Monday, August 19, 2013

Homecoming Talk given August 18, 2013

I want to start by talking about perfection.  Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect.”  That is a steep injunction, but that is required of us.  What many people do not understand is that we were never meant to attain that perfection in this life, only to get closer every day.  To try harder, draw nearer, love deeper.  Perfection in all things in this life is impossible, but once we give up our sense of need for perfection today, then we can get so very near perfection and still hold onto our sanity.  But, because we allowed ourselves the room for human error that is inherent in our fallen state, we need access to repentance.

To repent is to return to the will of the Lord after wandering or disobeying or even just making a mistake.  The need for repentance comes from any shortcoming – intentional or not.  What a wonderful gift from a loving God.  Knowing that we can’t feel His spirit or eventually dwell in His presence without perfection He provided a manner and method to attain perfection and that is called Repentance.  The reason repentance works is because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  To truly understand why repentance is a gift and not just a difficult and often humbling and embarrassing obligation we must first understand the atonement.

The process of bringing the Atonement to pass was put into motion long before we came to Earth, and the Atonement is the central part of the Plan of Salvation.  Before this life, in that great council in Heaven, God presented His plan and Jesus volunteered to be our Savior and every single one of us here accepted that proposition.  That is a testament that anyone on this earth can follow Jesus; we already have.  Jesus came to earth as a child of God and man, the only begotten of the Father, which gave Him the ability to remain perfect His entire life and gave Him power over death.  The Savior’s life was not an easy.  Being part Divinity did not spare Him from great suffering and temptation.  His own people rejected Him and He was greatly tempted by the Adversary on several occasions, but He remained loyal to the royal within Him.  These two attributes, perfection and divinity made the Atonement possible.

At the end of His life the Savior went into a garden known as Gethsemane, which, being translated, is the wine press.  In ancient Jerusalem a wine press was a great wheel weighing hundreds of pounds that was turned and would squeeze all of the juice out of the grapes or olives and leave behind a flattened pulp.  As the lonely Savior prayed in the Garden He felt that weight descending upon Him and he fell to His knees.  As he continued praying that heavy wheel kept turning and came down on our brother Jesus.  He lay flat on the ground in the dirt and leaves, and yet despite the weight of the sins, guilt, sicknesses, pains, and every other negative thing we can and can’t comprehend He continued praying for us and the wheel continued turning.  When the full weight of that terrible wine press was on His back droplets of blood began to pour from His body.  Not a few droplets, but blood from every pore.

At the end of this terrible ordeal He finally understood and loved us in a way that no one else can.  He walked back to His friends changed.  Filled with the spirit of the Father again, but still physically and spiritually exhausted as he exited the Garden.  Barely 3 steps outside of the place of that great and terrible suffering He was met by His friend and disciple, Judas, and some soldiers.  He was taken into custody, tried, convicted, and put on a cross.  While on the cross He felt all of our pains again before finally calling upon the Lord forgiving the soldiers, proclaiming the end of His mortal work, and then giving up His spirit to the Father.  He died on the cross and was quickly and unceremoniously thrown into another man’s tomb.  A boulder was rolled in front of it and guards posted outside.  For the space of 3 days He was separated from His body before He was resurrected.  That resurrection is the end and fulfillment of the Atonement.

Because of the Atonement we are free from the bonds of sin and vice and one day we can be perfected, even as God is perfect, and live in a state of peace, love, and joy beyond what we can imagine here.  But those blessings only come after we do our part, or repent of our un-Godlike actions and attributes.  To repent we must change, and not just stop doing bad things, but rather fill our lives with good things.  We can’t just ask to have our pride taken from us, but rather to have experiences to help us be more humble and meek.  We can’t just stop swearing, instead we can learn new words of praise and thanks.  Refraining from bad things is good, but doing good things is Godly, and that is our eventual goal.

