Monday, December 19, 2016
turned out to be an interesting day. Our plans fell through and then our apartment building power went out right when we had to take a large suitcase of stuff to the office. We live on the 14th floor so we got a good workout in ! We got to go back to the English school after not being there for a few weeks. Everyone was really happy to see us and they ended up helping us with our Russian questions more than we helped with English.
we gathered for District Meeting and Coordination Meeting. In District Meeting, Elder Norton gave a great spiritual thought about giving our all and had us all share times when we gave everything we had and times that we have held back a little. He taught that the difference is in the little things and that is so true! I am trying to give my all more often and even do the little things that count in the long run! Our District Leader, Elder Kempton, lead a discussion on faith and our most valuable time to build our faith and testimonies which is in Personal Study. I have gained such a testimony of Personal Study and the effect it has on my day. It truly is how we "obtain the word" before we can declare it to others! I was asked to teach the Language portion and for the first part we discussed why we speak Russian all day every day and talked about how it is good to open our mouths, better to speak Russian all day like we have been asked by President Miner, and best to actually learn from it, to progress and improve and not make the same mistakes that we make today. To do that requires a lot of humility and it is far from easy, but it is the standard that has been set for us. Then taught about a Russian grammar principle that would not make much sense to any of you so we won't get into the details!
night we met with Yura and talked a lot about the Book of Mormon. He read the book of Enos which was his commitment and we talked a little about that before committing him to read the Book of Mormon from the beginning. He ended up getting sick a couple days later so we have not seen him since but plan on meeting with him this week!
I was up at and off to the airport with Elder Clark for our Visa Trip! I was deemed 'trip leader' because I am getting old out here but our group is experienced and knows what they are doing. We had a good trip, had some delayed flights that actually worked out for our benefit because we had some time to eat! Flew to Moscow, Armenia, and back to Rostov. All went well with the new visas and we were home by like a normal day, but those trips take their toll on me. It was the last visa trip for the sisters that came to Russia with me which we just could not believe, we felt like we were on our first trip just the other day not knowing at all what we were doing! Time flies!
we got our new registration started with our new visas and planned our upcoming week that will be really busy with Christmas activities and lessons!
I got to bless the sacrament with Illya, Elder Taylor and Elder Norton gave some last minute talks in Sacrament meeting. Elder Taylor talked about the importance of the Sabbath and Elder Norton talked about improving our prayers, they both did a great job. School went really well! Sister Taylor and I always say that in Primary and School we either take 10 steps forward or 5 back. This Sunday was a 10 step forward one. I rearranged the seats in class that helped a lot and everyone participated in our discussion about leadership qualities and how Christ is the ultimate leader and follower. I will attach a picture of the board from the lesson!
It has been a good week although this week, a lot of our teaching appointments fell through. We had a lot set up, but last minute cancels were common. We learned the importance this week of having solid back up plans that is for sure!
Last Monday we met with Illya and will meet with himfor the last time about Home Teaching and next week he is giving everyone in the Elder's Quorum their assignments! We hope to see an increase of unity between us and the members as we go to work together!
After District Meeting, we had the Assistants over and we made lunch. It was Elder Wride's last day so had to say goodbye to him. He had such a great impact on me and set the bar high for all of us as leaders. He is already deeply missed in the mission and the Rostov Center Branch.
Saturdays and weekends in general are typically super busy for us.we were out in Bataisk in the Anderson home with both the Andersons and Savenkos. They made us some awesome pizza before we talked about the Plan of Salvation. The Savenko boys are pretty opposite from each other but they are both great kids. One really wants to start coming to church with their mom and the other does not for now. They both have a problem with getting out of bed on Sundays which I completely understand from when I was a little younger.
We ran to the branch from the bus stop after Bataisk for the baptism! Tatiyana from Novocherkassk was baptized! Novocherkassk is one of the smallest branches in the mission and has not had a baptism. They have now had two people get baptized in the past two months and will have a third shortly. Miracles! There is a special spirit at baptisms and it is always a special day when someone makes that decision to take the Savior's name upon them! Sasha came to the baptism who is a long time investigator that has been in Florida for the past three months. Him and I have emailed while he has been in America and I was so excited to reunite with him. He is so solid and went to Church there and continues to come here and just needs to get married before he will be baptized!
