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
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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)

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