Being good and doing good are hard, and oftentimes we will feel so very lonely and afraid when faced with the pressures of life and the thousands of voices giving us advice.  How do we combat that tumult of information?  The answer, of course, comes back to the Atonement.  As Jesus was in the garden He felt all that we have felt.  Every fear, insecurity, anxiety, guilt, pain, heartache, and loss.  In His physical form He experienced all that we have and so He perfectly understands.  Who that is good, when they see another struggle, doesn’t want to reach out and help?  How much more would one who has walked in our sufferings want to help us?  And He does, but it often seems like it is in a roundabout way.

Allow me to use three stories, one from while I was in Brazil and two from Cape Verde, to illustrate how the Lord wants to relieve our discomfort and succor us in our suffering.

In Brazil we walked 25 miles a day on average and we often had to work through the hottest parts of the afternoon when our appointments fell through.  On a few of the occasions my companion and I were so exhausted by early evening when we had tried all of our appointments, contacting wasn’t working, and the Spirit seemed to be on hold.  As the sun began to slide down the horizon one of us would ask the other: “What should we do now?”  And the response was always “Cry in the street.”  We would then proceed to sit down, read our scriptures for a few minutes, make a plan, and then seek inspiration from the Spirit to know if what we had decided to do was where we needed to go.  The very first time we did this a random man walked by, a street vendor, and he offered us some food, we declined because we had no money, and he gave some to us anyway.  The next time, someone gave us free churros, and the next time we got almost an entire casserole from the woman who lived above us.  This happened on seven or eight separate occasions.  Each time renewing our strength and adding a smile to our faces.  Each time we began to feel hopeless and exhausted, the Lord sent some kind person to bless His missionaries.

In Cape Verde they speak Portuguese, but every island has its own Creole that is almost a different language.  One time we were teaching a man for almost an hour.  He spoke a different Creole, but he seemed to understand our Portuguese.  After teaching him for a while we got to the end of our lesson and begin to try to make commitments.  He stopped us and in his Creole, which was barely intelligible to my companion or me, he said he didn’t understand what we’d said, but he’d heard our church will give food to hungry people.  We tried to explain to him about the welfare program, but he didn’t understand.  Then he just asked for some money.  At which point we had to leave because it was time to go home and because we just could not communicate with this gentleman.  Our entire week had been like this.  At the close of yet another disappointing exchange we walked outside into the pitch darkness.  As we were walking down the mountainside we saw what looked like a floating cigarette butt in the air and heard a very drunk man say “Hey.  You.  Come over here.”  Slightly nervous about the darkness and the drunkenness, we went over.  He said, “Come inside my house.  I have something I need to show you.”  We told him it was late and we needed to go home, so he told us to wait outside and he’d be right back out.  My companion and I looked at each other and discussed the possibility of running away before he came back with a gun, but we couldn’t do it.  When he came back a minute later he had a copy of the Book of Mormon in his hands and he said “I need your help.  I need to understand this book and your religion and I know that you can help me.”  We set a time to meet with him.  And he changed his whole life and the lives of his family and several friends.  They all stopped drinking and smoking.  They marked dates to get married to their spouses.  They came to church, and they felt the great blessings in their lives.  And I did too.  By listening to a prompting after a frustrating experience I was able to watch some amazing changes and feel the spirit very intensely work in their lives and mine.  The Lord helped to renew our feelings of value as missionaries and gave us the courage to push on even through difficult language and cultural barriers.

The last experience I want to relate is from when I got sick.  Now, Cape Verde is an incredible place.  There is not enough food or adequate clean water.  The entire country is made of volcanic mountains and so there are no flatlands to speak of and we walked everywhere.  It was constantly hot, dry, and windy.  With all of these combined it is expected that every missionary who goes to Cape Verde will get sick in their first transfer and then several times after.  With that in mind, in the beginning of my third week I became ill, but we kept working, because as a missionary you don’t get a choice.  It became so bad that I couldn’t work anymore and so we went to the hospital to have me checked out.  The doctor ordered five days of bed rest.  We went home, and our house was out of water so we moved into another companionship’s apartment.  The whole time I was sick I slept on the floor.  I had a head ache, sore throat, body aches and muscle weakness, ear aches, my knees were hurting up more than they ever had before, and a pain in my lower abdomen so intense that sometimes when I would try to stand up I would drop back to the ground and writhe.  My companion didn’t know how to help, and I received several blessings, but nothing helped.  The hospital was several miles away and we had to walk each time we needed to visit the doctor.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t do the work, and the only thing I wanted to do was to do the missionary work.  I prayed to be healed.  I prayed to develop the faith to be healed.  I prayed to have the doctors discover what was wrong and to have my mission president know what to do.

