Monday, August 29, 2016

Hump Day!!

Hey everyone!

It has been a monumental week on the mission!

Started the week by getting to spend some time with Elder David as he was coming through for a transfer. We were able to meet with his former investigator that lives here in Rostov. Always so good to see him, to get caught up on things.

We went back to the animal shelter and had quite the miracle this week! Usually we go there and talk with the workers and do whatever they need done and usually we are the only ones there with the workers. This time, though, there was another 20 year old guy volunteering there so we were with him the whole time. His name is Vlad and we became good friends with him, in little time. He came up to the statue with us after to eat and chat. It was quite the miracle because we cannot actively seek out people like that and even with him we could not share the gospel but we were able to invite him to the talent show that I will write more about later. Unfortunately, he studies in Moscow and just left today to go back but he says he will for sure call us and come back to the Church when he is in town, in a couple months. It was great to see that as we serve others, we are indeed sharing the gospel, just not verbally. As President Uchtdorf once said, "Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words." That is what we do now- preach by our example and relying on the Lord to put prepared people in our paths! 

Thursday I got to spend the whole day with my Russian brothers Elders Belan and Tolokonnikov. They came in from Crimea for our Leadership Council and Elder Shumway was on a visa trip so I got to be with them the whole day. We were able to go to a District Meeting in the Zapadny District where we have four great volunteers. We have a new District Leader out there and he did a great job- he did the whole meeting in Russian to accommodate to one of our Russian volunteers, which is pretty impressive! Overall, it was a great day with some of my favorite people, it will be sad to see those two Elders head home next month! 

Friday was my Hump Day on the mission and it was a busy day! Started the day at the Mission Home for Leadership Conference. It was so great to be back in the beautiful mission home- I had not been there since the day I got here last October (first time feeling carpet in 10 months!) We had a good discussion and looked at some different stats and just where to go next in the mission and how to get there. We will be discussing all that we covered at our Zone Conference in a couple weeks which is led by us with Sister Jameson- our Sister Training Leader.

Right after VLC we headed to the branch for District Meeting. It was different to just be a part of the district rather than leading the meeting. Elder Macabee did a great job for his first time and we have another solid group here in the Rostov District. As I mentioned last week, we got both new volunteers in our district, Sister Domnikova and Elder Clement, who are both doing so well already! 

Friday night we had our first weekly sports/game night. We as volunteers are doing that weekly because we can invite people to activities like that but that is about all we can do. Sports Night helps get people we taught in the past or are currently teaching to the branch and interacting with us and members and it is a ton of fun. We had only four this week because we threw it together last minute but they were all non members and had a great time. Played lots of ping pong and some charades.

Friday being my one year mark really caused me to reflect on the past and look ahead to the future. I came to the conclusion that it was my time to recommit to everything- to my purpose, to the Lord, to the language, and to giving it my all for this last year. This first year flew by and although I have grown and improved, there is still a lot of work to still be done! As of now, even the thought of returning home in a year is very frightening. I am eternally grateful for the past 365 days and I am beyond ecstatic that I have a whole year to improve myself and help others find the truth and happiness that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ! 

Saturday night was our branch talent show! All of us volunteers, but especially the sisters, did a lot to put together that activity. We had about 40 people show up and there was some great performances. As I mentioned, Vlad came and absolutely loved it! He even cried a little while the young women sang a song about the Savior. It was great to have him come and talk with him and get him to make friends with the members, everyone loved him and asked him to come to church! It was a really successful activity! 

Sunday was a great day at Church! We were not in Primary because our callings should be changing soon. After Church we went to Sister Ludmila and listened to the talk "A Summer with Great Aunt Rose" by President Uchtdorf and she loved it. If you want to understand what Sister Ludmila is like, read that talk, she is just like Great Aunt Rose. Sunday she even got up and started tap dancing for us in her slippers, keep in mind she is pretty old and blind. We love her so much! 

Today we got to go play some futbol, frisbee, and football all together then went to some service for a member. One of our tasks at service was to move a washing machine and it was not fitting through the door so the member said, Let's stop and pray!" And literally right after, it went through. She has so much faith and such a strong testimony! She and her son heard that I am from Salt Lake and it was like I became a celebrity after that. They were asking me how many times I have been to the temple and they explained how bad they want to go there. Always feeling grateful for the blessed life I have! Thanks for all the support, love and prayers!!