After Church we all stayed back to help the Branch President set up for our Christmas Activity. It was quite the process and we did not leave until it was dark outside but got everything ready for what should be a pretty solid Christmas party this weekend.
Took Sister Ludmila the sacrament and got to see her for the first time with her glasses! She is seeing pretty well now and even cooked for the first time. She gave us some of the pies she made and they were great! We talked with her about faith and how faith does not grow accidentally, we must choose to act and then our faith grows.
It is going to be a busy week and Christmas will be here before we know it. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and remember the true reason we celebrate this time of year. Take the time to appreciate the Savior this week and share His light with those around you!
Monday, December 5, 2016
morning we were with Sister Ludmila to take her to her second operation. Everything went really well and she is seeing even better now than she was last week. When we got in the taxi after her appointment, she even told the driver that he was cute. She is now just waiting for some special glasses to come in from Moscow and once she has those, she will be able to read, sew, and come to church which is all she wants!
we had a coordination meeting with the Crimea Zone Leader and with the Sister Training Leader here to plan for our Zone Conference! Conference will be morning and we are super excited to share with everyone the messages we have prepared. I have studied and prepared all week for my part which will be on organization and it has been incredible to see how the Spirit has really guided me to certain scriptures or thoughts that I will share . We hope it will go well and everyone will know how to work in a more excellent way!we also went over to the Inkeles' to meet with Bro. Inkeles but he was really busy and had to run to work so we ended up meeting with Sister Inkeles. She gave us a lot of valuable information about different members and their families that will help us to get in touch with them! She knows everyone so well and is often times the only one that still keeps in touch with some of the less active members we work with. We also talked about the temple and she talked about how they are truly pioneers here in Russia and she started talking about the day when a temple will be here and just had the biggest smile on her face while tears filled her eyes. The members here continually inspire me!night we had our first "birthday miracle." We made a list of every less active member in our area's birthday and we try to get to them and take a treat or something in hopes to get our feet in the door and meet them! We went to one and we only had her address and a cake, no phone number. We got there and knocked and waited and after a little bit a man came out and gave us her phone number. Her phone was busy and after waiting we just left the cake with a note and about 5 minutes after we left, she texted us and thanked us for the cake and said she would call soon. So we got her number and hopefully planted a good seed!night we slept in Severny and did splits with the Severny Elders . After their district meeting, I was with Elder Andersen in Rostov Center. Elder Andersen and I knew of each other before the mission and he just got to the zone after serving in my first area Volzhiky for 6 months so it was good to catch up and serve with him for a day. On our taxi ride into Center from Severny, we had a great conversation with our taxi driver who informed me that he knew I was not Russian not from my accent but from the fact that I asked how his day was going when we got in! I thought that was pretty funny and says a lot about the Russian culture, but it made for a great conversation! Got to translate a temple recommend interview for President because the Assistants were out of town and then we had another "birthday miracle." We knew this one less active lives in the same building as Sister Ludmila and that it was her birthday so we got some donuts and with Luda's help, we got their correct address and got the donuts to them! Then that night our friend Vanya called to meet us at the branch and we had very little time but talked to him and invited him to church!
we got to reunite with the Assistants after they were in Krasnodar and Elder Norton said that a bunch of members down there told him to tell me Hi. Yegor, the youth we worked with a lot in Krasnodar, also gave him a note to give to me and it was the sweetest thing ever. We went with the Assistants back to the Pavlovs to do some service. They have a not so friendly dog named Cesar that was not loving Elder Tucker and while I was shoveling by his dog house, he lost his temper and tried to bite my leg! It was a little scary, but luckily he only bit my pants and long johns... Then that night we had a great turn out for game night! One of our less active youth came and brought his non member friend!