As I lay there in bed for weeks, because I didn’t get better after my first week of bed rest, my mind kept coming back to the phrase, “swim in deep waters.”  To me this had always signified to struggle and just push through difficult times, because on the other side there are blessings, and it is always worth it.  But my friend wrote me a letter in which she talked about how it doesn’t matter how deep the waters are, with faith in the Lord, as Peter had, we can walk on the water with the Savior.  That changed my focus.  I stopped dwelling on my sickness and instead decided to stay positive.  I clamped on to three phrases: “Every trial has a purpose and a blessing.  Our job is to find that purpose and enjoy the blessing.”  “I was meant to walk on the deep waters with the Savior, not struggle through them.”  And “I am not yet as Job.”  With my change in focus I was able to get out of bed and work a couple of hours a day, but I was far from healed.  As I look back on the experience though, I feel the Savior’s hand in all of it.  Changing me, embracing me, purifying me.  My faith has become unshakable.  I am truly converted.  Trials have become opportunities to grow, not times to struggle.  But more than anything else I have learned to be completely unafraid to give anything and everything to the Lord.  As I lay dying, quite literally dying, on a bed in Africa, I gave the Lord my life in return for the opportunity to bless others and sacrifice to do so.  I never thought that my mission would bring so many trials so rapidly, but because of the Atonement, the Lord knew what I needed far better than I do or anyone else does.  I am so grateful for my mission experiences and wouldn’t trade them for anything.  My mission was life changing.

I know that the Atonement is how we gain access to the Lord’s help.  His loving hand is extended and all we have to do is look up and grab it.  Sometimes it will be difficult to see, but it is always there.  He loves us so dearly that He suffered everything for any one of us, and for all of us.  I promise that as we seek after the Lord’s divine help in our lives we will receive it, and we will be better for the hard times.  I bear testimony that the Savior lives.  This is His one true church upon the earth and we are guided by Him and His prophet.  God is our Father and one day we will return to His loving arms and be embraced in a state of full joy and love with Him and with our families.  That is my fondest hope and my greatest aspiration, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Coming Home


Dear Family and Friends,

I am coming home, but it is okay.  I have been feeling like I would be returning for several weeks.  Not in a "man I really could go home" kind of way, but much more in a "The Lord has allowed me to spend some time here to learn and grow but this is not where I am meant to remain" way.  I am completely at peace with everything.  

As soon as I saw President Oliveira's name on our cell phone display I knew I was going home right away.  I've been ready for it for weeks (as I mentioned before).  President did hint that the church will try to find some way that I can serve from home without the terrible pain in my knees, and knowing that they will try, even if they don't find anything, means a lot to me.

I am so pleased to be coming home.  Not because I'm quitting, but because in the last weeks I worked harder - and suffered more deeply - than I ever have before because I wanted to prove to the Lord and myself, that I may stand with confidence before my leaders, my family, and my God, that I could not have done any more to receive a miracle and this truly is the Lord's will.  Through this whole process all I have wanted is to submit humbly so that the Lord may bless me in whatever manner He best sees fit.  My heart hurts that I am leaving, but I am so pleased to be able to see my wonderful family that I love so dearly again sooner than expected.

I am so grateful for your loving and heartfelt prayers.  I have felt them for weeks and I know that they will always stay with me.

