Monday, June 27, 2016

Last Contact - Miracles!!!

Hi All, First off,  a quick apartment update so Mom stops worrying! 1st, we got a new fridge! 2nd we got a fan in our apartment which has been a life saver,  in the Sochi heat. 3rd we finally caught our 3rd companion in the apartment.. (picture enclosed).

Wednesday I got to go on splits with Elder David! It was so awesome to have a day together in Russia just being missionaries after working hard together for this in the MTC. I sure love Elder David and the friendship we share! He can be described with the D's. Diligent, Dedicated, Desire. He fills every minute with something productive and is very dedicated to his calling as a missionary. He also has a true desire to find, teach, and baptize. He is just an awesome missionary and I am so glad we get to work with each other. 

Thursday in District Meeting we discussed teaching- focusing on teaching simply using the pamphlets we have and testifying often. Elder Vonn and I have a goal to be like Nephi, in 2 Nephi 25:28- to teach so simply that they cannot misunderstand! We have discussed it a lot and came up with new approaches to teach simply and we are excited to put them into action! 

Friday we had the rare treat of having the Miners in town. Their daughter is here with a friend from their ward and of course they wanted to come see Sochi! They took us out to McDonalds and we had a good time all together. I am endlessly grateful for the Miners, I know that I was meant to serve under them! 

We have been trying to get more involved with our less active members, there are quite a few down here! One sister lives just a couple houses away and we had a great visit with her the other night. She was a little reluctant to let us in because she is now a Jehovah's Witness but we ended up making a great friendship and she invited us back "anytime." She is great and we are excited to keep working with her and re-ignite her testimony! 
As for our investigators, we had another powerful lesson with Alexander. The spirit was so strong and afterwards we just said a prayer of gratitude for it. He is starting to keep commitments and progress towards his baptism next month! 
We have another investigator named Nikolai and he just got some surgery and he called us to go visit him so we are going to try tomorrow. He has some friends, in the branch and is doing well. 

Our other investigator Sergei is super busy but when he has time, we always have solid lessons with him. He has such strong faith and wants to know the truth and prays to know but he just does not want to start the Book of Mormon until he has finished the bible. He is such a cool guy and we love him so much! 

Saturday night before bed, Elder Labizov called me and asked if I could speak in sacrament the next day for 10 minutes about the meaning of Jesus Christ in our lives. It was short notice, but I was happy to do it. Ran out of notes quicker than expected so I just started talking and testifying and the Spirit took over! The branch was very nice afterwards to me and one sister told me my talk really spoke to her and she felt it ,so as long as it helped one person, I am good with that. 

Last week, Elder Vonn and I practically chased down a man named Daniel. There are many Africans in Russia here to study and often times they speak English so that is why we were so excited to see him. Turns out he was actually born in Russia but his family is from Mozambique! (could not help but think about Elder Chipman). He told us he knew about Mormons. We had a good conversation and planted a good seed and then two days later in the exact same spot he ran into the other Elders. So he came to church after the 3rd hour yesterday and Elder David and I taught him the first lesson. He already had such a good knowledge of the Gospel and he really just wants to know the truth- turns out he had become an atheist but now is thinking there is a God. He understood everything we talked about and said he would absolutely read the Book of Mormon and then pray about it! 

This week on the streets was often the same- hours of rejection or little conversations and then the very last person we talked to before going in turned out to be a huge miracle. We have learned that miracles are out there and prepared people are out there but they are never just given to us! We have met some incredible people and after we meet them we are just so happy and we talk about them and how much we want them to know what we know. It is sometimes hard because we have those desires and then it does not always go as planned and we really care about these people, but we have faith and there is some awesome potential with some of these great brothers and sisters in Sochi!   Thanks for all the updates, love and prayers!!

Till next week,

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Pictures - Black Sea, 3rd Companion (haha),  older picture from Krasnodar(service day)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Happy Fathers Day and Bday to Mom

First of all, Happy Fathers Day to the most supportive dad in the world! I love you! 

It is another hot one in Sochi! As for our week, we had a lot of time in our apartment this week due to our health. I had a cold and a fever earlier in the week and then Elder Vonn got sick with some stomach problems so we are just trying to get healthy! 

This week almost all of our appointments fell through which resulted in a lot of time on the streets. We have some awesome potential investigators that we hope to meet with soon and start their conversion with them! 
Through all of this, we did have one lesson this week and it was so powerful. It was with our investigator Alexander and we had a lesson planned but felt prompted to discuss the priesthood authority. The spirit was very strong and at the end, he committed to being baptized in July. We still have a lot of work to do and he is very busy, but with some faith and prayer, all will work out!  

Wednesday we got to do some service for a member named Oleg. We went up into the mountains where he lives, it was quite the trip there. We did some digging for him before he whipped out his guitar and played some hymns for us! He is really awesome! 

