Monday, October 24, 2016

Best Week of My Mission

Hey all, as the title says, this week was just incredible. By far the best of my mission,so far!! Never had so many spiritual experiences and so many miracles in one week. I will try to fit in as much as I can into this email, but it wont do it justice. 

It all started last monday night on our split with Elder Martino from the Area Presidency and President Miner. We were pretty nervous beforehand and we just said a prayer together and everything went so well. It helps when both President Miner and Elder Martino are so great and friendly. First, we all met with Yura. Sister Inkeles gave Yura a Book of Mormon four years ago when they first met and then never heard anything from him. She ended up finding him on facebook and invited him to church many weeks ago. Since then, we have become good friends with him and have started teaching him as an investigator and he is so prepared for the gospel. Even Elder Martino was shocked at how prepared he is. We talked mostly about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and he was asking Elder Martino great questions about how he got his answer about the Book of Mormon and all sorts of other things, he knew that it was a rare opportunity to have those two with us. I got to translate the whole time for Yura and Elder Martino and I was in shock afterwards just how real the gift of tongues is. Elder Shumway told me, and I knew, that I had never spoken Russian like that before, it just flew out. It was such a powerful lesson. Elder Martino asked Yura how he came to know God exists and Elder Martino said he has never heard a better answer from an investigator. Yura said he knows by experience, by praying and then acting. And through that, God helps him make changes from doing bad things to doing good. By the end, Yura apologized for not reading the Book of Mormon four years ago when he received it and has committed to read it now. 
After that, we went to the Inkeles family for Family Home Evening.  Brother Ivan who is the Head Coach of the Rostov Soccer Team, was there as well. I have been wanting to meet him for a long time. He is the Inkeles' home teacher. We talked about Elder Holland's, "Behold Thy Mother" which was a "big surprise" for Sister Inkeles. Her kids told her why they love her and it was a special evening. They then fed us but we had to go before they gave us too much. 

Tuesday Morning we had our Mission Leadership Council at the Mission Home with Elder and Sister Martino. When we walked in, he was telling the other volunteers about how much fun he had on our split the night before and was talking all about Yura! Elder Martino led a powerful discussion with all of us. He first asked, "What does the Church need here to be strengthened?" And once we got a list together, he showed us how we as volunteers can be heavily involved in every aspect to strengthen the Church, while still following the new law. In fact, he told us how when the Area President talked to some of the apostles about the new law in Russia, they were so excited about it. They told him that the Lord has been telling them for years that he does not want his missionaries on the streets finding, but rather working through members, and now Russia's laws are forcing us to do so! He then covered with us how important we are as leaders. He told us that no mission president could change the culture of a mission, only we can, "the best of the best." We all then discussed and came up with Standards of Excellence for the mission, intended to raise our expectations and increase our faith. We have 5 Standards (see pictures) now and they are tough but achievable with faith, obedience, and hard work. We, as leaders, are expected to go even higher than the standards. Everyone we work with has their agency, but that is not a cop out, we can do more! He ended by promising that we have hundreds prepared in our mission- we will continue to teach and baptize! He quoted Joseph Smith who said that, "Russia will play a major part in the restoration before the savior comes." We don't know what that part is but we are here to make it happen. We are the weak things of the earth, but we are the best He's got. As long as we are passionate about the work, like Elder Martino, we will see miracles!
After MLC, Elder Martino asked to get a picture with Elder Shumway and I. He told us that he wants Yura baptized by the new year and wants us to get Sister Inkeles' husband reactive in the church. He also wants us to get a Liahona article written about Sister Inkeles and he will get it in there. He thanked us for letting him come out with us, but we assured him the pleasure was ours.

Wednesday, we watched the Priesthood Session of Conference with Ilya, the new Elders Quorom President. We are going to keep working with him to lighten his load and strengthen him! After that, I lost my wallet, but that is a different story, sorry about that mom! (thanks Mom for arranging to help replace the things that were lost).

