Monday, September 26, 2016

A Sunday with Luda

Hey all!

Sorry I am emailing so late, it is almost 8 PM here and we are just getting around to emailing.. It has been a crazy busy day but I will get to that later!  This maybe a shorter letter.

In a weeks time, the sunny, hot and humid days have left and it has been cold, grey, and rainy all week. Today we had a high of 11 celsius so we are all back in our sweaters/coats, scarves, and boots. Fall is here and winter will be here before we know it! 

Last Monday we had a great Family Home Evening with the Inkeles' family. Their boys were so excited when we came over and got all their board games out to show us and play with us. We then had a great discussion about the Plan of Salvation, the boys knew so much! We also had a recent convert, Cnezhana, with us and it was cool to hear about her recent experiences sharing the gospel with others. 
Speaking of Cnezhana, we went to her place with the sisters this week to help out in her yard with some weeding. She then invited us all to a breakfast at her work so we went to support here and it turned out to be a very fruitful experience. She works for the company Herbalife and we were the only men there but all the women loved talking to us and we could tell them who we are but that was about it. I think we planted a lot of seeds though by giving them a positive experience with the Mormon Volunteers! 

That same day of the work breakfast, a former investigator called and we went with him to this event his school put on. It was really awesome because while we were there, we were able to see and talk with 3 members of the Church and some women approached us about an English School in Rostov that has an English Discussion Group that we could join as a service opportunity! It was amazing to see that as we are out and on our feet supporting our members or friends, the Lord put those little tender mercies in our path. 

We went to our normal English School this week and it is just great to have so many friends there. They are so friendly to us and they want us to come more so we are going to try to go a couple of times a week!  

Transfers came a week early for all the Elders in the mission because we have a handful finishing their missions this week! I will be staying in Rostov with Elder Shumway for our third transfer together! This unfortunately will be Elder Shumway's final transfer, it will be sad to see him go home, in about 6 weeks. Our district and zone changed a lot but we are going to have a solid group once again!

Friday I got to go on splits with Elder Leontiv, one of the Russians who is going home tomorrow. It was great to spend a day with him, he is so funny and just fun to be around. We also had another successful sports night that night! 

This weekend we had Rostov District Conference which includes 5 branches in the Rostov Area. It was my first time attending a Conference on my mission. Saturday night the session was at our center branch and sunday morning the session was in the Hyatt Don Plaza hotel. The spirit was so strong, especially Saturday night because as President Miner said, "The best kept secret in the Church is the Saturday night session of Conference, only the best of the best go to it." The hymns and talks were all so powerful. 

Sunday was probably the happiest day of my mission and one of the happiest moments of my life. So we found out about a week ago that the Sunday Session of Conference would be at the Don Plaza hotel and when we heard that, I immediately thought about Sister Ludmila, the blind member we visit often, because we pass that hotel every time we go to her. We invited her to come to Conference, assuring her that we would pick her up and she immediately shot it down. Later on in the week we were at her place to do some service and the sister volunteers happened to be there also. We extended the invitation again and after multiple invites, she said that if we called Saturday night, she would let us know for sure. So Saturday night rolled around and I called and asked, "When should the Sisters pick you up tomorrow?" She said to have them come a little after 10 to be early to the 11 AM session of conference. I wish you all could have seen her walk into the hotel doors in her Sunday best with the Sisters on each arm. All the volunteers that know her could not believe she really came and the members were in shock too. It was her first time in 10 years at a church meeting- of course she has always had the desire to go more but is limited physically. I sat with her the whole meeting and it was perfect that the closing hymn just so happened to be "Called to Serve", her favorite hymn. As it ended she turned to me and said the meeting was too short, she wanted more! She ended up staying for about another hour,  because members and volunteers surrounded her to say hi and express their love to her. One even gave her a flower. It was such a happy moment just to see the light in her eyes and how happy she was to be at church with some friends she had not been around for a long time. It was truly a great Sunday with Luda! 

