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

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