Monday, March 28, 2016

Family Traditions

Hi All - another busy week down!!

We had multiple service opportunities this week! 1st we got to help Rustam, an older Recent Convert with his groceries at the Rinok. Rinok means market and it is quite the experience, there is alive, large fish being sold and some meat that is way fresh, handled by all these ladies, with bare hands. Quite fun. 

2nd we got to serve another Recent Convert named Olya with the Young Men! We got to paint some trees white for her,  while her little kitten sat on my shoulders. Almost every tree in Russia is painted white, she said it helps protect against beetles and some other bugs. 

3rd we served Aleksye like usual. The hole is now much deeper than I am tall and it is pretty fun getting in and out of it. Alexye actually came to the activity Saturday night and then to church on Sunday in a way nice suit and tie! 
As of now we do not have any investigators. But we have been staying busy with service and working with our Recent Converts. The Krasnodar banch is the best in the mission for retention of new members! I love our Recent Converts, they are incredible, it baffles me that they have all been members for less than a year. We have been working with one named Maxim to prepare him to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, when President is here this weekend! Also we have been continuing to work with Mihael, he should be getting the Aaronic Priesthood soon! 
Friday we got to see the Miners for a minute as they stopped by Krasnodar on their way to Tuapse. We had to go lock up the branch, so they gave us a ride home. It was great to see them for a minute and the mission driver Vasili. They will be back at the end of this week!

Saturday night was the big Family Traditions night that our Recent Convert Olya was in charge of. It was an awesome activity. She interviewed everyone, weeks back, about their family traditions and traced everyone's hands. Everyone had their own paper with their name, family traditions, hand traced, and a picture. (picture of mine is below).

Sunday was great. Everyone talked about temples again because the youth in the Branch are all working so hard to get to the temple in July! They have a program that they follow with scripture reading, seminary attendance, etc. and then they will all go to the Finland Temple in July. They are all really excited! 

This week Elder Gerritsen and I will be focusing on finding! We have planned some locations to contact in and we have some new ways of starting conversations with people. We really need and want to find some prepared people! 

This week I had some very powerful experiences while studying the scriptures. I got emotional the other day while studying the Bible because I received such powerful, personal guidance from my Father in Heaven. I love the scriptures and how, if we pray and prepare ourselves, we can receive answers no matter what the question or situation! We have a big zone conference next week, so our P-day will be on Tuesday, instead of Monday.

New church video in Russian - - check it out.

Love you all soo much!! 

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер

Monday, March 21, 2016

Happy Easter

Hey Friends and Family,

I am sure some of you heard about the disaster in Rostov, that was pretty sad news for this area. Big time prayers to those that were involved, and very thankful all the missionaries are safe. (airplane crash at the airport). 

I had a great week! It started with a good Coordination Meeting, we have been focusing on the fact that the work with less actives is a process! It is not simply one phone call or visit and they are reactivated, we might not even see the end of the process while we are here, but we are getting it rolling for the future missionaries. So I have been calling less actives just to befriend them rather than invite them to Church as if they don't know when and where it is. It has been really awesome to get to know some incredible people! One less active we visited at her hat shop, told me I look very Russian and I have gotten that comment a few times on my mission, so I guess I really do look Russian after all. 

We had Zone Training this week led by the Zone Leaders, my two former companions. They did a great job. We discussed how we can respect other people's agency better, after all, we are here to invite, not force. We also discussed new ideas for street teaching rather than the typical routine that is unfruitful. We are trying to eliminate the line, "Hi we are missionaries from our Church..." and just trying to be normal people and have natural conversations before the gospel inevitably gets brought up! So far, so good!!

All is going great with Elder Gerrittsen and I. He is an awesome cook and made Borsch for us this week, as well as some other goodies. I love his cooking! We are getting along really well and working well together. We both love Krasnodar! 

We are continuing to serve Aleksye. The hole we started is now about 6 feet deep, it is huge! We still have lots of work to do out there and he continues to be more and more open to hearing about the Gospel. 