Thursday we had District Meeting and although I was still running a bit of a temperature, we still had a good meeting. This week, based on some of Riley's awesome ideas, I introduced some new things that we are trying. First is #ЧудоДня which means Miracle of the Day. Instead of the other Elders just texting me at night with there stats, I have asked that they send in a miracle or big blessing they saw during the day. We also send them our miracle of the day. It has helped us to recognize all the tender mercies we see each day. And honestly, numbers do not mean a whole lot to me, but recognizing the Lord's hand in our service does! I also introduced the "Prayer Pouch."  Russian missionaries all have our Kanga Pouches on us at all times with our documents and all that but as a District we have a Prayer Pouch and each companionship chooses one person they are working with so that we can pray for them throughout the week. We added one of our investigators to the Pouch and it really worked- he just called as we were emailing and asked to meet with us because he was by the branch. He is so prepared and really wants to find out the truth "just like Joseph Smith"! For the discussion, we talked about How to Begin Teaching and the beginning of our teaching appointments. We got to role play and we were all applying what we learned at the last Zone Conference and it was great to see! 

Saturday we had Meet the Mormons night and no one showed up. That is not the first time that has happened to me on my mission,  it is always a bummer. We need to get some sort of activity going down here for investigators and members! 

Yesterday was a great Sunday! I am starting to feel more at home here in the Sochi branch. The members here are amazing and they are all very good at missionary work. They often bring non members with them to church. Yesterday, one sister brought a friend and he stayed for all three hours and said he wants to meet with us this week! The branch was so welcoming to him and it was just great to witness. 
After Church we had Choir practice! Elder Vonn and I participate in choir to help support the member in charge and it has really helped us gain relationships with some of the members. They even have a Missionary Song that they sing when missionaries leave - it is quite the tribute! I am going to translate it and send it next week. 

Just wanted to testify about the scriptures really quick! One day this week I wanted to learn more about forgiveness and my purpose as a missionary - two pretty opposite topics. That day, I just happened to be in Alma 39 where there is so much written about forgiveness and the purpose of missionary work. I know that prayer works and that Heavenly Father answers our questions through the scriptures, even if it does not seem possible. The Book of Mormon is true and contains the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! 

I love you all!  Thanks for all the support, prayers and love!!

Till next week!  Mom - do not think I forgot about you!!!  

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Pictures-Happy Birthday wishes to Pammer/Mom
               More pictures of Sochi

Monday, June 13, 2016

Return to Krasnodar

Hey everyone! Hope all is well with you! It is blue skies and a very hot day,  here in Sochi! But as the title says, most this week was spent in Krasnodar! 

Wednesday night we left Sochi and took the train up to Krasnodar.  We arrived late in the evening, just in to to go to bed, so that we were rested up for splits with the Zone Leaders on Thursday.

Thursday I was on splits with Elder Barlocker, who was one of my Zone Leaders back in Volgograd. He is about two months from going home and is someone I look up to! The biggest thing I learned from him is a new approach, to working with members. They have been asking members to help them improve our teaching so that it is more relatable and powerful to the Russian people. I learned a lot from our meeting, we got a lot of helpful feedback from the members we met with! 

Thursday night was awesome because we got to attend the final activity for the youth, before they leave for their highly anticipated temple trip! I got to reunite with all of my dear brothers and sisters in Krasnodar. It was really funny because no one knew I was coming and most would  just wave to me after I waved to them and then they would do a double take and realize it was me. Yegor was so shocked and the rest of the night was just hugging me and sitting with me. One younger member, Dima, had a full conversation with me but did not realize who I was until Yegor told him. Then he was just staring at me saying "Enormous person (my nickname up there), is it really you?" It felt so good to be back with all of them! 

After the activity, Elder Barlocker translated for President Miner and I translated for Elder Johnstun as all the youth got their Temple Recommends. I wish you all could have seen how happy and excited they were just to hold that piece of paper in their hands! It was powerful. They all got on a train Saturday morning and probably are just getting there today or even tomorrow- multiple days on the train! All for the temple!  That is dedication!!

Friday we had an incredible Zone Conference. The Krasnodar Zone is full of incredible missionaries and it was great to be able to learn and grow with some of my best missionary friends. The main focus was going in depth into our new teaching approach. It is really all the fundamentals of missionary teaching but we just have more structure now and everyone is on the same page. It is a new thing and will require work and practice but it is going to strengthen our mission and our teaching! Also had a cool spiritual experience. Last Sunday, part of my fast was to learn how to be humble in myself, yet confident in God and my calling as a missionary. President Miner talked all about humility in our Zone Conference and I received more guidance than I thought I ever would. I did not tell anyone that I fasted for that, yet the Lord knew and he delivered. Fasting works, I know it! 

Friday night after Conference ended, we met up with Vitya and his mom! It was so great to be back with them! I never thought I would miss Krasnodar so much, especially after just one week! 

Saturday we got up at 5 AM and headed to the train station. On the train ride home we had our own little room with just the four of us Sochi Elders and beds for each of us. It was a longer ride, but  the last few hours were on the coast of the Black Sea, fun to see!!