Thursday was our Rostov and Crimea Zone Conference once again with the Martinos and Miners. We had 33 in attendance. I conducted the meeting which was nerve-racking but went well. Some of the highlights: Elder Martino pulled Elder Shumway and I to the front and had us talk about our lesson with Yura. He highlighted that he was 1. found through a member and 2. we did not teach a cookie cutter restoration lesson but rather followed the spirit and taught to his needs. He mentioned our split multiple times throughout conference! He told us that although they changed our names to volunteers for visas, we should never, ever forget who we really are and what was written on our call letters. We introduced the Standards of Excellence to everyone and Elder Martino raised everyone's vision of what can be done. He shared how when he served as a young missionary in Central America, there was one stake. He returned 30+ years later as Area President and there were 120 now, every small branch he served in was a stake. There will be a stake in Rostov, not while I am here, but we can do so much of the ground work to get it closer! We had two powerful musical numbers and the Spirit was just undeniable. Everyone could feel it. President Miner even leaned over to me two different times and said, "Isn't this the greatest thing ever?" We are entering a new era in the Rostov mission now that we know what we can achieve while still following the law and it is exciting! 
After Conference, we went to Andrei who is inactive. He was a lot friendlier this time and we had a good discussion. He said he does not want the gospel forced on him so we just left a Liahona with him and he, surprisingly, accepted it happily. We then went to our English school and Dima, the one student, did not show up so it was just us and the teacher. He invited us into his classroom and said, "Guys, I want to know more about your church." We told him what we could and hope to get him to the church for Game Night soon. 
Friday we met with Yura again with Sister Inkeles. He has not started reading the Book of Mormon because it is at his parents' place but he assured us that he will get it and start it. We covered the whole plan of salvation and it was received very well. He really loves the idea of repentance and said he wants to! It was another powerful lesson and we hope to commit him to being baptized this week. 

Saturday we had a baptism for someone from the Novocherkask branch! The Spirit is always so strong at a baptism when someone has come to know the truth and is ready to enter into that covenant with God. He bore a powerful testimony of how happy he felt while under water and afterwards. A happiness he "could not describe." All the volunteers sang the Primary song "I like to look for Rainbows" in Russian and that was powerful too. We also got to serve a less active member that day and all she had us do was shut a window so we had lots of time to talk about prayer. She then came to church on Sunday
Saturday we had a huge miracle. I wrote a few weeks back about two young boys, age 8 and 11, that we gave blessings to and I think I wrote about them last week too. We were hoping to start teaching them, their grandma and great grandma are really solid members but their mom is inactive and against the church and hem getting baptized. The boys stay with their grandma and great-grandma on weekends so we went over to them and we were going to share examples of the scriptures of hearts being softened and talk about what we can do to soften their mom's heart. We told them we need that because we can't even teach them without permission and their grandma said, "well you will probably never get it.." but decided right then and there to call their mom and ask. The mom talked to one of the little boys who expressed how badly he wants to learn from us and their mom gave approval right then and there before we even started our lesson. We were all just shocked, we taught about baptism and prayer and scripture study. They both committed to praying every night that their mom will let them get baptized. They both kept saying how bad they want to be baptized and it was so special to be a part of. At church, the younger one came up to me and told me he both prayed and read a whole chapter of the book of mormon by himself. Both the boys were so good in Church yesterday and it has just all been a big miracle which can all be accredited to the power of the priesthood because we blessed them for this exact reason and we have seen that blessing fulfilled right in front of our eyes. 

This is the Lord's work. We currently have 3 investigators that our progressing towards baptism. That just would not be possible with the legal restrictions we work under if this was not His work. I am so blessed to be here at this time and to be a Zone Leader which has allowed me to have close interaction with a General Authority who has been called by God to be over this area. This week is going to be hard to beat, but the miracles will not stop.
Till next week!  Thanks for all your love, support and prayers!! (Prayers really do work).

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures- Main man himself Elder James B. Martino, Found some cinnamon toast crunch last week, Pizzaaa, First Ever- "Standards of Excellence" Countdown to the World Cup, Pics of Zone Conference

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