Ya I'll just plan on seeing y'all at 9am on Friday and I have all kinds of jerky and protein bars and stuff and some drinks for y'all. I know you don't do the caffeine thing so I'll getcha some sprite or something, I get the brown drinks for myself. Heck, you mormons are gonna live too long you know that? Heck, I mean, Ya'll are about 20 and... oh 70 more years... 70 more years?" (saying this with a sense pain as he contemplated the idea of how long that was in comparison with his life). Haha, we had to laugh about it. 
We also had a really cool Palm Sunday Easter thing going on at our church yesterday. It was an awesome musical program. I loved it! There is some talent in this area with the members. We has Jacob who's a guy that we're teaching--come with us. He said he really liked it. Music is great. 
well I love y'all! have a good week!
Love, Elder Russell

Monday, April 7, 2014

relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ

Hey how y'all doing! It's been a minute since i've given y'all a good update so I'll write a little more today. There have been some good things going on.
I'll do it in the 'random story format'
Random story #1:
The other day we were out with our good friend Stephen--he's an awesome member that comes out with us fairly often. We were teaching some people and then at lunch time stopped by the best fast-food restaurant (a.k.a. Wendy's). While we were there I got a crispy chicken sandwich with a tomato.  That's kind of besides the point but I just threw it in. While we were eating we found out that Stephen didn't know what fri sauce was (he's not from Utah...), so Elder Baird and I immediately rushed to go make him some. While we were making it, him and a guy that was sitting at a table by us started a conversation. Stephen is a great member-missionary. He was inviting him to hear from the missionaries and come to church. When we came back we got to talk to him a bit and learn a little bit about him and his religious life. It was just a cool little experience. Stephen is so willing to follow promptings. The other week he gave a pass-along card to a friend at work and she got baptized a few weeks later. 
Random story #2:
We're working with a few people that are really awesome. They're the Cole family. They are some of our favorites, we just met them last week. They are probably best defined as "strictly orthodox non-denominational Christians" (which is interesting I know). They love the Bible. They know it VERY well too. They have really good questions that we love talking about. When we met them I noticed all of these Jewish decorations on the walls with Hebrew writing on them and of course loved talking about it with sister Cole. She has a big interest in Hebrew culture. To explain a little bit about how they're orthodox she wears a covering on her head whenever she goes out in public because that is what the Bible says women should do. Brother Cole seems to shadow her as far as doctrine goes but he is still VERY well educated on the Bible. He's one of the nicest guys I've ever met. He's very sincere. You should hear him pray. He has amazing prayers. Then there's the brother Jim. He loves classical music, but he loves the Bible a little bit more. To describe how much he loves and knows classical music i'll tell you a game he'd play with his friend who equally loves that genre. They used to play a random song and have to answer the composer, the year it was composed, the orchestra or symphony performing it on that recording and the conductor of that group. He has a collection of every piece and not only every piece but several different orchestras who perform the piece. It's crazy. So anyway, Elder Baird was talking to him before one of our lessons about classical music (Elder Baird is a musician and plays bass and is going to BYU as a music major so he loves classical music as well). They started going of on all of these composers and conductors they love. Jim said his absolute favorite was the Cleveland Orchestra with George Szells as the Conductor. So after that we went on with our lesson talking about a lot of good stuff with a lot of Bible scriptures mingled in--having to do with the bible just made me think of something I forgot to mention: the first night we met we were talking about the Bible and sister Cole said that Mormons need to read the Bible more but then by me showing her my Bible and us referencing it so much in our lesson she learned that we love the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon. When she saw that she actually gave me this giant book called, "the Strong's Exhausted Expanded Concordance of the Bible." it's really thick. I love it though. It's really helpful to study with. Anyway, back to the lesson--so we were going on and had a pretty heated lesson with them on a lot of points and by the end we were settling some things and saying how though our passion is strong we don't want it to ruin our relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ. There was still some intensity in the air and Jim said, "well,"--slowly in a very sober and reverent voice, "there has.. been truth spoken tonight....   George Szells is the absolute best conduct--" then we all interrupted a bit laughing. He's a funny guy. Later Brother Cole gave Elder Baird a George Szells CD. He's really such a good guy. 
Well.... I'm outta time to say more.. But just know that I love y'all! God is great! I love life.
Elder Russell.

Ward members make such a big difference.