Today and yesterday we have had about 10 people in our apartment aka the Rostov Hotel. With transfers and people going home, we have been to the train station twice today and still had to get groceries and all the other things needing to be done on the To Do list.  I got to go to lunch today with Kostya, a member from Krasnodar, so that was way awesome to reunite with him. Sadly, a few hours ago I had to say bye to Elder Tolokonnikov for the last time, I am going to miss my Russian brother as he heads home to Novosibirsk tomorrow. He has served faithfully, and I am confident I will be seeing him again. Thanks for all the love, support, and prayers!!

Love you all!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Pictures- Elder T and me, Sweater weather, Banana with my name and the temple on it (made by the Inkeles boys), Elder Brimhall and me, Elder Leontiv and me.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Zone Conference

Hello everyone,

Happy, Happy Birthday to my brother Riley.  Hope you have fun celebrating!! Next year we will be able to celebrate together, it has been a long time!!!   Busy week in Rostov!

Hospital- We went to the hospital at least once a day this week to give Elder Foote some company and get him different things that he needed. On Friday he was released and got back to his area, he was back to his old self and is doing great! It was so awesome to walk in the last night of his stay at the hospital, all 5 of his fellow roomates got way excited. Elder Foote had made friends with all of them and they just loved him, even had us take pictures of them with him. We also made friends with the security guard at the main doors who told us we were the first Americans he had ever met and wanted something to remember us by. We got him a $1 bill and got his phone number so maybe we will get to help teach him the gospel! No law or surgery can prevent the work from moving forward! 

Zone Conference- Wednesday was our Rostov/Crimea Zone Conference! It was a little stressful getting everything organized and ready for it. We had 33 people in attendance which makes up more than half of the Rostov-na-Donu Mission! But more people just added to the great spirit that is always with us when we all gather. One member who works in the office came to make some announcements and told us that he felt like he was back in the temple the Spirit was so strong, pretty sweet! Our overall theme was "Accomplishing our Purpose as Volunteers." Our purpose has not changed,  but how we accomplish it has. We discussed planning and prioritizing, working with active and less active members, how to keep improving with Russian, and I led a discussion on how we fulfill our purpose through service. I focused on the September Liahona article, "Practice Pure Religion" that I almost think was written for we as Russian volunteers. 

President Miner had some great messages as always. Being without Sister Miner, he had to do a lot more than usual but still delivered the power and energy that he always has with him. We were given numbers from throughout the mission that showed us just how much work we have to do. The branch I currently serve in has 391 confirmed members but an average sacrament attendance of 90, giving us 301 less active members and those percentages are uniform throughout the mission. A lot more than just our normal investigator pool! He shared a story about his senior year of high school when their star quarterback went out for the season in their first game in a season with high potential. After giving a shout out to Highland High and saying "Go Rams' and a few Elders that have spent too much time with me made a ram with their hands, he explained that they still played and played hard. We are without our star player, our main tool for doing the Lord's work, however we are still very much so still in the game and must keep playing! He talked about marathons and how the key to a solid time is actually slowing down, finding a pace that is sustainable until the end. The Church in Russia is still in its first generation and we plan on being here long term for the whole marathon not just for a short sprint so we can now slow down and strengthen the branches internally. We were assured that we can still serve extremely successful, impactful missions, we just might not see the fruits of our labor immediately. As long as we feel the Spirit working through us, we know we are successful, exactly the same way we knew in the past.

We were also informed that our mission is downsizing. We have had almost 70 volunteers for awhile, down to the low 60's right now, but that will be going down to the low 40's soon. Everyone gets to stay here but many that were called here have been reassigned to other missions.

After Conference we were able to have some training with all the District Leaders led by the Assistants. It was good to discuss some expectations and get on the same page. 

Service- Went to the English school twice this week. First time was in the same discussion group but with a different teacher. Afterwards, the staff asked us to come back the next day just to talk with them in English and we did. We love seeing them, they just light up when we walk in! We do not even do much for them, they are just great people!