We have gotten close with Sister Sveta this week, the Seminary teacher. She thought I had been on my mission almost 2 years already, and about died when I said how short I have been here. She then told me one night "Elder Tucker, I heard you have the most beautiful family." She LOVED the photo book especially my beautiful sisters and mom. 

Both our meetings with investigators fell through, both were sick- lots of people are sick right now. However, I had a great phone call with Edward. When I called he said, "Talk of the devil, I just thought to myself 'I wonder what Tucker is doing right now.'" After he asked if that was correct to say and I told him it is "speak of the devil" then after the call he texted us and wrote "In your case I should say, "Speak of the Holy Ghost." I got a good kick out of that. Hope we can meet with him and Denis this week! 

There is nothing quite like a sunny Sunday in Krasnodar. It was a great day. We taught Gospel Principles class on the Atonement and it went pretty well. We were also invited to Primary to teach the hand symbols for the 10 Commandments which was really fun. I was asked to give a couple blessings after church. After one, the Sister stood up and put her hand to her heart and said something that only makes sense in Russian but she really felt the power of the Priesthood. She thanked me and I explained that it is all by the Spirit. Priesthood blessings are so powerful and the feelings are just undeniable! 

Yesterday after Church I was just looking out the window eating dinner and thought to myself 'what in the world did I do to deserve this blessing of serving here?' I honestly cannot explain how much I love this city and the Branch here. Had it been my choice, I would have never put myself in Krasnodar, Russia but I know with all my heart and mind that there is no where else in the world I should be right now. I am so thankful for a Heavenly Father who knows me so well and for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that makes this all possible.  Happy Easter!!
I love you all! Thanks for all you do for me!!  Til' next time!! 

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер

Picture of Zone/District

Monday, March 14, 2016

Out with the Old, In with the New!!

Hi everyone! 

Another week down in the streets of Russia!

It was transfer week, which is always a little different with missionaries leaving and missionaries coming to the area. Tuesday we helped the missionaries leaving Krasnodar, get their bags onto to the train and waved goodbye as they left! Then Wednesday morning,  we got the call that the new missionaries would be arriving in 3 hours. So we headed back to the train station and welcomed our new missionaries,  right off the train from Rostov. 

My new companion is Elder Gerritsen from West Valley, Utah who just marked one year on the mission, as of Friday. He went to Innovations High School. The jury is still out on which one of us is taller, we definitely stand out, especially with his red hair!  It is very different and pretty challenging to be the experienced one in the area. I have been pretty reliant on my companions, up until now,  when it comes to getting around and finding places, but that has all quickly changed!!

Thursday we had District Meeting with the new District. All 3 of the companions I have had are in my same district now! It was fun to reunite with Elder Barnes, he filled me in on all that has happened in Volzhky since I left. Most importantly, Fergie is active now, teaching Sunday School, and she even gave them a referral! That made me so happy! I gave the spiritual thought on "walking the walk."

We have had a good amount of service opportunities again this week. We have been digging a massive hole for Aleksye, as we continue to build his home. He wants the hole 3 meters which is 3 feet taller than me. Elder T and I started the hole last week and it is up to 1.5 meters already! The best part is that Aleksye has been coming to church, 2 weeks in a row now, and it has been so awesome to see the fruits of what service can do! 

We are now required to do 2-3 hours a day teaching on the streets. Street teaching has always been something I feared big time, but this week I have really enjoyed it. I have prayed for and received a new mindset and now I look forward to the opportunity to get out and find the elect. Besides, I can't complain about  it too much when I live in the big, beautiful city of Krasnodar! 

Church was so great yesterday- we had over 90 people! Usually there is only 60 or 70 but yesterday was packed! When President heard that, he had to give us a call, he was one happy man! The talks in sacrament were about giving talks and they were so good! Brother Sergei K. compared writing a talk to making a Russian soup. Gave the recipe very clearly and everyone got a good laugh out of it. Wrote it all down, it was great! 