This week was great!! Conference was amazing. I love it! The only bad thing is that my head gets full about half-way through the conference. I sure am glad that they put the talks in the Ensign and make them into Cd's! I absolutely loved Jeffrey R. Holland's talk. Very bold and clear. He did so good. His testimony was also very very powerful. I also liked Boyd K. Packer's talk a lot. It seemed equally powerful, especially his testimony. He, like Elder Holland, is truly a witness of Jesus Christ. I recently read a scripture in 2 Peter 1:21 saying, "the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." As our prophets today speak as they're moved upon by the Holy Ghost we can know that they are as we pray and feel the Holy Ghost. I Know that the testimonies that were given at conference were true. I really felt the Spirit. Also, D. Todd Christofferson taught a very good subject. I love the resurrection. What a great principle! Oh and Dallin H. Oaks just was speaking pure truth! I loved his talk. Priesthood keys! He did a great job at presenting that. ...I can't wait to read over those talks!
so this week on saturday we got to give service and help out at a local 5k. I wanted to jump in the race so bad. It was so cool to be at though! In Houston there aren't really a lot of 'runners' as I knew them before the mission (at least not out in the open very often). There were a few really fast people at the race.
One thing I was thinking about this week is just this family that we recently baptized. They are progressing so well. For now it's just the kids who were baptized but the parents will sometime in the future; they just have a few hang-ups. But I was thinking about why the kids were doing so good and have grown so much--they recently went and did baptisms at the temple and they come to church by themselves every week, they go to Young mens and Young womens...--as I was thinking about it, it's totally because of the support they've had from the ward. The young men leaders and young women leaders, the ward council, everyone has played such a big part on them. It's so cool to see. Us alone as missionaries couldn't have done half of what was needed for them to become what they have. Ward members make such a big difference. 
Another random story:
This is kind of a funny one. The other day it was raining and Elder Baird and I were riding our bikes to this person who we were going to try and see and we were (or at least I was) a little hyper at the time for some reason. When we sped to the house and realized it was the right number on the house, I saw the wet road covered in leaves in front of me and yelled out on impulse, "Hey Elder Baird! 360 right here watch!" then I slammed on the back brakes and drifted in a circle (not anything impressive) and then I heard some loud laugh from across the street. I recognized that we probably looked kind of funny. Missionaries are unique. Missionary life is something that no one can understand unless you're in it. I love it! It's the best. 
Well, I love y'all! have a salubrious week!
-Elder Russell

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

God loves His children

Ashley told me! Man, that's crazy!! I LOVE IT! I can't wait for him! That's so awesome!
I still have the weird adrenaline of excitement for him! I love it! ...
Ok so I guess I better give y'all whacha want. Here's a little update of things:
So I'm gonna go random story style here,
This week we ate at one of our favorite member's house and we had the most manly dessert that I've ever had (a peanut butter bacon pie). It was delicioso!  They said that there were 1,000 calories in each serving. Great right? ya, I think the title of the dessert is enough for a man to take his hat off in respect for. Speaking of dessert, this awesome guy who was recently baptized in our area told us how to make koolaide pie. All ya have to do is put a tub of cool-whip and a can of sweetened condensed milk and a packet of unsweetened koolaide in a bowl and mix it until it gets thick and then you pour it in a pie crust. Then you just go to Popeye's or Church's chicken (or KFC if you're in Utah) and get yourself some fried chicken and ya got a meal. Then if you wanna take it a step further you make some jambalaya to go with it (and add slap ya mama sauce as needed). Anyway, to avoid making mom feel nervous every morning me and my companion started eating spinich smoothies. They actually are pretty good if you mix it with a banana or something. Ok next random story not about food. (by the way I know a lot of my pictures are of food or me eating food or food being made but that's just because the only time I have my camera with me and can take pictures seems to be when I'm in the kitchen).
So we had a cool experience this weekend--actually a couple cool ones. But we had records of a new member come into the ward from our ward mission leader and so we called the new member and he said he wanted to have lunch with us. We got to talk to him and get to know him. He has the coolest conversion story. He grew up in south Dakota  and while growing up he got into a meditation class and in his late teens I think it was he was meditating on what to do in life and where to go and got an answer that he should go to Utah. he also learned by this means of meditation (which was pretty much a form of prayer and listening to the Spirit) that the communication he received was from Jesus Christ. He learned that personal revelation is real and that God love His children. Anyway, he then moved to Utah with almost nothing and received revelation to go to a Presbyterian church. he went to it and received some good fellowship. Their church (being in Utah) had on their pamphlets a comparison of their beliefs next to the beliefs of our church. He was exposed to a lot of the church. He eventually was going to school in Utah (at the U or BYU I forgot which one at this point) and he had some friends from the LDS church and they sent missionaries over. He heard the message that they taught and he read the assigned reading they gave him of Moroni 10:3-5 which tells to pray after reading if the book was true. He prayed about the Book of Mormon, asking God if it was true. He told us in his own words, "Yeah, I prayed after reading Moroni 10:3-5 and got an answer that the Book was true and I thought, 'hmm, well that's odd, I mean it sounded kind of far-fetched,' but then I told them and I prayed about a date to be baptized and he said his answer was stuck between two days of which I couldn't make up my mind" The missionaries found out those two days happened to be a Saturday and a Sunday (usually converts are baptized on a Saturday and then confirmed on a Sunday). He just took off from there. He's got such a strong testimony. He told us how he had had questions his whole life about things and they weren't answered until he learned about them in the church. He was telling us how lucky we are to just know those truths our whole lives. We invited him to come teach the Cole family with us on Sunday (yesterday) and we all bore our testimonies about the Book of Mormon to them. Unfortunately the Cole's won't read the Book of Mormon and sincerely pray about it, so we're not going to continue meeting with them. It's really sad. There's so much available to them and they would make perfect members! They're some of the best people I've met, and certainly among the smartest when it comes to the Bible. I loved meeting with them. I hope they are able to receive it sometime in the future. 
Well, it's been a great week. I love y'all. I know the church is true. The book of mormon testifies of Jesus Christ. It's true. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world! Do all you can to share it and to have the love of God more in y'all's lives!
Love, Elder Russell