I have learned a few things here that I wish to leave as a last thought from Cabo Verde:  First, I can walk on the deep waters of trial with the Lord at my side and I challenge you all to gain the faith to do the same.  Second, every tear we cry because of sadness or pain will be replaced by 10 tears of joy in the future (whether in this life or the next).  Third and finally, the Lord is in the details of our lives and will never leave us alone.  It is us that abandons Him.  I pray that we never let that happen.



Monday, July 8, 2013

Arriving in Palmarejo, Praia


Hi there,

This week has been a race.  On Monday after I emailed I ran home and jumped in a taxi (and forgot my suit on São Vicente of course) and went to the airport with Elder Zandamela from Mozambique. We waited a while and while we were waiting we noticed on our tickets that we had an hour layover in Sal, but then our flight was more than an hour late to take off.  When we landed in Sal, Elder Zandamela and I (still thinking we had an hour) went and got a snack and were just sitting down to eat when I felt the impression to check our flight time.  I looked at our tickets and saw that the plane was scheduled to leave five minutes before.  We grabbed our things and sprinted across the little airport.  The woman at the gate saw us down the hall and extended one arm and then one finger and then curled it in.  A gesture that said, I think better than words could, "you are very late and I am wildly unhappy about it."  But we made our flight.  And who happened to be sitting right in front of me on the plane?  Elder Camargo.  We talked the whole flight.  It was great.  I miss that guy.

But my new companion, Elder Lopez, is incredible.  He is from Texas and is Mexican so his Portuguese has some thick Spanish influences in it sometimes, but it helps him understand better, so it is sometimes really useful to have him with me when I can't understand something. He is way taller than me and very quiet, but when we are alone in the house we have some great conversations and he gets pretty chatty and funny.  Just this morning we divided all of the elders and sisters in our mission into the four Hogwarts Houses.  It was hilarious.

Our area is wonderful.  I'm in a place called Palmarejo in the city of Praia.  The people here smile so much.  Maybe life is easier for them (I sincerely doubt that) or maybe they know something that other people in the world seem to not know, but they smile and are a happy people.  I am truly enjoying it.  I have taken some pictures, but I don't have a converter for my memory card so I can't send any today.

Last thing for today:  There are two young men from my ward who are going to Brazil, on the same day, to the Brazil São Paulo East Mission.  We took a picture together and I am going to send it to my old mission president.  What an incredible tender mercy from the Lord.  We have such a good God. He truly loves us.


Elder Bushman

Monday, July 1, 2013

Leaving Bela Vista


Another week seems to have flown by.  Where does the time go?

I included some photos this week from my time here in Bela Vista.  A picture of Elder Camargo discovering we have water after more than a week without it.  A picture of the package and letters I got while here in Mindelo.  A picture of my district here including Elders Nhafé, me, Camargo, Young, Mendes, and Pugmire in front, as well as Sisters Routson on the left and Addams on the right.  Finally a picture of the view of Mindelo from the top my area.  This time has been a time of trials and growth experiences (many of which I am sure are not yet completed) and yet I found myself loving every second of it.  The Lord is stretching and refining me.  Most of the time I am a little afraid of the challenges, but I know that the blessings will come much greater than the trials and so I secretly find myself asking for them to come and for the faith to embrace them when they do.  I feel like I have already grown so much.  I am so grateful for my time in the area of Bela Vista, in the city of Mindelo, on the island of São Vicente.

I had a really incredible week.  On Monday night Elder Robinson arrived very late at night and we stayed up a little late talking.  Then we spent several days teaching him the area and introducing him to all of our progressing investigators, especially Sidney and his family and José's family.  Elder Robinson is a vocal major who has spent his entire life singing, doing theater, and playing several instruments so it was really cool to play guitar with him and sing because we would both just randomly make up harmonies and it was a lot of fun.  He is an incredible missionary with a strong testimony and I learned lot from him in just a few short days.

On Friday we got a call saying there were some changes and so I spent the next few days (until now) with Elder Pugmire in his area.  We taught some wonderful lessons and I learned a lot of beautiful doctrines from him because he loves to study doctrine.  And they have a hot shower, which is always fantastic.