was a special day! Started with the snow in the morning and got even better as we made the trip out to Bataisk, a little city outside of Rostov. We were supposed to meet some recent converts out there in the house of some active members but they could not come. On the bus out there, an active member sat right next to Elder Randall and neither of them knew each other but they made the connection and it turned out she was going to the Andersen's house as well! It was a big tender mercy for her because she did not know where to get off so we showed her and walked together. We had such a powerful meeting out there in the Andersen home. They were playing American Christmas music and fed us a great meal before we had a spiritual feast! Sister Andersen and the Sister that came with us on the bus just talked with us about the Plan of Salvation and about how our efforts in this life are enough and how we see the Lord's hand in our daily lives. We all had our scriptures open and just shared verses, thoughts, experiences, and testimonies. It was the most powerful lesson with active members that I can remember. One of the sisters said how she just felt like we were in a whole new world in that house and did not want to leave. The other said that, like it says in Matthew , when we are gathered together in the Lord's name, he is with us. They both expressed their gratitude to us and said we do not even see all the good we are doing. And they both teared up talking about their lives and how the missionaries changed everything for them. We found out that it was Sister Andersen's birthday and she said that there was no greater gift than having us over.
was Fast S and our School homework from last week was to share their testimony in sacrament meeting! 3 bore great testimonies in sacrament and one more wanted to but time ran out, so she testified in class for us. Two of them testified about how much School helps them and how the homework we give has really helped them come closer to God. It was extremely rewarding to hear that our efforts in that class are really helping, at least a couple of them. I love being a School teacher!
It has been another good week, we had so many tender mercies this week including the big snow storm! There is sneg (snow) everywhere and I love it, although it is so hard to walk around and not fall!
The tender mercies all started last Monday night when we got to meet with Illya and Makar who make up the Elder's Quorom Presidency. We have been working closely with them and helping them get a home teaching plan. The work moves forward much more effectively when it is done with members!
Alsonight we got to meet with our investigator Yura. We talked a lot about prayer because he has had some questions and concerns about why we pray the way we do. He is open to praying, just did not have a full understanding in the past. We had a good discussion about it and commited him to continue to read the Book of Mormon and pray.
While out in Batiask we were able to meet with a less active named Slava. He actually called us today and said he has been thinking about things a lot recently and wants us to help him get his life back in order and quit smoking so we will be working with him and doing all we can to help!
The work is going well and I am so happy here in Rostov. I love this branch and the people here so much! I feel so blessed to be here at this time and to be on the Lord's errand. Thank you for your continual love, prayers and support.
Monday, November 28, 2016
we were out in Zapadny for District Meeting and we had a good discussion about good, better, and best. Elder Clement also gave a spiritual thought about remembering and how we have holidays to remember, but he challenged us to be grateful daily and not just when it is a special day. Honestly, I kind of forgot it was Thanksgiving because it is not celebrated here but I am extremely grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what it has done for my life and the lives of those I am surrounded by. It is the good news being spread around the world and the greatest gift one could ever have! (We are planning a thanksgiving/Christmas activity for the branch).
was Mission Leadership Council in the Mission Home which is always such a powerful event. All the leaders of the Rostov Mission are so passionate about this work and improving, it is always so inspiring. This MLC was one of my favorites because it was so well put together and organized by the assistants. We had a great discussion about planning and organizing and what the mission needs right now. I was also asked to give a 10 minute training on making an organized Member Book which was really fun to do. We got a clear plan for Zone Conference that will be on . We are going to talk about faith, organization, and planning with the main theme being, "The more excellent way" from the verses 1 Corinthians and Ether in hopes to help all understand that we can either do this work the easy way or the more excellent, better way that the Lord would have us do! It should be a good one!
we had a lesson with Bogdan and Nikita. We talked about faith and repentance and they asked great questions and had a good understanding of those first two principles of the Gospel. They have not received permission yet to be baptized but little 8 year old Bogdan did a full fast from to in hopes that it will soften the heart of his parents. The Branch President also asked all of us in Sacrament Meeting to include Bogdan and Nikita in our fast next week so that they can get baptized! They were not expecting that announcement! We continue to work with them and hope and pray for the best!
was a good one! I got to pass the sacrament which I had not done for awhile and it was really humbling to see how all the members so reverently and prayerfully partake of the sacrament. We had a pretty full house too which is always good to see! The highlight of the meeting though, was when the primary sang "I love to see the temple." It was the first primary number I have seen in Russian. Sister Taylor has done so much to help the Primary program here and she does not even speak Russian! It might have brought a few tears to my eyes!School lesson went alright this week, it was not the most reverent hour but sometimes I think it is payback for when I was not the best in School! We talked about overcoming our doubts that we all have about the Gospel. Challenged them all to bear testimony and most said that they would!!
