Saturday, December 27, 2014

He is the Gift...

December 22, 2014

So I am including the first part of his letter to me because it details his P-day better:

Dear mom, sorry p-day is late today because we went and did service all day at the Deville's home. They were the members whose house was burned down, so we scavenged and cleaned and got all the copper and metal and anything else valuable and had lunch so that was awesome. Totally worth the p-day because the Zone leaders in Pineville and the Alexandria Elders who live with them came to help, they are some of the bestest friends haha.

Dear Friends and Family,

    Given the Special time of season I want this letter to be of great importance, and Hope if you read my emails that you will understand and feel this one especially. I can honestly say that I truly love Christmas time now as I find the purpose in it's celebration, oftentimes I get down at this time of year for no particular reason, and this year was no different. Except! That it was different in the most significant and also very small ways. I learned a new concept of love I had never supposed. That love is an object of great worth in both God and mans eyes, and yet it is shown very differently. Surely we feel loved when we receive gifts, and when we sing, and eat, and enjoy the frivolities of December. God does to, for He feels each and every swell of joy we have in this life. He exists to bring about this great swelling, it is His great work. The gift that is given purely is the gift of the Son, who lives who once was dead. Forever now we can enjoy and read the myriad of blessings bestowed by the teachings of our Great Saviour, for His Loving Atonement and for his great triumph in Gethsemane and on Calvary. Enjoy each second of this Christmas, for thousands and thousands of people truly will remember and feel as they never have, the true outpourings of the Spirit. 

    I participated in a community Christmas Pageant, that was written and organized by Mr. and Mrs. Lillie and Charles Bradley, a sweet older black couple who recruited the missionaries before I arrived here in Oakdale. Elder Barker did phenomenal in his singing solo at the beginning and as part of the choir group and cast of actors. I loved it so much, I hope all ya'll Theatre kids will appreciate it, because it is very interesting. It is a very loud rendition of the Nativity and one that involves quite a bit of interpreting to understand haha. It was good for us though, and it was fun. We met a new family from it that were in the Pageant with us, who go to the same church as the Bradley's but they really like us and want us over for a friendly dinner and a lesson. We aren't sure how that will work out, but God works not in the understanding of men, but the understanding of the Spirit. I was the lead wise man, a shepherd and I (was supposed to) play the drums at one point in the show. Barker was wise man, and shepherd, and the innkeeper. In reality it was a very stretched show even until opening night. We actually volunteered President Hansen's Twin (20 yr. old)  daughters to be Hallelujah Hosts for when the angles appear to the shepherds and they totally did it, so that was awesome! President and Sister Hansen really liked it and said we did quite superb as singers and actors.
    I won't ruin the details of the show because we have a video that we will be obtaining here soon, so you can see for yourselves, but I will say one thing. At the very end of the program she gave the wise men free reign to praise the Christ child and present gifts, in anyway we would like. Elder Barker and I decided to stand up there, and bear our testimonies to all of these Baptists including many pastors and such. It was quite scary but it was the most meaningful thing to my heart to testify to so many people all gathered to listen. I heard a lot of "amen!" "praise the Lord" "yes brother" "testify" kind of things during our testimonies but that's nothing new. Every time we pray with people they do similar but more reverent types of things, so this was a welcome gesture. It was powerful to say the least so just ignore my very (unnoticed by me) high voice alright?
    The best part of the night was Mary's Lullaby by Sister Hastings and Be Still my Soul by The Hansen sisters after the pageant was all over. We had dinner at the Hastings but catered by the Hansens, it was delicious soup, and everyone was cool; and hanging out with President made me feel very happy. I love President and Sister Hansen, she is like the sweetest most dear and loving person you shall ever meet if you ever meet her. She takes really good care of us (me) as missionaries and they are just the best to serve with. 
    It was hard to see transfers roll by and friends go home and friends leave and go to new areas and to even brand new opening areas and becoming zone leaders and training again. Everyone I came out with is like leadership everywhere, it is so awesome to have them as my special group of friends/missionaries who I came out with. It was a good day, nonetheless, losing Sister Thornley and Elder Ryan. I did however have a great surprise as Elder Hillam was at transfers and he didn't even know until the morning of and he opened a new area down in New Orleans!!! It gave me the opportunity to give  him my present I got him, in person, and it made me happy.
    We had a branch social for Christmas and Philip was Santa Claus, he just went through the temple and is the biggest wise crackin senior man you will ever meet. He is easily loved, though, so I mean it all works out.