Today I made a new best friend.  His name is Elder Mercredi and he is from Canada.  I love this guy.  I also think he is a super hero too.  We like a lot of the same things (although he is much more hardcore outdoorsy than I am) like music, movies, stuff like that.  And we have talked almost all day today.  We even went on a "division" to visit some Chinese stores just to explore all of the fun and random stuff they have.  We are going to keep talking and hope that one day we get to serve together, but if not we are definitely going to hang out after the mission.  It's going to be great.

You know, I am still feeling really crummy physically, but emotionally and spiritually I am feeling better than I think I ever have before.  I am still living in difficult times and things are still hard, but I feel the blessings beginning to pour in.  I am so happy.  I wish I had the words to adequately express the changes that are occurring in my heart, but I don't so please try to observe based on my words and thoughts as the weeks continue.


Elder Camargo at the water box.
Mail makes a missionary happy.
Sister Routson, Elder Nhafé, Drew, Elder Camargo, Elder Young
Sister Addams, Elder Mendes, Elder Pugmire

View of Mindelo from the top of the area.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bela Vista - Week 6


Greetings from Africa,

First off, I love being able to say that I am in Africa.  That is probably the coolest thing I've ever been to say about myself (location wise...).

Next, I am feeling much better.  Still pretty crummy, but much better.  I am still weak and my stomach still feels weird and becomes very painful sometimes, but that is life and so I keep working knowing how much better I have it than some people and how this trial is helping me develop empathy and my testimony.

Third, today is transfer day.  They are doing a "white-wash" of our area, although, not completely.  Elder Camargo leaves tonight to be a Zone Leader on Sal.  That's right, his fourth transfer in the mission and already a zone leader.  I will stay here for another week with an Elder and show him our area and introduce him to our progressing investigators as well as help him begin a new teaching pool, and then next week I will be transferred to Praia to work in the office as a mission secretary and another Elder will arrive in Bela Vista to continue the work there.  At first I was disappointed that both Elder Camargo and I would be leaving, because we love our area and we don't want to leave the absolutely amazing families we are teaching.  They truly are incredible people with great faith and progressing testimonies.  I wish that I could stay and help them, but as I explained to them, as much as I want to stay, my faith demands that I go and I hope that one day they too have the faith to do whatever the Lord asks of them.

After I finished being bummed that we were both leaving I remembered a secret that I had that I have never told anyone.  And I mean anyone.  From the time I was a little kid I have always wanted to be a missionary and serve in the mission office.  I don't remember how this desire began to grow, but I don't remember ever not having it.  My lifelong dream will begin to be realized next week when I go to Praia to work in the office.  I don't know why I want to do this.  I hate office work, but for some weird reason I am totally and completed excited to work in the mission office.  Maybe this strange desire I've always had was to prepare me for this calling, in this mission, at this time.  I think it is so neat when the Lord places desires in our hearts or talents in our lives and then gives us the perfect opportunities to realize those talents and desires.

Lastly, I had the wonderful opportunity to baptize Sydney on Saturday.  It has been an incredible experience to watch him grow and it was a great honor to be asked to baptize him.  He is in a band and I included one of there their songs.  I hope you enjoy it.  It is in English, Portuguese, and Creole. (Mom doesn't know how to post the song - sorry, we will work on that.)


Elder Bushman
Elder Bushman, Sidney, ?, Elder Camargo
Service project cleaning the beaches in Baia das Gatas.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bela Vista - Week 5



I don't think I have ever had a longer or more miserable week in my life, and yet even now I am sitting here with a stupid grin on my face, because I know that it is all worth it.  The doctor told me that I am having a problem that not enough protein is entering my blood and so all of my muscles, bones, and organs (and apparently my immune system) were/are not working at full capacity.  That is why I am so sick and weak, and why every single bone and muscle in my body hurts, and why my knee is bothering me so much that I can hardly walk, and my tongue and brain just won't produce or understand Portuguese.  But I find myself sitting here perfectly happy and at peace knowing that Heavenly Father loves, my Savior understands me, and the Spirit fills me.  I am being careful with my body and I am perfectly worthy of any blessing the Lord sees fit to bless me with, even if it's a trial.  So in fact, a large part of me is very happy to be suffering so much because it means that the Lord trusts me to overcome them if I will but turn to Him, and turn to Him I continue to do.