Love you all! Till next week! 

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
Строка за строкой

Pictures: Hump Day, popsicle on the Don, staircase in the Zapadny Branch, Our new Elder Clement (Elder Clement and his family read my blog, after he got his call, shout out to them, pictures taken at district meeting.

Monday, August 22, 2016

6 more in Rostov!!

Sorry for writing a little later, hope Mom did not stay up all night!  (which I am sure she did). Today we went on a boat tour of Rostov, on the Don river,  so we pushed emailing back a little. It was way awesome, I will attach some pics! (Pammers (mom) will love all the pics).

It has been a good, busy week with transfers and everything but we will get to that later. We had two solid district meetings this week. We had a great discussion about living the gospel of Jesus Christ which is a huge part of what we do now. Our purpose to invite others to come unto Christ has not changed but instead of doing that by preaching and finding, we do it by example and how we live. It takes a lot of diligence and obedience, but when we truly practice what we preach or walk the walk, people recognize! We also discussed preparing ourselves spiritually and how to do that not only in our set apart hour each day for personal study but throughout each day as well. It is always hard to have our final district meeting before transfers, we have had a really solid group this transfer. Luckily, in the Rostov Mission, every district seems to just get better and better! 

We got to do lots of service this week! First, we helped a member and her kids move apartments and they were very thankful for our help and fed us after. While we waited with the member, she taught us some stuff in Russian Sign Language because she actually translates each sacrament for our deaf members. It was way interesting to learn and now we always sign different words to each other.

Went back to the animal shelter and did some cleaning there. They were grateful as always and pretty surprised that we came back after the first time. We have got a lot done there already and we are excited to keep helping them! 

We also went to the language school again to sit in on an English discussion. However, we just met with the staff and they were so excited to see us again and talk to us that we practically spoke in Russian the whole time. Our different service opportunities have given us the chance to make friendships and relationships with these people and it is very rewarding! 

Thursday we had Elder Isaev with us while some others went on a visa trip. Elder Isaev is from a city outside of Moscow and is such a stud! The three of us got to take an hour train ride out to this tiny little village to serve a member in her home. She is a long time member and treated us so well with food and love. She has such a powerful testimony and wants to go to church so bad but lives too far and is limited by her health. Pretty inspiring to hear her testimony and love for the Gospel! I will send some pics of where we were, it was truly in the middle of nowhere. 

Friday we had our weekly conference call with the leaders throughout the mission and just discussed how things are going and our district meetings. After that, we received transfer calls! I am very happy and excited to be staying in Rostov with Elder Shumway for another transfer! We are going to really push the work forward over these next 6 weeks. Pretty much our whole zone is changing though, it will be sad to see some go! We are getting a district leader in Rostov which is really going to help us have some more time to do the Lord's work and just focus on the District Leaders. We are also getting both new volunteers that arrive from Utah in a couple days in our district! 
Saturday we got to have interviews with President and Sister Miner. I always look forward to time with them and they never fail to make me feel so loved and appreciated. We are so blessed to have the Miners with us who truly council with us and make us feel like we are their friends. I am eternally grateful for them and their service here. 
Saturday night we had a big activity for all the Young Single Adults in the Rostov District- Hawaiian Night. Some sisters put a lot of work into it and it was a huge success. We had over 30 people there including many non-members some of which were from Nigeria, Africa. It was a great activity and everyone seemed to really enjoy it! 
Sunday went well, primary went a lot better mostly because we had the whole Primary Presidency sit in with us. I taught the lesson and we actually had a good discussion! 

Sunday we had a baptism in the Center Branch of an eight year old that lives in a different branch. The baptismal font was about one foot full when all the water in the branch got shut off... Most people thought we should cancel it but we exercised our faith and after some trips to the nearest volunteer apartment filling up 19L jugs of water, we had enough for the baptism! Everything turned out great! 

Ended the week at Sister Ludmila's who is going through some hard times but we are going to do what we can to help her!  Good luck to everyone going back to school!!   Thank you always for the support, love and prayers!!

I love you all! Till next week! 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
Строка за строкой

Pictures - Us in the middle of nowhere, us again and again, waiting for our train, last district meeting, how we got our water heater to work(so we have hot water again,wahoo), we love Rostov, boat crew, Russian flag & me, world cup stadium, picture of me, Shumway and Sister Miner. (sorry if they do not appear in order).  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Daily Manna

Hey all! 

