Monday, May 30, 2016

Til' We Meet Again, Krasnodar

Well as you can tell from the title, I have been transferred! I will now be serving in Sochi! Although I am pretty heart broken about leaving Krasnodar, Sochi is the one place I have really wanted to serve in my whole mission. My new companion will be the one and only Elder Von Neidherhausern from Elder Riley Tucker's mission! I am pretty sure  my family was at his home ward just a couple weeks ago in Florida - crazy connections.(small world).  I will also be serving as the District Leader down there which will be an awesome opportunity, although I feel pretty unqualified. It will be a great experience. My district will be Elder Vonn and I, Elder Labizev who is Russian and the current Branch President, and his companion will be Elder David,  who was my companion in the MTC! Elder David and I got really close in the MTC and we have not seen each other, since the day we got to Russia! President knew how excited we would be to reunite, basically the whole mission knows that we miss each other,  so that will be awesome! That is all the big transfer news, here is more on my week! 

One awesome experience this week with our Recent Convert Yegor. When I asked him if he prayed about the Book of Mormon after we finished it, he just lit up. He told me that he cannot explain what he felt in words. He just kept saying how cool it was and he had these undeniable feelings. It was a pretty powerful testimony! He is getting ready to go to the temple with all the youth next Saturday! Sad I won't be here to hear about their temple experiences but I know they will love the Finland Temple! 

This week all of us missionaries worked on our Member Book- just a book with all the member info that helps us work with them. Between the 8 of us there was only one outdated book and so we worked long and hard to update it and get it copied into 4 books so now each companionship has one! It is going to help everyone who serves here to better help and strengthen this branch! 

Had a few service opportunities this week! Got to serve Andrei who I mentioned last week and it was great. We also served a member on Saturday and once we all started getting to work it just started pouring rain! We have had some crazy thunder and rain this week- harder than I have ever seen. So we all crowded into her house and sang some Russian hymns using one hymn book. 

We threw together another Meet the Mormons night this week instead of English Group and it was a success. We had active and less active members, investigators, and potential investigators. I think most people came for Sister Johnstun's fresh popped popcorn but they got to see the movie and learn more about who we are- normal people! 
Saturday night we had our final district meeting all together. Elder Johnstun gave a great spiritual thought about the difference between a testimony and a conversion! After that, we all went around and bore our testimonies, it got very emotional. I even teared up a little which is rare these days. I really love this district of missionaries, we have a family like bond and I will miss them dearly! 

Yesterday was my last Sunday in Krasnodar. I got to testify in Sacrament meeting along with Elder T and Sister Moore. I testified about love because that word just about sums up my 4 months in K-Dar. The branch is so loving and so many people thanked me for my service, wished me the best, and told me how beautiful Sochi is right on the Black Sea with palm trees and all that good stuff.  Looking forward to seeing it!!

Sunday night I went on a mini-split with Elder T,  to go to Vitya and his mom's home. After getting my documents checked for the first time by the police (grateful that I was with Elder T) we had a great visit with them. We discussed personal revelation and how to get it. I love what Vitya said - we must first have a desire to receive revelation before we pray to get it! I am sure going to miss Vitya and his mom, they have treated me like a member of their family. They do so much for the branch and are just incredible people. 

Well that is about all. I will be on a train with Elder David on Wednesday night to Sochi so I have a couple more days to work in Krasnodar and say goodbye. Krasnodar will always have a very, very special place in my heart. I can only pray that I will return to the K-Dar branch some day.  Hope you all have a great week and Memorial Day!!
Great day to remember those that have gone before us and for those that do so much for our country.  Thanks for all the love, and support!!  All my love,

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Pictures - Service Crew, saying goodbye to the Johnstuns

Monday, May 23, 2016

No Hot Water!!

Hey peeps! 
So to start with the bad news, we have not had hot water all week long and we will not get it back until next week! I am very thankful for our chainik that boils water.. lots of bucket showers! Also, we got word this week that English Gospel Group Discussion is no longer allowed in the whole Europe East Area. We found out the day of our English group so we had to tell everyone as they came, it is a bummer but we will figure out another activity to get investigators and members to the branch during the week! 

Now for the good stuff! We had a great meeting with Edward this week. He told us that everything we talk about is true but he just does not see how we are any different than what he already believes as a Christian. So we have been focusing on the Book of Mormon with him, we read it with him and then he read on his own the other day! He is still being a little stubborn about praying but said he would pray next time we meet! He is such a great guy, we know that he will find his answer,  if he sincerely prays and reads! 

Our Recent Convert work is still going well! This week Yegor finished the Book of Mormon with us! It was awesome to see how excited he was to finish and right after he said how he would be starting over in 1 Nephi that same night! We took him to KFC as promised, he put down a lot for a 14 year old so sorry about that KFC bill! 