I read in a BYU Devotional from last year that living with gratitude in our hearts brings joy.  Joy does not bring gratitude.  And so, out of desperation one night when I couldn't sleep and I was feeling very uncomfortable, I started a gratitude list.  Here are a few entries:

- My family that unconditionally loves me and supports me in my righteousness and loves me through my difficulties.
- For good music that heals my soul when it aches and longs for peace or understanding.
- Beds, because sleeping on the floor is awful.
- The times when I feel a cool sensation surge through my body which I know is the Spirit and allows me to feel close to my Savior for a brief moment.
- Heavenly Father and the Savior's love that sometimes fills my soul to the point where it feels like my heart will burst.
- Prayer that is honestly and truly an opportunity to speak with a God, but more than just that also a loving Father, and tell Him my pains, my joys, my strengths, my weaknesses, and any desires and He doesn't just listen, He also will always help in the way that is absolutely best for me.
- Food that tastes good, fills the belly, warms the heart, and heals the soul.

These are just a few. I have nearly a hundred like this just from a few days of conscious thinking about it.  I feel like my heart is changing and gratitude is becoming a part of me.

I don't know how, when, or if the Savior will heal me, but I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Savior is with me every step and He is guiding my path.


Elder Bushman

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bela Vista - Week 4


Bon dia,
Boa tarde, or
Boa noite depending on when you are reading this,

My week was really rough.  I am sick as a dog and have been since Tuesday.  I did get permission from the president to go to the doctor so we are going to do that after we finish emailing and I should have more information next week.  I have been wracked with a sore throat, a headache, stomach ache, a cough, and my ears have been hurting.  Needless to say, we did not get a lot of work done in our area.  But, I did do two 24-hour divisions, we moved out of our apartment into the apartment of some other elders because I'm sick and our apartment ran out of water, and I went to a baptism and five hours of church yesterday.  But Elder Camargo is a good nurse and in between all of the running around we're doing he takes good care of me, like making me food and forcing me to take several hot showers a day (because the other elders have hot and unlimited water in their apartment).  He loves me.  And through all of the pain and sickness I always keep this stupid "quick and ready smile" on my face. 

One sister even said "Elder Bushman, you don't have to smile."  To which I cheerfully, albeit without much energy, responded, "Yes I do.  For every trial given to us by the Lord there is a reason and a blessing.  I don't know what the reason is yet, but I know that whatever blessing is coming is going to be big."  She just laughed, but in that moment I said something profound and I've held onto that thought and it's given me courage to stand strong.

This week I met an incredible man named João.  He is in the picture with me.  He was one of the very first people baptized in Cape Verde 25 years ago.  Shortly after his baptism he moved to Portugal, but he lived several hours by foot from the nearest ward and he didn't have a car.  Then seven years ago he moved back to Cape Verde, but to an island that didn't have missionaries.  Since he never saw missionaries he didn't know that the church was on that island.  He has kept studying the gospel with the materials he had and he knows a lot of it a lot better than I do.  We met him on Thursday, but just six days before missionaries opened his island to proselyting.  We gave his number to the missionaries there and he already has 10 or 15 friends that he has talked to about the gospel and are ready to get baptized when they talk with the missionaries.  What an incredible story or being kept from the truth only because they knew not where to find it.  Amazing how the Lord works, right?

I don't have much more to say this week because I've been pretty sick, but I'm happy.  So, so happy.  I love the gospel.  My family.  My companion.  This work.  And our God.


Elder Bushman

Elder Bushman and João.