We helped the Selmash Elders serve a family this week out there. Helped them by moving these huge blocks getting used for building a house. It was pretty hard but they were very grateful and fed us a lot afterwards. As we were talking and eating, I figured out that the one sister has a sister in Krasnodar and we used to serve her husband down there. It was fun to make that connection!

Sasha- Sasha is a great friend of mine who was found by Elder David on the streets about a year ago. He comes to church every week and would be baptized but just needs to get married first. This week his mom had us over for some food because it was Sasha's last week before he moves to Miami, Florida. Sunday was his last day and it was sad to say bye to him but he will be back in Rostov in December so hopefully I will get to see him again. He is such a great guy and is so happy and nice to all of us, he will be missed! 

Sunday- During Sacrament Meeting all the volunteers and a few members sang, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" in Russian and it sounded way good! 
Also during Sacrament Meeting we got the surprising announcement that starting in a few weeks the Rostov Center Branch will only have two hours of church. This is so that we can focus on and strengthen those first two, crucial hours. Also so that the branch can focus on serving others, especially the many less active members. They will now have that extra time on Sundays to do so! Our Sunday School lesson went really well, we had a good discussion about our standards and getting our friends and family to respect them. They opened up about some experiences they have had at school and with friends and it was great to just relate to them and try to help them out. There are some really solid kids in there!

Took Sister Ludmila the sacrament and also read to her a chapter from the Book of Mormon. She would not let us leave until we sang a few hymns too. Always great to spend some time with her!  Thank you all for the love, support and prayers.

Love you all so much! Till next week! 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Pictures -  HBD to one of the assistants, me & my Russian brothers, Elder Shumway & I after a good Zone Conference, tired after day of service,  sunset, zone conference

Monday, September 12, 2016


Could not think of a much better title! Shout out to my Utes for the big win. Elder Shumway and I may or may not have whistled "Utah Man" on our way to church after hearing the good news! 

Now for my week, a pretty eventful one! 

Service- This week we did some service with the sisters for Sister Ludmila. We did some cleaning at her apartment and helped her get some things organized. She is the best! 

We went back to the English school, we helped out at and it has been a couple weeks since we had been there, so within about 30 seconds of us arriving, we had the whole staff huddled around us asking how we were doing and where we had been. It is so awesome to see how excited they get when we come, we have made some pretty good friendships there. The main guy told us to come back the next day to participate in an English discussion so we did and the teacher spoke really well in English and looked Indian but I started by asking him what his name was. When he said his last name was "Kumar" I knew immediately he was from India. I got super excited and it turns out he is from Northern India, one state away from where I have been. He was pretty shocked that I had been up there as was I to meet someone here in Russia from there. It was a sweet tender mercy that day to be reminded of my service in India. We hope to keep going to that same class! 

We went back to the animal shelter for our weekly visit. Helped take down an old dog house and move some wood around. We also have some good friends there and they are always happy to see us and they tell us to come more often.

We have a friend named Alexander that we usually serve weekly as well. We just help in his garden with anything and he always gives us fresh fruits and vegetables in return. He speaks English but also always asks us to speak Russian so he can help us. This week we helped him set up his new camera that is like a GoPro for his upcoming diving trip. He has no idea how to work it and he was super grateful for our help.
Serving others is so rewarding!!

Callings- This week we spent some time with our Sister Training Leader and the Zone Leaders in Crimea where  the Russian volunteers are to coordinate our upcoming Zone Conference. We got an agenda put together and decided what each of us would talk about, under the direction of President Miner. We still have a lot of work to do but we hope to have a great Conference on Wednesday, it is always great to have the whole Zone gathered together- there is a special spirit in those meetings. 

As I mentioned last week, we were called to be Youth Sunday School teachers. This week, Elder Taylor- Sunday School President- met with us to orient us and he gave us some helpful tips and resources. Sunday we had our first lesson and it went alright for the first time. There were a lot more kids than usual and we got them off their phones but struggled to keep them quiet. We are really trying to put effort into this calling and get involved in their lives and become their friends, and not just on Sundays. Overall, it is an awesome calling and we are excited about the future. 