Yesterday was a great Sabbath. Last Monday on our way to write home, a lady stopped us and asked if we were the Mormon missionaries. She then introduced herself as an in-active member who had just arrived to Sochi. We got her our information and she came to church yesterday! Seemed like she had a great experience, so that was an awesome tender mercy - it is not every day we get stopped by members of the Church on the street. Also our new investigator Nikolai,  came to church! He was with us for all three hours but then did not have time to meet afterwards so we will see him later this week.  Wahoo!!

Last night and tonight we are in early due to "Russia Day" celebrations. So happy Russia Day!!  Until next week! 

Much love!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Pictures - Black Sea,  Streets of Sochi, Palm Trees, Me and the Olympic Rings, Zone Conference, Missionaries waiting to get their mail.  (a little overload on the pics - but I knew my mom would love them!!).

Monday, June 6, 2016

Sun, Sweat, Stairs, Sochi !!

Greetings from Sochi!! 

So beginning of last week was a lot of packing and goodbyes in Krasnodar.. But nothing too sad because I will be up there often. 

Wednesday morning, said bye to Elder T and reunited with Elder David after 7 months of not seeing each other. We were so happy and excited to get to caught up. We have both grown and improved a lot, yet our friendship is still as great as it was in the MTC. 
Wednesday night we headed to the train station in Krasnodar where Mihael met us. He helped us get our bags on the train and waited right outside the window until the train took off for Sochi, it was a tender moment. I will never forget Mihael or my time in Krasnodar! 

Arrived in Sochi Wednesday night just after 11 PM. We hauled my heavy suitcases up the 314 (counted last night) stairs up to our apartment on a large hill. Lots and lots of stairs here in the hills and mountains! Feels like I am always hiking. 

So let me try to explain Sochi. For one, I honestly feel like I am in a whole new country. Sochi is so green and tropical like Hawaii but has hills and mountains like California/Utah. It is very hot and humid- I have been sweating since I got here (because our apartment only has a/c in the bedroom and no where else). When it is not sunny outside it pours rain, harder than I have ever seen rain fall. I am still adjusting to this beautiful place with palm trees everywhere and just in general to the new climate and new area of streets and everything! I never thought just a few hours on a train would make me feel like I am in a whole new world! 

This week was my first District Meeting as District Leader! It went well, I really love the Sochi District, me and three other Elders. This week we just covered lots of material from the Zone Leaders, in preparation for this week's Zone Conference.  As a mission, are bringing back some former tools to help us teach and all be unified in how we teach. We are all looking forward to this upcoming Zone Conference! 

Right now Elder Vonn and I have an investigator pool of 6! We are teaching Vladimir, Amil, Mihael, Alexander, and two named Sergei. I have only met a few of them and they are great. None are progressing quite yet but we will be working hard with them to get them to keep their commitments and come closer to Christ! Also have some sweet potential investigators that we will meet with soon! 

Speaking of Elder Vonn, I love him! He is such a great person and missionary. He is a hard worker and is a happy man. It would be impossible to not get along with him. We are working well together and have some awesome companionship studies. Our very first lesson together with an investigator was more unified and smooth than any I have had in the past, a lot of that is thanks to the unified teaching we are seeking throughout the mission. Elder Vonn is still showing me all the ropes of Sochi and I am just loving serving with him! We are going to see lots of miracles together! 

Yesterday was my first Sunday in the Sochi branch! The branch here is on the 4th floor of a business center called "Sochi Center" so I am still getting used to that. But, the members are awesome. We had about 35 here yesterday- most the members are older or really young (like primary), we also had members from around Russia who are vacationing here. There was an awesome connection made between me and a couple members from my first area Volzhiky! One family here, who I remember seeing pictures of in Volzhiky, had just moved out before I got to Volzhiky. They brought with them another member from Volzhiky who lives here now and I actually saw here one Sunday in Volzhiky. She thought it was quite the miracle that I was up there the one Sunday she was and the fact that I know her daughter Lily who served in Salt Lake if you remember me talking about her way back, when I was in Volzhiky. It was just crazy to have that connection all from the little town of Volzhiky! 
Mom! Your friend was in K Dar yesterday and that was crazy too. Everyone loved her and even crazier, her husband apparently helped reactivate my former companion Elder T when he was inactive for a bit, many years ago. Lots of connections!!

Well that is about all. I cannot describe Sochi very well but I love it here. Such an awesome place and the people and members I have met so far have been very welcoming, warm, and loving.  

We will be heading up to Krasnodar in two days to do splits with the Zone Leaders and then we will have Zone Conference up there so we will be up there from Wednesday to Saturday! I will try to get some good pictures of Sochi to send next week! 

Pray that our fridge will start working! We have spoiled milk, mold and etc. We are a little hungry!!

Hope you all have a great week!!  Thanks for all the updates, love, prayers and support!!

pic - Elder David and I reunited! 

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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