We finished reteaching the missionary lessons to Mihael and we helped his home teachers show him how the sacrament is done! He was pretty sick yesterday and could not make it to church, but he should be blessing/passing the sacrament soon! He also wants to get family history started so hopefully we will get that going with him this week! 

Tuesday after Coordination Meeting, we surprised the Johnstuns because we knew it was their Anniversary! We pretended like we forgot,  then gave them flowers and some treats,  then we all went around and said what we love about them. I am personally very grateful for the Johnstuns, they have done some much for the branch here and they will be deeply missed when they head home in a few months. 

Friday we got to go with the Johnstun's to the Biletski family! It has been awhile since we have been there so it was awesome to go back. The Biletskis are incredible and the Johnstuns have really strengthened them in their time here. We just get to translate and watch the Spirit do all the work! The Biletskis were very thankful that I filmed their son in the Victory Day Parade and I was able to get them a copy.

Saturday we got to serve a few different members. It was a hot day so I wore shorts and now have about 20 mosquito bites on my legs. Been an itchy few days but serving our members is always very rewarding!! 

Sunday was great! The talks were all about the Sabbath and keeping it holy. Most talked about spending time with the family. I loved the line "We work hard 6 days a week, and on the 7th day we find out why!" In my current situation I work daily for the Savior but they were talking more about families and how on the Sabbath it is valuable time to get to know your family better! 
When sacrament ended, I was writing something down when Andrei came and sat next to me. Andrei is a non -member but his wife is a member and served a mission. We served him a couple transfers ago and it was a big deal that he even let us over and yesterday he asked me if we could come back, so we are going today! Andrei is a really great guy and his heart has slowly been softened to the Gospel. I was honored that he felt comfortable enough to come ask me, and I can't wait to help him out today! 

After Church, we went back to Krasnaya to sing! We got all sorts of responses yesterday from "go home!" (the usual), to one man asking me where to put the money he wanted to give us, and some awesome people who were very friendly and wanting to learn more! As we left we ran into Vitya and his mom so we sang one more hymn which got the attention of some baptists that started talking to us. We talked for a while and although it was a lot of comparing interpretations of the Bible, at the end the man said, "I have always heard bad things about you Mormons but now, I know differently. I never thought I would call a Mormon my brother!" And he asked for a Book of Mormon so hopefully we will get in contact with him! 

That is it for my week! Transfer calls come on Friday! Hope I stay so bad I just love it here but unfortunately, I think my time has come! Thanks for all the prayers, love and support!!

Love you all!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Pictures - Victory Day, Service Day, Walking and singing on the streets of Krasnaya, what I eat (since so many of
  you ask..haha). 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Hello everyone, Victory Day was quite the sight to be seen! We went to the parade with Mihael and Aleksye and it was so awesome. They first showed the parade in Moscow, then they did the exact same thing here, live!  They go around congratulating every group of service people on the "71st anniversary of the great victory" and then everyone yells "ooorah!" The best part was when soldiers in the middle, shot off a ton of blanks from their guns, and it was even way cool,  when we found out that one of those soliders is a member! One of the Biletski's boys, they are the family we used to go to often with the Johnstuns. Then the rest of the day there were people everywhere with pictures of their family members that fought in the war. We had a great branch activity and it was just a great day in the Russian culture! That night we had a huge firework show right outside our window, so loud it set off all the car alarms haha. 

All of our Recent Converts are doing great! We just continue to work with them and see them progress and become more converted to the Lord. 

Both of our investigators were out of town all week but we have stayed in touch with them. We should be meeting with Edward tomorrow, I love him so much! 

Saturday morning we helped with the Face-to-Face Question/Answer broadcast for the Young Single Adults. It was with Elder and Sister Klebingat of our Area Presidency. They speak English, Russian, and German so they did it all in Russian! We only got to see the first half but it was great to see! 

After that, we went out with the Sisters on a service project. We served our member Denis' aunt who is not a member but is very friendly. We pulled weeds for her and did some planting, then she fed us some yummy pelmini with sour cream. 

Sunday was a busy day! Reminded me of the good old days in Volzhky. We had a bunch of less active members come which was great to see, our district has been reaching out to a lot of them! All of us missionaries had the opportunity to speak in Sacrament about the Book of Mormon. I spoke about the role the BoM plays in missionary work. It went well, everyone gets a kick out of the fact that I have to bend down to speak into the microphone. 
2nd hour of church we taught Gospel Principles because it was the 3rd Sunday of the month. Our topic was Faith in Jesus Christ so it was pretty easy and it also went well.
3rd hour we started in the primary to teach them the 10 commandments and the hand symbols that go with them. We have done that multiple times, the presidency wants us to keep repeating it with them until they know them. After that we were in with the Young Men. Vitya taught about prayer and we are all going to memorize D&C 4 in Russian together! 