Splits- We went up to our Severny District Wednesday night to start splits with the Elders up there. Thursday we all went to the Severny District Meeting where Elder Nelson led a discussion on the Power of One and we just talked about how God loves all of his children so much that he would put us through extensive training and all that we do, just to help one. Elder Bednar recently said, "Would the Lord send one of his servants half way around the world to help just one person? Yes, he does it all the time." After the meeting, I was with Elder Isaev here in Rostov Center for the day. He is a very happy, great Russian volunteer of ours. We are going to miss him as he prepares to leave to Crimea to serve there. 

Branch- This week we finally got our work with the members coordinated so we know who is working with who. We have about 400 members here in Rostov and about 80-100 come every Sunday so we have tons and tons of people to reach out to and show some love to! We are planning to go to one a day this week! 

Friday we had our weekly sports night and we get different people every week. It is always a good time and we hope to get more and more people coming as we keep it going and as it gets colder outside. 

Sunday- Yesterday was a day I will likely not forget. First, I heard early that the Utes won so that was sweet!
In the morning we had the rare opportunity to meet with Elder Samaykin- a Area Seventy. He requested to meet with just the volunteers from the Rostov branch before church started. He was amazing! He spoke perfect English first of all but just talked and connected with us as we discussed what is going well in the branch and what could be improved. He also told us a little more about Russian culture so that we can better relate to the members. He is a happy man and a true example of the joy and guidance that comes from the Gospel. He spoke in Sacrament about finding a spot for the Savior in our hearts. He also taught the 3rd hour as a combined meeting with all the adults. He talked about the new law and how we (volunteers and members) need to be unified. We should know each other by name and be involved in each other's lives. He asked what prevents that from happening and members expressed their fears of neighbors or family members who are against the church. One member then stated, "The volunteers are literally representatives of Jesus Christ. If he himself were to come over, would you be ashamed or afraid?" It was a powerful, honest meeting and was exactly what the branch needed! 

Sunday we had President Miner at our branch and he informed us right as the third hour was ending that one of our volunteers was in the hospital with appendicitis, going in for an operation. He sent Elders Shumway and I to the hospital and we got there as soon as we could. There had been lots of confusion with the language barrier and so we helped get some understanding between both sides and finally got Elder Foote into surgery. Hospitals here are extremely different than what we are used to in the states and the culture in general is really different so we faced some challenges but afterwards we reflected on it and recognized the divine help we had, especially the gift of tongues. Elder Foote had a successful surgery and we spent some time with him last night and today. He is going to have to be there for about 6 days probably so please just keep him in your prayers. He was already feeling a lot better today and we will be going back tonight

Sunday night I got to talk to the Johnstuns who are on their way home! I can not believe that they have finished their missions! They will be deeply missed by all of us, especially the members down in Krasnodar! Thanks for all the updates, support, love and prayers

Love you all, till next week! 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Pictures -

Sleepover in Sevemy, GO UTES(taken after our morning workout-so don't mind us), Me from our apartment. 

Monday, September 5, 2016


Hey everyone! 

Another week in the books, these weeks just keep flying by! Somehow we are already starting the third week of the transfer! Feels like yesterday we started this new transfer. Each transfer I take time to evaluate where I am at and set goals to move forward. This transfer, my theme is "Foundation" because as I was studying the Book of Mormon recently in Helaman 5, verse 12 stuck out to me more than it ever has before. That verse has always been a favorite of mine but this time it was exactly what I needed. So I am trying to strengthen my foundation built on Christ and I have started reading and studying "Jesus the Christ" which is just absolutely incredible. I am only a couple chapters in and my testimony and knowledge of the Savior has already grown! Just thought I would share that will all of you.  Happy Birthday to my sister and sister-in-law!!  Hope you both had a great birthday!!

Last Tuesday we had the Elders from Stavropol come up here! Due to some planning mistakes, they ended up having to take the trip back down to Stavropol the morning after getting here but it was great to see them and spend some time with them. The Stavropol Branch is actually closing in a couple weeks which is hard for them but they are staying positive! 

