Sunday, May 22, 2011

Returning and reporting...Elder Russell's return continued

Today Grant spoke in 2 wards: the Medford 5th YSA ward and in our home ward Medford 6th.
He gave excellent talks. As difficult as this is for him to be home, though his heart and thoughts are in Nicaragua, he has learned the eternal principle of becoming who he needed to become and has committed to live his life in the Lord's service. Now it is a matter of continuing that service and application for the rest of your life.  I think summing it up is Enduring to the End....

He will wear his mission badge one last time as he reports to the High Council of the Medford Oregon Stake next week. The badge will come off, but he will wear the Savior's name on his heart for the rest of his life. Thank you Elder Russell for being everything I ever wanted or hoped you would be. I love you...Mom


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Welcome Home Elder Russell continued

Today Grant went to the temple and did baptisms with the Spanish branch. He loved it. We hung his hammock that he brought home, and he spent some time there. A place of familiarity for him. He read his scriptures, some books, and did some pondering. His heart was not at home.

He went out with the Spanish speaking elders in our area and taught some investigators tonight. He loved it. Pondering, studying, and preparing for his talks tomorrow.

Does he want to be here? No.
Does he need to be here? Yes.
Is it hard for him? Yes.
Is it hard for me? Yes, especially because I know he doesn't want to be here
...but I don't take it personally

Friday, May 20, 2011

Off to see the Stake President....May 20

Since Grant returned late last night, he is being released as a missionary today. Then he will speak at the Friday Forum at the Institute of Religion at Southern Oregon University. We will attend the Medford Oregon temple, and maybe catch a nap in between.

Taking upon His name...

Adjusting to jet lag, the emotions of the past 24 hrs....and dreaming of the mission
(where he really wants to be right now).
At the Medford Oregon Temple with Grandma Turner

Grant has been FREEZING since he got off the plane last night. (Notice the slippers)

Funny story...on our way home from the airport last night, as he was glancing out the window, he said it is soooo cold, it feels like it's going to snow.

It was after midnight, we looked at the temperature was 71 degrees....we had a good laugh.

Mind you it was 100 degrees in's hot even at night.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In anticipation of his it week 105 yet?

Pictures speak louder than words....I will let them speak for themselves....

The Honorable return of
Elder Grant Russell
from the Nicaragua Managua South Mission

Need I say more?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Take His Name Upon You........week 105...his last letter home

Dear family,

I remember the first day when I entered the MTC. It was exhilarating when I got in line to receive the greatest, most valued token of a missionary: his name tag. It said everything I had imagined…that much I was prepared for. What surprised me was the weight of the light plastic. Something happens between the moment a missionary grabs his small name tag in his hand and when he slips it gently over the pocket covering the heart. It rests much heavier there. He realizes that He has left the world behind. One must “watch himself, his thoughts, words, his deeds” because he no longer represents himself. I remember walking down that long first hallway and hearing the greeters say, “Welcome Elder…Good Morning Elder…Thanks for coming Elder, right this way Elder.” I loved that word then and I have come to love it even more.

For two years I have tried to live up to the names on my little black tag. It is such a small name tag with such eternally important, huge names. Both names are sacred to me. I have come to appreciate “Russell” and “Jesucristo” more than my own name. I am not so important anymore. When I look in the mirror, I honestly know myself as a different person than he who walked through the front doors of the MTC so long ago.

How little I truly knew then! Surely, I had a strong testimony and a desire to serve the Lord. I will never deny the testimony I had before the mission. However, my testimony was like a flame that flickered and had to be rekindled at times. I now feel like a forest fire is within my heart and I can’t hold it in. Just like fire gets progressively stronger with proximity, I feel like I have been the one that has most benefited from my service. Surely, there are many that have caught fire as well from a distance, but I am the one with the third degree burns. There are marks in my heart that will never be erased or forgotten. The mission has set the course for my life.

What does the mission mean to me? What have I learned? How have I changed? Who have I touched? Who has touched me? Who am I now? What was the best experience? The most memorable experience?

I have tried to think about these things for the last few days and I can't hardly include nor can I adequately answers such questions in the short time of one day or letter. I could respond to those questions with any number of experiences, but I believe that the best message of my mission is the change that has come over me. For the first time in my life, I understand what it means to live the gospel. I feel now more converted to the Lord than ever.

I could make a reader marvel by describing the many miracles I have seen because the mission has been full of them. I could perhaps teach doctrine in a new way or show what characteristics I have acquired through much study, tribulation, and trials. I could list the people I have baptized or even share one singular experience as a type for my mission. I could list more names of people here in Nicaragua who have changed me than I have changed them. I don´t have a most memorable experience but so many that I will remember, cherish, share and study further as my service in the kingdom continues. Many people could share similar experiences like the ones I have acquired in my mission; however, my experience is completely unique to me.