It was a great week in Rostov-Na-Donu! Had two solid district meetings this week. We have been focusing on "Teaching in the Savior's Way" booklet from the Church,  that helps us improve our teaching skills. This week we discussed asking inspired questions and then the next time we talked about how to answer difficult questions. I want to share a spiritual thought that was given last week from Elder Powell about Daily Manna from Exodus 16 in the Old Testament! Daily Manna was given to the children of Israel every day for 40 years for food so they could remember the Lord and his power. They did not have to do anything for it, it was there every day and they were given as much as was needed. Likewise, our daily manna is our daily blessings and tender mercies that are always there no matter what, sometimes we just don't recognize them or get so used to them that we don't count them as blessings. We were challenged to recognize our daily manna and since then I have recognized so many blessings! I kind of thought spiritual experiences were stopping because we are not on the streets or in lessons as much, but I just wasn't looking hard enough! I am grateful for a loving Savior and Heavenly Father who give me just enough every single day, no matter what. 

We had a lot of service this week! We put in 12 hours of service as a companionship, the Rostov Zone served others for 60 hours this week and we all have goals to do even more this next week. 

One of the most rewarding service projects of my life came this week at the Rostov Animal Shelter. It was a little intimidating walking in there surrounded by dogs,  but the people there were so awesome. They were just in shock that they had 6 of us show up ready to work- and even more shocked that we speak Russian! We did some cleaning and unloaded some wood,  that they will use to repair and build dog houses. They were so grateful for our service,they called us angels and kept thanking us. It was so rewarding to be able to help where help is really needed and to see how thankful they were! We will be helping them out about once a week! 

We also did some service at a language school here in Rostov. They love just having native speakers there to talk to and it was fun to talk to some people in English! They get so excited when we show up which always makes us feel good. They help us with Russian too! 

On Saturday, while on splits, we went to a hospital and served there as well. We teamed up with a group from the Russian Orthodox Church who goes out to this hospital weekly. It was a great opportunity to befriend our brothers and sisters in the Russian Orthodox Church and do some service with them! We helped feed the patients there, they also get super excited when that group goes each week! 

Saturday I was on splits with Elder Bauer who is one of the Assistants. He is a great Elder and it was great to spend the day with him! We got to teach their investigator Ruslan and it felt so good to be back in a lesson, it had been a while! He will be getting baptized later this month, the Spirit was so strong in the lesson! He committed to coming to Church weekly which is a huge sacrifice for him and he gave such a powerful prayer at the end that made me tear up. 

Sunday was a good one! I was unexpectedly called on to give the opening prayer which was a surprise! I was not sure if he said my name or not haha. Elder Shumway and I were called to be Primary Teachers for the 8-11 year olds which was a little bit of a surprise but we have been teaching them the past few weeks and we like it! They were a little rowdy yesterday but it is all a work in progress! After church we took the sacrament to Sister Ludmila which is always a highlight of the week. We had a spiritual thought then she had us sing and she sang for us, just the best. 

It is a crazy week with people going home and transfers coming up so we have lots of volunteers coming through our apartment. Today also marked the beginning of week 3 without hot water. I have got a system down though, just gotta get right under the cold water and endure 30 seconds then all is well! One of those unique Russia experiences!  Thanks for all the updates, support, love and prayers!!

Much love,
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
Строка за строкой

Pictures -  Last nights sunset, found some Skippy Peanut Butter (makes me happy), Sweet Statue, Dessert on top of Rostov (view from the Statue).

Monday, August 8, 2016

Elder Martion and A Triple Baptism

Hey everyone! This week was one I will never forget, it was full of special, spiritual experiences that do not happen very often! 

First, we had two district meetings this week and we will continue to do so for now. We do not have a District Leader so Elder Shumway and I act as the District Leaders as well. Tuesday officially ended our two week moratorium and I shared this quote, "A ship is safe in the harbor, but that is not what ships are for." We were in the harbor for a couple weeks and now we are out at sea adjusting to all the winds coming our way! We also had a great discussion about humility led by Elder Foote who is one of the most humble Elders I know. We have started going over the program "Teaching in the Savior's Way" to improve our teaching and to help members improve theirs and we will continue that program for a couple weeks. 