Thursday we had an awesome District Meeting and we got to have Sister Miner with us! Our District Leader had us go around and share a miracle from the week and it was extremely powerful to hear everyone's various experiences throughout the week. Many shared about struggling to feel like we are doing anything here but then they all had experiences that confirmed to them that they are indeed still performing the Lord's work. Sister Miner also had an experience like that and we just know that we are all going through these changes together and sometimes it is hard to understand why or what to do but in the end, the work is moving forward and we are all still on the Lord's Errand! We then discussed reaching out to Less Actives and I was asked to share about Fergie back from the days in Volzhiky. Recently found out that she is still actively attending church and doing way well! It was fun to reflect on that experience and share it. 

Friday I was on splits with the District Leader from the Zapadny (West) District- Elder Burgoyne. He just got here this transfer from Volzhky and before Volzhky, he served in Sochi so it was fun to talk about both of those branches that we have both served in. We went to Sister Ludmila who was beyond excited to meet him and then she asked us to help her with some cleaning so of course we did. We mopped and vaccuumed and she danced haha. We then went to the Animal Shelter where we did some cleaning for them. On our way out, one of the workers told us that she loves us which really shocked me. People don't generally say that to people unless they are really close and I have never heard someone tell me they love me here besides members- still hard to get Elder T to tell me he loves me haha. They really appreciate our service there! Friday night we had Sports/Game Night and we had a lot more people come- both members and non-members. We had some great games and ping pong going and it seemed like everyone had a great time! 

Saturday morning we went up to the Severny (North) area and met the volunteers and members from the branch up there at an Orphanage that they have been helping at. We moved a ton of furniture there for a few hours and we were pretty exhausted after but it was really rewarding. The people there were very nice and thankful. One of the little boys there named Dima was talking to me and told me that I am clearly a basketball player while he was running around playing soccer. Felt like I was back in India for a minute, although here I can actually talk to the kids in their language! Saturday night we had a district wide Young Single Adults activity here in the Center Branch that also went well. It was their kick off to Institute and we just played games and had a good time. 

Last week, I wrote about how we served Sister Inkles. Well, we were able to gain her trust and become friends with her through that service and this week she invited us over to meet her parents who were in town and are non- members. They were super friendly and we had a great visit with them. Her mom made us homemade Russian blini with homemade raspberry jam so I was in heaven! Then Saturday night she called us and needed us to hurry over and help carry a new fridge up to their apartment and she was very thankful for that- she calls all the volunteers "angels." Sunday we were released as Primary Teachers and called to be Youth SundaySchool teachers and right after we got sustained, I heard someone whisper, "Elder Tucker" and I turned around to see Sister Inkles raising both her hands to sustain us with a big smile on her face. She will be are co-teacher in that class. She is always sharing the gospel with everyone so as we gain her trust, we will be able to work with her to teach the gospel to those she finds! She has become a good friend of ours!

Sunday was a great Fast Sunday! We fasted as a mission for some miracles to take place so that we may continue to teach and baptize as we were just a couple months ago. With some faith and diligence, we will see miracles! 
Some powerful testimonies were shared as always, but the strongest hands down came from Sister Taylor. Elder and Sister Taylor work in the Mission Office and although they know the few neccessary words in Russian, they do not get the practice like we do. When she stood up, Elder Shumway went up to translate but she shocked us all when she bore her simple, powerful testimony in Russian- with perfect grammar. It brought me to tears and it was just incredible to hear. 
After Church we got to take the Sacrament to Sister Toma who just waits for us all Sunday and gets so happy when we come. She is incredible! 
Sunday Night we met with the Sisters and Skyped the Zone Leaders in Crimea to start planning our upcoming Zone Conference that will take place next week on the 14th. We have lots to do to get that ready and we hope it will be a good one!  Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!

Love you all! Till next week! 

P.S. I am fully aware of what is going on this weekend.  I will be wearing all my red ties. Go UTES!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Pictures- from district meeting (role playing-making phone calls).