    Earlier today we helped with Pineville zone leaders and Alexandria Elders to clean up our neighbors house that went down. She is going to frame a picture of us all in a group in their home with our names cause she was so appreciative! It was another great day to end a great week!
    So many things have happened this week and I probably excluded something, but I shall surely answer any questions if you email and ask me. 

I really enjoyed this week and I am looking forward to a great and wonderful Christmas, the time is finally here to specifically honor a sweet Saviour and is humble and powerful birth. Cast not away your confidence in yourself! or in our redeemer! Don't lose hope because faith can be found in the smallest parts of your heart if you but search ye shall find the mustard seed within yourself. The birth, death and ressurection of Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of all time, and through that simple knowledge we can have great power to love one another. For all are children to God and are children of Christ, if they but come unto him (sorry all the typos I'm writing late).

Be not afraid. Have faith, Understand your faith. Feed your soul with the word. Be who God intends for you to be. Fight all pride and always love one another.

Love Elder Joshua Dean Rush

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Trying to be like the Good Shepherd

Dec. 16, 2014
Dear Friends and Family, 
    When you are hurting, God will heal your heart. Christ can and will comfort your soul and give you peace. This week not a whole lot happened. All I can remember is all the miracles and joy that I had this week! I got to go to the temple again this week, three members went so we were allowed to come and enjoy. The Vezay's (Sis. V got her endowments that day too) got sealed in the temple and Bro. John got his endowments out. They all grasped the vastness of the whole thing quite well and I know that they will be happy forever onward, because of the great choice they have taken to enter into the kingdom of God. Elder Barker didn't actually go on this trip with me. The Hastings gave Bro. John and us a ride, but the other Elder was actually our District Leader Elder Ryan. We decided to go on exchanges because Ryan hadn't been to the temple in a really long time and needed it, ya know, so Barker said he has been lots and lots and would love to go on exchanges so that's what we did. 
 Brother John is black and  the Vezays are the older couple,  and then us missionaries and the Hastings too
 Elders Ryan, Smiley, me, and Mayers 

    It was a beautiful experience and not until that day had I yet to see a sealing in the Temple, it was way cool and super interesting to learn some more things and also realize that someday I will be doing that same thing (YEESH...) but the best part was.....That elder Smiley and Elder Myers where there. From my old district and my old zone leader! Elder Myers is going home this transfer and he served in Oakdale with Smiley a really long time so they love him bunches. I was so pumped to see them be able to make it, cause I had invited them and they weren't sure but...bam! Then they were there, oh how I love those black Elders and how much I have missed them. 
 shepehrds and Bradleys and Hastings and stuff and the Mayor of Oakdale

    It is almost Christmas and almost time for the Christmas Pageant by Miss Lily Bradley, and we are stressin, and she is stressin, we took some awesome pictures in our shepherd costumes and we had rehearsal almost everyday and Barker might have a solo (he has stage fright..) and it all really only mattered because we have a stern sense of duty to finish what we started, and we may have a family start investigating! They have been working with us and we got their info and we are all friends now and just the Lord works in mysterious and often times fun/hard little ways. I now feel the significance of the Shepherds, because I am one, and they may have been lowly and poor and only raised sheep to be sacrificed, yet they revered their sacred calling and the Lord allowed them to know and witness the baby Christ, maybe one day I can live up to the title of good steward for the Good Shepherd.
    We had Specialized training this week, and President Hansen gave a wonderful and symbolic talk on the meaning behind some of the things in the nativity and ya know it was right up my alley when it comes to studies and the dear Holy Bible that I love so much. It is a strength that I have that is not my own, but the Lord has given me great knowledge pertaining to the scriptures and I do dearly treasure them and exhort you all to do likewise, for they are Gold in the hands of them who treasure our Saviour. We also had a huge Christmas parade in Pineville later that day with the whole zone so we had a party and handed out 'He is the gift' cards and other pass along and candy (so awesome).
 Parade with friends and cool truck and stuff

