Hey everyone! Hope you all had a great week, doesn't get much better than Conference Weekend, while on the mission! Had a great week before Conference, as well!
As volunteers, we get to do one cultural event per transfer so early last week our friend Alexander took us to the old, little village called Starocherkask. Starocherkask is the former capital of the Cossack's who, from what I understand, were known for their fighting skills and helped Russia a lot in wars and such. There was so much history there and a really old cathedral that we got to walk around in. We also got to go into a sweet museum. Everyone has been telling us that we have to go out there and it really was a great experience. Wish I knew Russian history better! It also strengthened my testimony to see that although our faith and the dominant faith in Russia are different, the main focus is the Savior. It was so cool to see that even in the middle of nowhere Russia, Jesus is indeed the Christ.
Wednesday morning we were up and at the train station early to pick up Elder Nelson coming in from Sochi after some apartment complications down there. He has been with us ever since because our apartment is big enough legally to house three. So we have been serving in a tripanionship and it has actually been great. Elder Nelson is a happy kid and a great addition to Rostov. That night we got to meet with Slava, a less active member. He is such a great guy with a good heart. He seems to have a lot of righteous intentions and we are excited to help him get back to acting on them! He now calls us often to see how we are doing and today we set up a meeting with him for tomorrow to watch conference! After that we went out to Zapadny to start splits with those Elders.
Thursday I was on splits with Elder Clark, a great friend of mine! We had a solid District Meeting with the Miners in attendance, talking about how we can make better relationships with our members, even over the phone. More than just calling and asking to meet.
That evening we went to the English school we help out at and we witnessed a tender mercy. I have wanted so badly to get our friends there invited to our weekly Game Night but I did not know how to bring it up. In the class that night, ping pong randomly got brought up and I jumped on the opportunity by saying, "Do you guys play? We play every week and I am getting sick of winning." That flipped the competitive switch in both the teacher and the one student named Dima. Dima happened to have his paddle with him and I invited them both to game night. The teacher, Leo, said confidently that no one is better than him at ping pong and he went out to ask the front desk if he has classes to teach Friday nights and unfortunately he does. But Dima put it in his phone and was so excited about coming. Unfortunately, he did not show up but hopefully we will get him to come this week!
Friday we went out to the District Meeting in Zapadny, they have a solid district out there and it was great to see the volunteers and hear their goals and experiences. Earlier that morning, in personal study, I studied, "Faith to Find and Baptize Converts" by Neil L. Andersen that we have been asked to read to prepare for our upcoming Zone Conference. It was so good and really re-ignited my flame of faith that the Lord is still preparing people for us to teach and baptize. He openly recognized that there are lower baptizing areas geographically but no matter where or what the circumstances, there are people being led to the restored gospel. He also talked about miracles and how we must have "high hopes and high expectations" in our missions in order to see life changing miracles. We sent out a text to the Rostov Zone establishing that as our theme for this transfer. We have high love, but we need to higher our expectations of one another to see miracles!
Saturday was finally the big day- woke up excited. I took like 18 pages of notes throughout Conference but here are some of my highlights:
First of all, the music! The missionary choir was so powerful and of course loved when MoTab sang my favorite hymn, Lead Kindly Light.
Alma 5:26 was shared a couple times throughout conference and is a good overview of the conference. I was really feeling the spirit so strongly throughout the whole conference.
Saturday Morning and Sunday Morning were probably my favorite sessions if I had to choose. I needed to hear President Uchtdorf's reminder to not let ourselves get to accustomed to the gospel and the great plan of salvation. His comparison to getting used to technology and forgetting how extraordinary it is, this was so relatable. I also loved all the prayer advice as I have been striving to strengthen my prayers recently.
Neil A. Anderson and Dallin H. Oaks both spoke about our responsibility to share the gospel. I am sure we will be using those talks frequently as we visit members as they are the only missionaries in this country! Elder Anderson shared the story about Nadezhda in Moscow who always gives the Book of Mormon to others, just like Sister Inkeles here in the Center branch.
In Priesthood, I liked President Uchtdorf's analysis of Alma and Amulek, it helped me know how I can be a better leader and caused me to ponder about the Amuleks in my life. We are all studying those chapters right now to prepare for Zone Conference so it was great to hear his apostolic analysis.
What a privilege it was to hear from the prophet on Sunday morning- my favorite session! He spoke about the perfect plan of peace and happiness which was a great lead into my favorite talk from President Nelson about how we can exist in order to have joy. "Only saints can be happy in any circumstance" is such a true statement- I have witnessed it in this mission while amongst my fellow volunteers. After all, joy has nothing to do with our circumstances, but all to do with the focus of our lives. We have the great blessing to focus on what is really important for these two years, and there truly is joy in that.
Finally, we heard from Elder Rasband about not forgetting. At the bottom of my notes, I wrote to myself, "Elder Tucker, never forget the burning confirmation from the Holy Ghost that you have felt during this conference. The Church is true!" I testify that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true and led by a prophet and apostles, all truly called by God. I am so thankful for them and for a loving Father in Heaven who gives us modern day direction. I know it is true because I truly feel it, and I will never be able to deny those feelings.
Saturday, in between sessions, all of us prepared an awesome lunch, I will send pictures. Grateful for the Rostov District!
Sunday morning we got to go to the Inkeles' to help Sister Inkeles get her kids to Church. She said when their dad goes to work he always tells them to listen to their mom and go to church but the second he leaves, she loses all control so she asked us to help because her kids really like us. We went over and two/three were already all dressed up and ready to go. Third one was not so ready but he eventually gave in as well. Sister Inkeles was on cloud 9 as we all walked to the branch together, it was a special moment to be a part of.
Got to watch the Sunday Morning Session with President and Sister Miner as well! After the session, we were asked to give some blessings of health and counsel. I was pretty moved when a little former Primary student of ours, after being asked a few times who he wanted to give him the blessing, whispered out "Tucker". I had no idea he even knew my name! The spirit and gift of tongues are real, and so is the power of the priesthood!
Sorry for the novel, but it was a special week! Got some more to do to prepare for the arrival of Elder Martino, we get to go on splits with him next Monday night! Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Таккер
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Pictures - Travels to Starocherkask, Pictures of us before, during and in between sessions of conference