Thursday I got to be on a split with Elder Brimhall!! He is one of my closest friends here because we were in the same MTC District and have a lot of memories together. I had not seen him since last year until I got transferred here. We got to attend an English discussion in his area called Zapadny. It is a member's English school and we were in her beginning class with four older women. As I wrote in my journal about that experience, I realized that although I would have loved to share the gospel with those 4 women, based on experience, a gospel related conversation with any of them would have ended as quick as it started. Instead, they asked us all about our hobbies, families, interests, etc. and at the end thanked us multiple times for our "great company." Maybe that interaction was what they needed to accept the gospel when two young missionaries approach them in the future.

Friday we had our weekly Volunteer Leadership Conference via Google Hangouts. As we were getting set up, Elder Tolokonnikov popped onto the screen and saw me, he made a "U" with his hands- Sister Miner got a good kick out of that! We got a lot more guidance from the Area Presidency and President Miner with some changes and clarifications. Nothing crazy, but we just learn more and more as this all evolves and we adapt as quickly as possible. We will now have an hour to exercise in the morning so that will be sweet! 

Saturday and Sunday were both incredible days. Saturday we had a skype call with our District Leaders to fill them in on new information and then headed to the mission office to meet with Elder and Sister Martino. Elder Martino was just called to be the First Counselor of the Europe East Area Presidency and they just arrived in Moscow one week ago. Their first trip was here in Rostov,  just for a day. We had the very special opportunity, 5 other volunteers and I, to council with him for about an hour and a half about the potential we still have even with the new law. It was so powerful to be in that close setting with a General Authority who truly has been called by God to serve in this area. He had inspired insight that he shared with us and he ensured us that nothing can frustrate the Lord's plan and that the Area Presidency is far from discouraged- they seem to be quite encouraged actually. He was so full of the Spirit and happiness and both Elder Shumway and I felt extremely fortunate and blessed to be a part of that meeting.  

After that meeting, we headed out to Taganrog again, for a baptismal interview! I got to interview someone named Zahar (Zachary in Russian) for baptism! He has been an investigator for multiple months but has always had doubts and never felt that this was the truth. However, he just had the opportunity to go to St. Petersrburg for Youth Conference and said there he felt the Spirit for the first time and since then he has received answers to every question and every doubt has been washed away. I did not do much in the interview, he knew the questions by memory and so he asked the questions and answered them. 

Saturday night we spent the night in Taganrog to attend the baptism at 7 AM Sunday Morning. They had 3- two converts and one eight year old girl- getting baptized which I have never seen before especially in a smaller branch. We had quite the gathering on the beach Sunday Morning and as we were standing and singing hymns, the Spirit reminded me of my baptism that happened to be on that very day of August 7, if my memory serves me right, 11 years ago. I wish you could have all seen all of them dressed in pure white walking out to the middle of the sea to perform the baptism. It was a sight I won't forget! It was such a special experience that I felt prompted to testify about it and the importance of baptism in Sacrament Meeting yesterday and so I did. 

Church went really well yesterday. There is always such power in testimony meetings here! Elder Shumway and I got to teach primary again and the kids were being pretty wild until Sister Taylor walked in. They love her and respect her more than they do us even when she does not speak Russian! 

After Church, all of us volunteers met with the Branch President and received callings that will become official next week. Due to some unexpected meetings and delays,  I ended up fasting for more than 24 hours but it felt good! I love the opportunity to fast! 

Last night we had the humbling opportunity to take the Sacrament to Sister Toma. She cannot really walk which prevents her from coming to church. We got there a lot later than usual and she was so thankful that we came, she had been waiting! After we gave her the Sacrament, she went on to explain just how badly she wants to attend church but physically cannot. She also expressed her desires to pay tithing and wants us to find out if she ever forgot to pay so that she can make up for it- keep in mind that her only income is her pension. I just thought about how so many of us have so much more material items in this life yet sometimes we see Church attendance or paying tithing as some type of burden. She lives in some of the worst conditions I have seen and cannot go to Church,  but she whole heartedly wants to follow all of God's commandments. It was hard for me to hold back tears as we met with her, she taught me a valuable lesson about desires and that worldly materials are truly not the key to happiness.  Until next week, thanks for all the updates, prayers, and support.
Much love! 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
Строка за строкой

Pictures - Sharm and lemonade on splits with Elder Brimhall, location of the baptism, pics of district meeting,
and how hot it was the other day (42 celsius, which is like 110 degrees)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Zone Training #1

Hey all! 
It has been a busy week in the Rostov Zone! 