It was such a busy week, felt like we were running around all week, sometimes literally to get home on time! We had a lot of service this week and had some memorable experiences that I am excited to share with you!
As I mentioned we had a lot of service this week. It had been awhile since I had been out in service clothes serving my brothers and sisters! We helped some members this week, the Pavlovs. We had to make a couple trips out to their home but eventually got everything done! We somehow managed to dig some holes in the frozen ground and one day was just warm enough for us to make cement and get it poured in the holes with some poles. This was all done so that they could get gas in their home so they will have some heat finally!
We also helped one sister who is moving down to Krasnodar with her daughter. We carried out their furniture and boxes for the move. It felt so good to do some service, even in the negative temperatures, it is the warmth inside that comes from serving that really counts!
The biggest service of the week, however, was helping Sister Ludmila. We were pretty much on call with her this week and took her to all of her eye appointments before her operationand after the operation. After lots of prayers and building her faith and confidence going into it, the operation went well! we went over to take her to her post-operation check up and as we were walking down the stairs she stopped and said, "Tucker is that you?" She squinted and looked really close at me before saying, with a big smile on her face, "Мой самый красивый бриллиантик" which means "my most beautiful diamond." It was a pretty special moment that I will never forget. At her appointment, they said that she sees about 40% right now and after another operation , it will be closer to 100%. She was complimenting people's shoes and stuff and they were just all in shock because they saw her a few days ago when she could not see at all. It has been weird seeing her be able to walk around on her own and even read some things. She quite often would just look at us and get the biggest smile on her face. She told us that she knew the operation was possible about 5 years ago when she became blind but at that point in her life, she said she did not even want to live anymore let alone get her sight back. She said she would have never agreed to the operation or any of this without us and our spiritual and physical support. It has been a huge blessing for me to see her get her sight back and to partake of the joy that has come from it. I have been amazed at the miracles that have fallen into place for this to happen just as all must have been amazed that witnessed Christ do the same healing of the blind with nothing but his hands. Luda also said that she will have to recover for about a month and a half but then she wants to start coming to church which is just another great opportunity for her now that she can see again!
Besides service though, also had a lot of other things going on throughout the week.we were at the Inkeles' for Vanya's birthday- he turned 14 years old and should becoming a teacher in the priesthood soon! Got fed lots of food and met Brother Inkeles' non-member parents and hopefully gave them a good impression of the Church!
The rest ofI was on a split with Elder Clark and we had a good day together. He always has good questions about how to do things better and although I do not always have the answer, we always have good conversations about how we can improve ourselves and our work!
Laterwe got to go to Brother Yuri. He is a less active member that we are over but we did not have his phone number or address. He showed up to church last week and I talked to him and found out it was him! There was lots of confusion with his address still but after a few attempts we found it and met with him. He is moving in a couple days up towards Moscow but he came to church again and we will keep in touch.
We have a great week ahead of us starting with a lesson with Yura our investigatorwho has not been able to meet for a couple weeks. We had another tender mercy when an active member invited us over to her house this weekend and said that these recent converts we really want to work with will be there and they want to start coming back to church! We have not been able to work with them because some of their family members are against the Church so we could not go to their house but we will be meeting and teaching them this week!
Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!
Love you all!