    Nene is progressing and getting baptized Jan 17th as well as Justin who will probably get baptized the end of Dec. So everyone send up your prayers and give thanks because some more children are entering in the kingdom soon and what a good day that's gonna be.
    Finally I shall declare unto you the most wonderful thing that happened to us the other day. It is P-day today but we were going to be in Leesville (where I am right now) so we needed to do some shopping for essentials. We go into Wal-mart all dressed up and such because we had rehearsal again later that day and because we always look nice as missionaries. We are buying groceries and minding our own business and trying to be quick because it wasn't time to buy stuff, but we really needed toilet paper, and we go down the Christmas candy aisle because, well, I like candy so I was curious. We stop to look and a sweet lady named Mandy walks up to us and asks us questions and asks for some materials to read. So at first we were confused and super happy someone wanted to talk to us and she just came up. It then gets even better due to the fact she really wants to talk to us right there and then. Telling us about her struggles and how she prayers all the time and is trying to move out of her house and get a job and help her two little kids (one 6 yr. old girl and 4 yr. old boy) and then she stops and asks us to pray right there in the middle of the store. We bow our heads and Barker offers a lovely prayer to help bless Mandy and us and gives thanks and it was such a heartfelt prayer in that busy little store. No matter where you are, you can pray, God will listen, and he will help you. We are about to finish up and we start getting her contact info and address and talk about us coming and teaching and how she is looking "for something to read that can inspire and help her" we had what she had earnestly been seeking for."We have what she needs, and now we send her Scriptures every day through text now.....THEN She buys us groceries, she literally buys us tons of food fit for only the richest of men and she asks nothing. She just does it because she says she cares and is thankful for our spirit and that she felt in her heart to talk to us. One thing is for sure, God loves us, and Christ is a real man, and is the Real and true Messiah.
We went to Bond Louisiana
 Our sweet sexy awesome ugly sweaters

 My gingerbread house

    My mind is still so baffled at the confusion and new investigator and groceries and just sweet tender mercy that was given to us. I want you all to know that I struggle, but The Lord God on high will deliver his servants out of bondage as long as we pray, and ask, and seek, and endure. Only through the atonement would Mandy have felt so much love for us to do such a kind thing, and a pure heart like hers is one that is ready to have her sins be forgiven. Ask often my people, ask if we are ready to receive and give and to love, who is the Gift and why is He our one and only gift. Because Love is the eternal principle of what all great things are based upon. I know as we care for others we can have an increase of love for all men despite the adversaries buffetings. Peace and Good Will towards men the angels once said, and so I add my witness to theirs in The name of Jesus our Lord -Amen 

Love yall so very very much dangit it hurts some days but my heart is full and your are all in my prayers (yes all of you)

-Love Elder Joshua Dean Rush
my funny face and Sis Thornley who is going home tomorrow and is from Box Elder and going to USU and stuff

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Never. EVER. Give up!!!

December 8, 2014
Elder Barker and Elder Rush

Dear Friends and Family,
    When you have a slow week, you can't get down. That is in all honesty the great and wonderful piece of knowledge I got this week. I am so very comforted at the fact I got so many emails from the ward and my family today, it really shows how much more grateful I need to be everyday, because so many of you out there are right there helping me along. Christmas is right around the corner and I can feel the lightness in the air as the world remembers the great elder Brother who is Jesus and his great power to deliver.

    We picked up a new investigator this week. His name is Justin and he is 10 years old, and the grandson of a member named Gwen Allsbury. They are a sweet and kind black family and Sister Allsbury is probably one of the best gospel doctrine teachers, I enjoy her lessons when she doesn't have to work on Sunday. We were able to teach him twice this week and to tell ya the truth it was pretty awesome both times. We taught him the basic restoration lesson and then brought over Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration that I had burned onto a DVD. It is the best video on when it comes to the life of Joseph . He loved it and listened and watched both instances we taught him and everyone who ever talks to the kid knows he is a special spirit indeed. We are so excited to have his baptism at the end of this month, it's a fun trip up to Alexandria because we don't have a baptismal font in our branch building. He got student of the month last month, and is a really good kid, with an amazing grandmother of course. She herself was learning and remembered the story of Joseph and other fun things as we taught Justin, and I think that she asked more questions than he did. She is reading through the BoM again and we are excited for her. Her testimony this month was one of the most powerful by far in the meeting. Everyone seemed to focus on Hope and being strong and always remembering the Book of Mormon and how it can deeply convert our hearts to a healing Savior. I hope that everyone reads that little book, it is an inspiring and fulfilling one to read, it's truth surpasses any other in this world and many lives were given in it's creation.
Young Joseph Smith, First Vision