One would have had to have walked down every dusty street, talked to everyone of the thousands of people I met and thought, ate, read, said, and did everything I did to fully understand what the mission has meant to me. While I have had companions for any variety of times, there has only been one person there in every moment to experience it all with me.

How appropriate it is that his name also appears on the name tag!

Of all the testimonies I have given during the best two years of my life up until this time, this is the testimony, last of all, which I give of Him: That he lives and that He is our Savior! He is the anointed one! The Son of the Father! This is His holy work. He directs it. What a marvelous work and a wonder! I am the weakest of all servants but despite my weaknesses I have been an instrument in His hands “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man!” I see his handiwork and I marvel not that he can do all things but that he does all these things through me. I know that in His power I can do all things. I may not comprehend the intricacies of the Atonement, but I know it works. I may not have seen the finger of the Lord like Jared, but in these two years I have seen his hand in all things. I may not be perfect but he is helping me be better today than yesterday.

Shortly the name tag I wear daily will be but a thing of pictures and memories and perhaps stored away in a box, but within my heart there will always reside a mark of what His holy name has done for me. Now, more than ever before, I take His name upon me. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ who has dedicated his life and everything else to his service. I will forever be in his debt.

In the Holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Russell

Elder Ward, Elder Russell, the bishop, the ward mission leader,
the executive secretary

First rain of the year from our balcony

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Another Testament of Jesus Christ that Helps Us Know of a Surety!........week 104

 Good afternoon family,

It seems kind of wierd to write you after only talking yesterday, but so be it. There is always something more to tell. I have been feeling really comforted this week as I begin to realize that the time is limited. There is so much more to do. I am comforted time and time again by the spirit which testifies that the Lord is happy with me up until this time in my service but I know there is so much more to give.

We have been focused on teaching families and I have had some of my most powerful first lessons this last week. The interesting part is that it seems as though most of the families we are teaching right now have a problem with their commitment to come to church. We have heard more times in one week this haunting phrase: “If only I would have met you guys earlier, I would come to your church. But I am comfortable in my church. I can´t leave it.” It is a heartbreaker. Many of these people listen to our message but they decide not to pray becuase they dont want it to be true. They are certainly blessed in their lives becuase of tradition, or atleast good intention, but they miss greater blessings becuase they deny the spirit. I have pondered this time and time again in the mission, and I learned another great truth while teaching one of these families.

We had given them 3 Nephi 11 as a reading assignment after having taught the first lesson. We were very excited at first to hear that they had read the chapter but as we reviewed the contents of the chapter, we began to feel like the family was reserved. At several points in the lesson as we talked about the truthfulness of the gospel, the mom made an uncomfortable facial expression showing us her apparent desicion to not accept our message. The words of the husband seemed reassuring but in time he to admitted their non-commital agreement to recieve us in their house. We read the first few verses and upon reading them I gained more insight into how people can leave good things behind for the better.

1 And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.

2 And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.

Here the people were doing something good. Their past knowledge had led them to a point where they could openly converse about Jesus the Christ. They knew the signs of his coming and even becuase of their past obedience, they had not been destroyed with the rest of their bretheren. But apparently their present conversation was interfering with their understanding of God´s voice becuase it took three times to internalize his message. They had to pay special attention and be willing to obey.

5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

Upon paying special attention the spirit, these people witnessed to a greater degree the testimony of the Christ in their lives. They would not only talk of him, but their willingness to listen to His spirit would allow them to see him, touch him, and know Him. This is much different than knowing of Him.

15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.

As we taught these principles to the family, I learned that God will always give his message by the still small voice and that it is up to us to listen. We cannot force this message upon anyone. Though God wants to give us the greater portion of his word, he cannot unless we open our heart to him. Alma describes this principle too:

"And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.” Alma 12:10

I hope and pray that these people might come to know the Christ in a greater way. Joseph Smith said of the Book of Mormon that a man “would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” I know that this is true. We offer to these people another testament of Jesus Christ which will help them come to know him even more, but in the end it is our choice to come to know him.

I know that this message is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that as we listen to the still small voice, heed to his words as found in the restored gospel and keep his commandments that we will also “know of a surety and bear record that is is of he of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.”

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Mother's Day call to remember........week 104

Some really cool vines

Jinotepe from my bedroom window

Being cool in Salto

Elder Russell in a tree....or is this classified as "tree hugging" in Jinotepe?

Today we got to talk to Grant for Mother's day. It was great to talk with him, as we enjoyed the sound of his voice one more time.

I will try to add some of his comments from the call here....