After Church we went back to Krasnaya street to sing and share the gospel with people. It went well and we even had people come up to us later that day by our apartment and they said they saw us and they asked us what we were doing. It led into a great conversation and they were very friendly! 
That is all for this week!!I love you all! 

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Monday, May 9, 2016

Mothers Day and Victory Day

Writing in a black shirt and khaki pants today because it is Victory Day and we have permission to be outside and see the parade and celebration. On my way, to the branch to write home, I saw all the tanks and others crazy machines. I am so excited! Happy Victory Day from Russia!!

Not much time today so here are a few highlights:

Splits with Elder Tolokonnikov! It was just like old times being back with him! We get along so well and have fun together, but we still work hard. It was a very good day! 

Zone Training! Always great to gather as a Zone and learn from our leaders and the Miners! Really enjoyed President Miner's lesson on virtue, a big focus as the summer months approach! 

Interviews with President! Always great to talk with President Miner, I respect and love him so much!
Sunday! Maxim got the Melchezidek Priesthood! I was in the circle as our Priesthood President ordained him. Afterwards, Maxim had tears in his eyes and was so happy. I have realized it is not all about baptisms, it was very rewarding to see, since we have been working with him for a while!
Best part of the week was to skype the family for Mothers Day!! I love my family, especially my Mom! Happy Mother's Day MOM and to all the past, present and future momma's.  Love you all!! Thanks again for all the love,
support, and prayers.

We are off to the parade! Happy Victory Day! 

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Monday, May 2, 2016

Happy Easter (Celebrated later here than in the USA)

Hey all!

Well it has been a solid week, full of ups and downs! Unfortunately, we had to drop Aleksye and Roman as investigators. We have not been able to get a hold of Aleksye for a while now and Roman said he will maybe just come to English group instead. They both had so much potential but they just are not ready yet!  Someday!!

Other than that, we had lots of ups this week! Our recent converts are progressing really well. Maxim should be getting the Melchizedek Priesthood soon and we are continuing to re teach the missionary lessons to Mihael! We worked with Yegor as well who is 14 and he has almost completed the Book of Mormon and is attending seminary regularly! 

This week we met a man named George. He actually approached us on the street and said something we did not understand so then he started speaking English! He has an Australian accent but he is from Moscow, he has been traveling around for a while now though. We had a great visit with him and then the next day we decided to take a different route to the branch and saw him on the way! So we took him to the branch and showed him around before he stayed for English group. He was sharing how he prays and how he gets answers and a day after English class he told me how he is looking for something that can give him some guidance and help him through life. Unfortunately, he has been spending some time on the streets recently and he is embarrassed to keep meeting with us until he can find some nicer clothes. Although I told him multiple times it does not matter to us, he said he needs to look as good as he feels and asked us to pray for him! Hoping for some miracles with him! 

We finally got the chance to meet with Edward this week!! He came and was ready to learn! We taught him the full Restoration and he committed to being baptized when he knows that it is true! We invited him to read Alma 32 and pray about it to know for himself and he said he would. Edward really likes the Mormon lifestyle and already has a solid Christian background. I am confident that if he reads and asks sincerely, he will know for himself that this is the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was great to see Edward, it had been a long time since our last meeting, he is a great guy and we really love and care about him! 

Yesterday was Easter so Happy Easter from Russia! It was also Fast Sunday, so quite the day! We live right next to a Russian temple and it has been packed all weekend. Everyone goes and gets their Easter cakes and eggs blessed so there were lots of people in the temple and a lot of people outside the temple selling all sorts of things. Everyone was saying "Jesus is Resurrected" and in response "Indeed, he is Resurrected" (A Russian Easter Tradition).

We had a great fast and testimony meeting yesterday, I love hearing the testimonies of others! There were some amazing stories shared. Sister Viola shared about her recent trip home to Donetsk, Ukraine. She explained how the branch there used to be full of people and the Spirit but due to war and tough times in Donetsk right now, the branch is closed. However, the faithful members there still gather in their homes just like Joseph Smith and the first members of the Church! We have a new family that moved here from the Samara area and the mom testified about their little autistic boy who was born 1 month after they joined the Church. They were told he would never speak, however, just 4 days after receiving a Priesthood Blessing, he began to speak! And as she was sharing that testimony, the little boy was running around the sacrament hall talking to people. Quite the miracle! 

Last night was one I will remember, forever! We went to Krasnaya Street which is the main street in Krasnodar that is shut down to car traffic on the weekends and it is full of people, music, lights, entertainment, etc. We decided to join in with the other street performers and share the gospel! So we had a few Sisters sing hymns while Elder Gerritsen, myself, and Sister Price talked to people that stopped and handed out pass along cards. It was intimidating at first, but was a big success! One man told me he has always wanted to know more about Mormons and had some other good conversations. We are hoping to be able to do it more! 

Till next week! Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Picture- If we did not know better we would think he is somewhere Tropical!!