    Our Vietnamese investigator Nene Is going wonderfully and as soon as I can memorize the baptismal invitation in Vietnamese then I am sure she will have a specific date. She came to church this week!! She said how much she loved it and how happy it made her and can I tell you that the testimony meeting that was held was definitely for her to hear. I just love her so much, she is the sweetest and she has a real knowledge of the word Trial. She went through a lot as a child and I believe God has prepared her to hear this word and we have been given the privilege to share the message. She participated in relief society and is always bright and happy to see us or learn something new about this gospel. The power of one person's courageous endurance of trial is a builder of faith. I have known who Jesus Christ is my whole life and yet I still struggled and shrank from many bitter cups. I felt often on the brink of destruction as our beloved Prophet Joseph did, and yet those who make it through this life with no knowledge of He who is mighty to save. How it saddens my soul to hear that many brothers and sisters in this world are suffering just as I have and some even more than what I consider my "sufferings" but have no Hope. I write this now thinking about how selfish I am to feel sorry for my condition or to be ungrateful for my life, and here is this sweet Nene who brought her whole family to America from Vietnam and suffered many things and puts a smile on her face.
Book of Mormon in Vietnamese

   Atonement is a word that means action, it means to be lifted, or to be rescued. It is from the Hebrew word Kaphar which means "to cover". Atonement is an outward action that covers over the error;   
  it is a word that one should always hold in reverence.
  Our Christmas Pageant is coming along well and I am excited to share the video with y'all when I get it and its' all finished. I hope that it will please the Lord more than anything, and that it will be good for President Hansen who will be attending. I love the fact that we quote scriptures in the pageant though. I talk as the shepherds in Mathew 2 and it really brings power when I say. "I believe in my heart, that there will be a Shepherd, that men WILL follow, as sheep follow us, and his name Shall be Jesus, which is to say Jehovah is salvation," Now that line isn't in the scriptures but it is my testimony. I know and do so believe that the God of this earth and the heavens truly came down to offer himself to us for repentance. HE wants us to change and wants us to return to Him and to have all that He hath which is all the Father hath. When life gets you to the point where you think you can't go forward or you will never grow, then that is when the greatest growth happens. I struggle, but in My Lord all is possible, This rowdy loud kid can be a Messenger of the word. Repentance can be achieved and this world does not have to be as dark as I think. Remember the blood and tears and sweat shed by our dear Christ. He did it to love us, so we can love one another, and I know that when we fill our hearts with love that it is from God. That we must love others, we must love ourselves and forgive those things that we love. I bear a solemn and humble witness that I know Jehovah has descended to earth and He will come again. I have pride and passions and weakness and Satan will always be my enemy who will never prevail. Never give in my loved ones, never let the adversary of our souls tell you, you can't or that you aren't. He will attack, but he has no power, Compared to the vast eternal Father of this universe, with worlds without number. His words are written and are to be sought diligently, Don't forget like I have, listen to a soul who is meek and lowly and remember that it is Jesus Christ the Messiah of old who can and will bring us joy in life. Never. EVER. Give up!!! I love you all, and appreciate your words that give me strength like a river. I pray for you fervently each night and leave you my love as my witness in the name of Jesus Christ the author of our salvation, the Savior amen.

Love -Elder Joshua Dean Rush

Just a reminder of his current address:
Elder Joshua Rush
301 Meadow Drive Apt 10
Oakdale, LA 71463
Or email

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Turkey Bowls and Miracles

December 1, 2014
Turkey Bowl

Dear Family and Friends,
    Thanksgiving was filled with many blessings of which gratitude was exemplified by the spirit of the Holiday. We had very little actually happen besides mere celebration and simple visits. The Miracle of this Thanksgiving is that we got fed, but, it is even more amazing than merely that. The woman who invited us to her Thanksgiving dinner with her whole family is a sweet nice black lady who's name is Sharoll. She cooked enough food for us, the Hasting's, and for her whole family which included several extended members from Lafayette and Houston. Nothing about the food was special besides lots of rice instead of potatoes and lots of pecan pie and every single thing was delicious. Had some corn bread stuffing and it's the first time I really enjoyed a stuffing, it was full of meat and fish, and super probably not healthy things for me but it was real good ya'll.
    The Miracle was that her brother was Brother James Walker, the preacher we had tracted into a couple weeks ago who has been busy with his job, and family, and holidays and hasn't been able to get back to us. We had been praying each night to make contact with the man, exercising extra faith together to see if we could receive together as we asked together. It was answered after a truly short time, he showed up in a hat and when he took it off and shook our hands Elder Barker and I could not believe it. The prayer was answered in the fullest degree and was standing before us. He met the Hasting's and professed his desires to visit with us soon and hopefully more often as his schedule loosens up. Oh geez, we were so happy, I was so surprised, but why? Where did I doubt? I had little faith that was fading slowly that our miracle man had slipped away when simply he was to be placed at the right time in the right place. He and Elder Hastings had an amazing talk about Christ and he wants to be friends with them just like Sharoll his sister and they all seem to love us and we really love them. Joy of prayer is the answer to the blessing of which is yearned for. Always pray my loved ones, it is expedient indeed to always have one within your hearts.
 Turkey Bowl Champs