Monday, November 21, 2016
we got to take Sister Ludmila to an eye appointment, it is always a great time when we are taking her around. She is just constantly laughing and joking around, truly one of a kind. We have been trying to increase her faith as she prepares for the operation , she is pretty nervous! At her appointment this week, I asked her what she is going to do when she sees me for the first time and she said she might just die. And I said, "yeah, out of fear" and she got quite the kick out of that. I am so excited for her to get her vision back!night we had a District wide activity here in the Center Branch with Brother Ivan who is one of the head coaches of Rostov's soccer team. Russians love their 'futbol' and just about everyone in Rostov is a big fan of FK Rostov. He is a long time member, has kids that served on missions, etc. and he just led a discussion about a Liahona article. It was really good and there was a pretty good turnout.
we met with Ilya, the Elder's Quorom President, to find some members on Social Media that we have lost contact information for and to help him get Home Teaching organized in the Center Branch. Him and I have gotten pretty close and we are glad to help him in any way we can!
we had District Meeting with lots of new faces in the Center District! We talked about having the faith to find and baptize and how the Lord is without a doubt preparing people in this area, but he will only lead them to his prepared servants. I know that there are prepared people in Rostov and that as we put in our efforts, we will see miracles! That evening we had weekly game night and some of our regulars did not come but we still had an alright crowd come for games and treats!
we got to clean the bottom floor of the branch in the morning before going to see Bogdan and Nikita! We taught them the second half of the Restoration and they are understanding more and more about the Gospel! I have come to learn from teaching them that the Gospel, when kept in it's purest form, is so simple. Simple enough for a child, in this case quite literally. The Restored Gospel is such a beautiful, simple message that often times gets over complicated but the basics are what it all comes down to! They will be asking their dad for permission to be baptized either this weekend or next so we continue to pray that we will see a miracle!
I decided to fast after studying about fasting which really increased my understanding of fasting and why we do it. It is really for increased spiritual strength and not just because everyone else is doing it on the first of the month! This fast meant more to me and as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, it was like "rejoicing" rather than a multi-hour struggle without food and water! Fasting works, I know it!
Sorry to write so late, we did some service today!
It has been a different week being without Elder Shumway for the first time, but I am very thankful for my new companion, Elder Randall is great! He is from Gilbert, Arizona where he went to Highland High School just like me haha. He has spent the last ten months turning things around in a little area called Taganrog and is adjusting to life in the big city! We get along well and it is going to be a good transfer with him!
Later in the day onwe went to our English School and helped on an advanced class. They were all excited to meet Elder Randall and it was good to see everyone. After that, we met with Lika, a member here who really wants to help bring others unto Christ!
We had a smaller group in ourSchool class and the lesson went really well. We talked about being spiritually self reliant and not relying on the testimonies of others but truly having our own testimony. We discussed questions from Elder Klebingat that essentially asked, If judgement day were , would you be ready spiritually? They took the topic very seriously, one was even brought to tears! So then we talked about how we get a testimony using a talk from President Uchtdorf- Step 1 being to have the desire and Step 2 studying the scriptures. We introduced a 90 day challenge where they have to read the scriptures for 90 days in a row! Told them they could choose a reward but for now they said they don't want a reward, they just want to study for their own sakes! Pretty sweet!
Took the Sacrament to Luda then went out in the -1 weather for about 3.5 hours going to less active members. Some actually opened their door this time and talked to us for a minute but did not get into any of the homes. There is still lots of potential though, we know we are needed to someone, somewhere!
I love you all so much, I am so grateful for the incredible friends, family, and support team I have, that makes it possible for me to be here. Have a great Thanksgiving!
Monday, November 14, 2016
I was in Severny with Elder Nelson for a split. We had a solid day together and got some good organization going for their member and area books, something we are pushing for as a mission right now. Volunteers do incredible work but if none gets recorded, it makes it hard for the future volunteers! We met with two less active members, one of which was a former branch presidency member who was so nice and seems ready to come back to church! It is always great to work in other areas and interact with all the different members.
we had a solid District Meeting, our last one all together. We talked a lot about how to know where the line is between making friends and our callings as set apart servants of the Lord. It has a hard line to be drawn but necessary!
we got to meet with Sister Inkeles' husband, Anton, who is less active, with President Miner. Turns out Anton speaks English so we did not have to translate hardly at all but it was a powerful meeting! We learned a lot about him and he was really thankful that President took the time to come by. We hope we can continue to work with him and just get him the passion for the gospel that his wife has!