This transfer, Elder Gerritsen and I will be with the Young Men for the 3rd hour of Church! We have one deacon, one teacher, and one priest! It is so awesome to be able to spend time with them, they are great examples for each other and for me! The one priest, Anton, gave a spiritual thought on why we have trials and he did a great job. The return missionary, Vitya, is the President.  Vitya and I have become pretty close so I am going to really enjoy being in there with the Young Men!!

I definitely learned more about the power of prayer, the scriptures, and the sacrament this week. Found much comfort in those fundamentals in times of need! I love this Gospel! 
Thanks for all the updates, love, support and prayers!!  GO UTES!!  Until next time!!

Much Love!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер

Monday, March 7, 2016

Staying in K-Dar!!!

Greetings, we received transfer calls on Thursday night and I am staying in Krasnodar! Unfortunately, I will not be with Elder Tolokonnikov anymore. But he will still be in Krasnodar, so we will see each other almost daily. All I know about my new companion is his name is Elder Garretson, he is 6'5" so we will be the tallest companionship in the mission, and he is our only red headed missionary. Every time I have told the members my new companion has red hair, they respond by saying, "I thought that was not allowed on a mission?" (too funny)  He will get here later this week from Rostov. Elder Barnes, my trainer, will also be coming to Krasnodar to serve with Elder T as Zone Leader so I am excited to reunite with him! 

It was a good week. Elder T led a great District Meeting about happiness and he did it all in English! Usually he leads meetings in Russian and we translate for the Johnstun's but he wrote it all down in English and everyone was just smiling hearing him speak in English, maybe that was his trick to get us all happy! It worked! He said, "Jesus won death, so our souls should be happy." Loved that line! 

I was on splits all weekend as Elder T and our other Zone Leader Elder Lord went up to Rostov for Leadership Conference. We had a very humbling service opportunity, helping a member who's apartment had a fire. This apartment was burnt to a crisp. Every wall, ceiling, piece of furniture was black. We had some members come as well as the Johnstuns and we got a lot done for them! Still lots more to do and the Krasnodar Family will continue to help, until it is all taken care of! Our faces looked like we had just stepped out of the coal mines. We got some interesting stares on the train ride home. 

I had a very powerful lesson with Edward this week. He told us how,  as he grew up he would read the Bible to feel better and he gets those same feelings from the Book of Mormon. We asked him to describe that feeling and he said it feels like "correctness." After I prayed to close he said, "Tucker, as you prayed I felt so calm." He is starting to feel the Spirit! 

Saturday night we went to a member's house and gave a lesson using Mosiah 9-10 about putting our strength in the Lord. In these chapters, the People of Zeniff put their trust and strength in the Lord and are victorious in the war with the Lamanites. We then had everyone right down a weakness or something they could work on and challenged them all to put their strength in the Lord. It was a good lesson, and I had the opportunity to lead the lesson because no older missionary was there, just a few of us newbies. 

Fast Sunday was great, fasting is great. We have 4 missionaries getting transferred and they were asked to testify. They all did such a great job, it is always hard for the members to see missionaries go, they are so loving towards us. Yesterday was especially hard for them because Elder Lord is being transferred. Elder Lord started his mission here and one year later is leaving to a new area. The branch loves him, and he will be missed big time! 

All the brothers sang to the sisters, at church because it is Women's Day tomorrow! Happy Women's Day to all the gals in my life, especially Megan, Lexi, and the most important woman in my life, MY MOM! I love you three so much! I would not be where I am today without you three! 

We had Break the Fast at the Johnstuns and I really loved Elder Johnstun's spiritual thought. He talked about how essentially we teach and learn the same basics every single week, every single general conference, and even every single day for us missionaries. But, the Holy Ghost is the real teacher and if we prepare for meetings, lessons, etc. we will learn something new every time. Without preparation, however, the same messages will get old. I have seen that the Gospel is the same always but we always change and can receive new revelation. I can literally read the same talk or same chapter in the Book of Mormon multiple times and get something new out of it every time, based on what I need at that time. The Spirit is the real teacher! 

I cannot believe it is already another transfer! I am so happy to be staying in Krasnodar!!

Love you all!!!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер

Picture of the District