    I learned that I have grown up a little bit and got a little tougher (thanks Herzog family) on Monday and Thursday. We had two turkey bowls, the first one on the last Monday where I was on God's Team (DeRidder: Elder Gillen and Sargeant, Sister Abercrombie and Neely) vs. Leesville: Elder Smith and Ryan and Barker, Sister Richardsen and Thornly). I didn't cry! I only got a little frustrated, and the worst part was we lost but like Elder Gillen always says "We aren't number one in the books but we're number one in ya'lls hearts" and it was honestly a really close game, 5-4 and I caught every darn ball thrown to me and made a few touchdowns, so I was kinda disappointment at my lack of victory. Sister Thornly doubted she would get a touchdown so I play QB, and say okay look I am gonna throw the ball and you catch it in the end-zone (btw the Monday game was two-hand touch) and sure enough as soon as I say that she gets a touchdown. Guess I could learn a thing from myself about doubting right?
Sister Thornley amid the sunglare
 Tough Jerseys

 Turkey Bowl Teams, we are all friends here

    The Second game was in another part of Leesville (not right by the Bibles's/sisters apartments) on a real Soccer Field. It was too wide and we ran the whole thing the entire time, we were sore from the last game and Barker was separated from me again...He is quite competitive. Thankfully, we just have so much of this brotherly love that he didn't try to smash me, but only once during these games haha. This time we played flag football, and a ton of members from Leesville Ward showed up to play. I was on Gillen's team again and we tied that game cause we all got tired and it was Thanksgiving so Elder Barker and I needed to leave to clean ourselves for delicious food at Sharolls. I apologize for the lack of chronology in my writing this week, I am not actually an amazing writer like I have been told? I don't know, I just say what I would articulate to each of you as if it was a personal conversation.
    Just a quick interjection right here, because I was almost done with my letter upon remembering this little detail, but the Christmas pageant is on the 21st of December and it's coming along fantastically (we even ate at the Bradley's home on Friday after we did about 5 hours of service for them!) it was a good day and I feel like a real good thing is gonna be happening this year for Christmas.
 Service at the Bradley's (5 hours worth!)

    I received a strange book called Gethsemane the other day from a sender I do not know. It was sent by someone but no name was included and it is a used book. I appreciate it greatly, I feel my Savior's love is a manifest theme in the entirety of the book. It was only 150 pages so I finished it fairly quick. It has so many scriptures and references to modern revealed truths from inspired men. It brings me great comfort to know that even when I struggle and stumble that Christ knows what it is like to be me. His sorrow in the Garden was an experience like no other, the God of all was suffering out human pain from mistakes and wrongdoings from us or directed to us. His heart was broken into pieces as he felt my struggle and each of your struggles to obtain Hope and Faith in who you are and your purpose in this life. I can honestly say that lately my mindset has been particularly lacking in confidence. 
    I wonder often if I am who I hope am becoming and that I have truly overcame the terrible choices I have made. I want to know as Alma did the great change of heart and the "exceeding joy" of conversion. I seem to always apologize, but I must again, for it is just who I am. I do know one very simple thing now, that the Atonement can heal and can bring a breath of new life into those who have lost. A family of our members, the Devilles lost their entire home to a fire just a few days ago, burnt all the way to the concrete slab. I hope they remember the Redeemer in this trial just as we all must. Remember that he felt all of our joy and has meted unto us all that He and the Father hath. When we ask for and want what he has we must fulfill the requirement he did, which was that of Meekness and Submissiveness. I understand now that Meekness isn't weakness and Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking less about yourself. I can feel your prayers about me someday's when I am quietly pondering the man who is God the Father. Each of us has power to choose and that is all we have to give that is purely our own. I love you all very much, and think well of every single person I have seen or heard from or remember, and often I plead that you be lead to know and read these words I write are to you. I can't understand what it is inside of me that has changed or some would say exemplified when it comes to loving others, I just do not know, but I know it is a portion of the Saviors love. A bitter cup hath he drank and his arms are round about us. Remember the gift. Understand Him and you can understand yourself and your Father who is in heaven.

Love you all so much in an indescribable immense and passionate way that could not begin to fill the endless creations of God.

-Elder Joshua Dean Rush