Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The New Era

First of all, I want to thank everyone for the birthday love! I have 79 emails in the good old inbox right now so thank you all so much. It means a lot to have so much support. Tomorrow we will be gathered as a zone so it will be a good Russian Birthday! 

It has been quite the week! I arrived in Rostov early Tuesday morning after a night train from Sochi. Rostov is a HUGE city and I really love it so far. It is hotter than Sochi (broke 40 celsius the other day which is like 105 fahrenheit) but less humidity. The apartment I live in is so nice, we are super spoiled. 
My new companion is Elder Shumway and he is great. He is from Cottonwood Heights, Utah and is about 3 months from heading home. The best part is he is a UTE fan!! He just became a Zone Leader a transfer ago so we are working well together as we learn and make decisions as a companionship. He speaks Russian super well and is a humble leader! Crazy thing is, last summer at President and Sister Miner's farewell talk, a mom came up to me and told me if I ever meet her son in the mission to tell him hi. Well it turns out, that was Elder Shumway's mom! It is going to be great serving with him!  

Just a couple hours after arriving, we had some Russian elders arrive for their first day in our mission. So we were on splits with them all day. They were so eager to get out and talk to everyone, it was a good experience!!

As for the rest of the week, most days were 8 hours a day on the streets. Headed out at 8 AM, took a break to eat and study mid-day and then back out! We all tried to maximize this last week of being able to preach the gospel. There were so many tender mercies and miracles. Most people were very nice and we found some prepared people. We even met someone who has been to Temple Square in Salt Lake, and that was a first! It was inspiring to talk with the missionaries throughout the Rostov zone and hear their positive attitudes and faith. No one gave up and everyone gave it their all! 

Friday we had a meeting with President Miner and the leaders throughout the mission via Skype to discuss this new law. As many of you know, we are no longer missionaries but volunteers. We ask that all will refer to us as volunteers in emails as we do the same with each other. We can no longer talk about the Gospel outside of the Church and so our big focuses will be volunteering in the community and really strengthening the branches! President Porter- the Area President- was in our mission a few months back and told all the leaders that there are more prepared people here than we think, but the Lord is holding them back from finding the truth until the branches are more unified and strong enough to support growth. I firmly believe that this is the Lord's way of allowing us to focus on the branches because we have always wanted to strengthen them and have done little things but our investigator work has always come first. Now we will have callings in the branch and focus on getting the Church, in Russia, ready for the big future it has! It is such a blessing and opportunity to be here at this time in this new era of our work. We are really excited about it! 

Saturday we had a baptism in the branch! It was an 8 year old little girl and there was a great turn out! Our investigator, Alexander, came and we had the most powerful meeting with him after. I have never seen someone so prepared! He has quit smoking since learning about the Word of Wisdom,  just by the power of prayer. He is a coffee drinker but told us that he never loved it that much anyway and will give it up. He was just asking us what he needs to do to get baptized. I was blown away. So he has a baptismal date for July 30th! He told me at the end that although we just met, he feels like he found a friend and a brother in me. Love him already! 

Sunday was my first Sunday in the Rostov Center Branch! There were so many people and families! Felt like I was back in Utah! In sacrament I was given the opportunity to share my testimony. In SundaySchool, they just discussed how they are going to step up and do missionary work now that we cannot. The law restricts members but not as much as us and they reacted so well. Someone said that is is clear that the Lord is now giving them the opportunity to share the gospel rather than fully relying on us to do so. Right after Church, I was able to interview an investigator for the Sister missionaries for baptism and she will be getting baptized on Saturday

After Church we took the sacrament to a member who is blind named, Ludmila. Elder Shumway told me that I would just love her and he was right. She has got such a funny attitude! We walked in and she asked to shake my hand and just started arm wrestling me! Then she sang for us and we sang some hymns. She is great! 

Last night was our last day to do missionary work. We had one hour last night and 85 pass along cards and we went out and came back with 0! It was weird knowing it was our last time, but we feel good about it. For now, we have a 2 week moratorium,  so that the Church can find out some more and get some new documents. So we will be gathering as a zone or district daily to have "Volunteer Training Center" where we will study Russian (language and culture), Family History, and the scriptures. It is going to be great. 
I love you all! Thanks again for all the birthday wishes, love, prayers and support!!

Till next week!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
Строка за строкой

Pictures of the Olympic Park in Sochi - The Swan - the torch and arena make a swan. Hockey Arena, one of the most expensive in Russia.

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