we had Mission Leadership Council via Skype and we talked a lot about getting members involved in the work. That was an answer to our prayers because we have been trying to do it all on our own. We need to follow the guidance from President Uchtdorf and find our Amuleks! President Miner was pleased to announce that we are back to teaching an average of 8 lessons per companionship which was our high before the law! The mission is moving forward with our new standards of excellence, we have learned what is possible when we just raise our expectations and our faith!
night was game night like usual but this week we had a great turnout. We talked as a district that we need to invite more new people and we did just that. It was great to see so many non members in the branch! We had a few really awesome people come that we hope to start teaching soon.
we taught Bogdan and Nikita the first half of the Restoration. We are continuing to pray for them and they are going to ask their dad for permission to be baptized soon! After the lesson, they wanted to play soccer with us so bad but they do not have their own ball.. That night we got a ball for them and left it outside their door and listened as they found it and were so happy. They were very thankful, we love our little brothers!
Bogdan and Nikita of course came to church with their Grandma and Great Grandma and asked if they could come with us to get the Inkeles boys for Church so they did and then they asked to sit with me during sacrament. Feel like a dad sometimes, but I love it. Just hope we can see more miracles with them and get them baptized! In that Sacrament meeting we had 100 people which was really awesome to see. There is so much potential in this branch and they really are doing a lot to improve and move forward!
I am staying with the Assistants and my new companion, Elder Randall, gets here . He has been in Taganrog all year which is in the Rostov Zone so I know him really well and I am excited to serve with him!
It has been one hot week in Rostov, honestly it has been like over 70 degrees but now we are back to cold and rainy. It was also the last week of the transfer and it was a bittersweet one!
Last Monday was full of little miracles. All three companionships in Rostov center received online referrals of people wanting a Book of Mormon. I have never received an actual online referral on my mission and to have all 3 of uswas quite a miracle. Got to call our referral and he was a really nice, sincere man looking for the truth. Got a Book of Mormon sent to him! Later that night we happened to be right on Sister Ludmila's street when she called for us to come over and just pray with her to calm her nerves about the operation that should be happening this week. We are rarely ever over there! Then last but not least we were in a taxi going to Severny and I got talking to the driver who recognized our clothes and told us how he was once an investigator of the Church! The odds of that are also quite slim. These are just a few examples of the things we see daily!
Most of our nights this week were spent out on the streets of Rostov looking for the less actives we are over, in our roles as volunteers, I have gotten real good at making cookies but unfortunately no one got to try them because all the ones we went to either moved, were not home, or did not want us over at that time. At times it got discouraging, but we have lots of valuable information now to move forward with and we ran into a couple of less actives on the streets while going around and were able to give them some cookies! We said lots of prayers to know what we can do differently to get in with these people and have received lots of answers!
We got to teachSchool because we are the only teachers as of now and it went pretty well. Had a big class and they, for the majority of the time, were quiet and participating. Ever since we introduced homework and rewards for those that do it, the whole atmosphere has changed!
After church we had a coordination meeting with the Relief Society Sisters and went through the whole ward list. They do an incredible job at visiting the sisters and so do we but we don't communicate. So it was so helpful to sit down and exchange information and know who is working with who- another answer to our prayers!
Took the sacrament to Luda, she was pretty emotional that Elder Shumway is leaving. As we left, she just stood in the doorway and cried, just broke our hearts. We will be helping her this week as she prepares to get her vision back!
After that we took a late trip in pouring rain to a city called Bataisk to give Sister Anderson a blessing. The Andersons just moved here from America, she is Russian and he her husband is American and they switch off where they live every few years so their kids learn both Russian and English. We gave Sister Anderson a blessing and had a nice visit. Our taxi driver to and from their house was so awesome and prepared for the gospel. He was a young, nice guy with a family, does not smoke or drink and even changed a song that was playing because of bad words. He wanted to talk about the church and everything of course we invited to Sports Night and we told him we will talk to him more there! There are prepared people everywhere, whether or not they choose to be taught or be baptized!
Today has been sad seeing Elder Shumway pack up and go. It has been an incredible 3 transfers and I am going to miss him dearly. However, I did get to see Elder David today which cheered me right up.
Transfer #10 is officially under way! Thanks for all the prayers, love and support!!
Love you all!