First of all, this week we had a few service opportunities. We got to help Sister Galina by weeding her massive garden. She only let us work for about 30 minutes before saying it was time to eat. She is a long time member and is so awesome. She gave us tons of fruits and vegetables from her garden and some homemade raspberry jam, that tastes just like Mom's! We also served our friend Alexander, in his garden. He speaks English and just loves the volunteers. We removed a very thorny blackberry bush for him, got it all out, after countless stabs. We also went with the sisters to Snezhana's place who was just baptized. She is up at Youth Conference in St. Petersburg along with all the youth on the West side of Russia so we went and worked on her yard to surprise her when she gets back. It is always great to get out and serve! 

Wednesday was Zone Training, for the Rostov Zone! Elder Shumway and me, and the Sister Training Leaders met and brain-stormed a lot for the conference. We had about 30 volunteers in attendance, which makes up for about half of the whole mission! We were getting nervous before hand and we asked President Miner right before it started if he gets nervous for stuff like this and he said, "No, I am amongst friends!" I loved that answer- that along with some prayers soothed my nerves. I started by going over the 3 pages of what to do as a volunteer (like our new guidelines) and then Elder Shumway led a great discussion on serving like the Savior and how to find service opportunities,  then the Sisters led a powerful discussion about how our callings have not changed! They had someone read their mission call and it made me tear up. I then closed the Training with a discussion about Strengthening from Within and how we are shifting our focus to internal growth and strengthening just like the Nephites,  in the late chapters of Alma. We discussed all the branches and things we see that could really use our help, let's just say we have a lot of work ahead of us! Elders Smith, Nelson, and Clark who are serving in Stavropol performed a musical number- they sang "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" and the Spirit was so strong, they did a great job. Overall, Zone Training went very well and now everyone has a better understanding of our new and improved roles as volunteers. The Spirit in a room full of set apart servants of the Lord discussing the future of the work is undeniable. I am convinced that anyone could walk into that and feel the Spirit hit them as it was so strong for me the whole meeting! I love the Rostov Zone! 

Thursday we had Volunteer Training Center with the whole Zone as well. We watched a clip called "Unto All the World: The Gospel in Russia" that explains the process of getting the Church recognized in Russia. It is a powerful clip! (

We had a cool miracle this week! A couple weeks ago a kid on the street asked us if we were interested in foreign languages to advertise a school. We gave him our number and they called and said we could go take a free Russian placement test. We were busy and put it off for a while but then finally went. Within 5 minutes of walking into the door, the owner of the school was offering us a job there. Instead, we explained that we would like to help out as volunteers and not get paid. So he agreed and said we could take Russian courses their for free. We are just going to sit in on their English discussions and help in any way we can. He told us that two days ago he woke up and wanted his students to have the chance to talk with Americans and then we just showed up. It was hard for us not to testify at that point! 

Each day we have about 3 hours at the branch so that there are always volunteers here. During our shifts, I have been doing more Family History work and it has been fascinating. Loved reading about my great great great grandpa Henson Walker Jr. who was a body guard of Joseph Smith and the first mayor of Pleasant Grove, Utah! Really fun to get to know my ancestors! 

Saturday we spent most the day in Taganrog! Taganrog is about an hour and a half from Rostov and about one hour away from Ukraine. Elders Powell and Randall are serving there right now and we just love them and their positive attitudes! We spent some time with them before Elder Shumway interviewed their investigator for baptism! 

Yesterday we got to teach Primary and it was a blast! Sister Taylor who works in the mission office was just called as Primary President but she does not speak Russian so she has the sister volunteers as her counselors and for now, we are teachers. It was fun to be with the little kids, they are super smart! The sisters have already done a ton to remodel the Primary in this branch in just one week! 
Random side note, it is watermelon season. We have eaten 3 this week. They are like 150 rubles for a huge one ($2.50) they are so good. Thanks for all the updates, love, support, and prayers!!

That is all from me! Much love!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
Строка за строкой

Pictures: Heart Bench, Taganrog Elders and me, Boat in Taganrog, Zone Conference