Monday, November 28, 2016

Most Beautiful Diamond

Hey everyone! 

It was such a busy week, felt like we were running around all week, sometimes literally to get home on time! We had a lot of service this week and had some memorable experiences that I am excited to share with you! 
As I mentioned we had a lot of service this week. It had been awhile since I had been out in service clothes serving my brothers and sisters! We helped some members this week, the Pavlovs. We had to make a couple trips out to their home but eventually got everything done! We somehow managed to dig some holes in the frozen ground and one day was just warm enough for us to make cement and get it poured in the holes with some poles. This was all done so that they could get gas in their home so they will have some heat finally! 
We also helped one sister who is moving down to Krasnodar with her daughter. We carried out their furniture and boxes for the move. It felt so good to do some service, even in the negative temperatures, it is the warmth inside that comes from serving that really counts! 

The biggest service of the week, however, was helping Sister Ludmila. We were pretty much on call with her this week and took her to all of her eye appointments before her operation on Thursday and after the operation. After lots of prayers and building her faith and confidence going into it, the operation went well! On Saturday we went over to take her to her post-operation check up and as we were walking down the stairs she stopped and said, "Tucker is that you?" She squinted and looked really close at me before saying, with a big smile on her face, "Мой самый красивый бриллиантик" which means "my most beautiful diamond." It was a pretty special moment that I will never forget. At her appointment, they said that she sees about 40% right now and after another operation on Tuesday,  it will be closer to 100%. She was complimenting people's shoes and stuff and they were just all in shock because they saw her a few days ago when she could not see at all. It has been weird seeing her be able to walk around on her own and even read some things. She quite often would just look at us and get the biggest smile on her face. She told us on Sunday that she knew the operation was possible about 5 years ago when she became blind but at that point in her life, she said she did not even want to live anymore let alone get her sight back. She said she would have never agreed to the operation or any of this without us and our spiritual and physical support. It has been a huge blessing for me to see her get her sight back and to partake of the joy that has come from it. I have been amazed at the miracles that have fallen into place for this to happen just as all must have been amazed that witnessed Christ do the same healing of the blind with nothing but his hands. Luda also said that she will have to recover for about a month and a half but then she wants to start coming to church which is just another great opportunity for her now that she can see again! 

Besides service though, also had a lot of other things going on throughout the week. Tuesday we were at the Inkeles' for Vanya's birthday- he turned 14 years old and should becoming a teacher in the priesthood soon! Got fed lots of food and met Brother Inkeles' non-member parents and hopefully gave them a good impression of the Church! 

Thursday we were out in Zapadny for District Meeting and we had a good discussion about good, better, and best. Elder Clement also gave a spiritual thought about remembering and how we have holidays to remember,  but he challenged us to be grateful daily and not just when it is a special day. Honestly, I kind of forgot it was Thanksgiving because it is not celebrated here but I am extremely grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what it has done for my life and the lives of those I am surrounded by. It is the good news being spread around the world and the greatest gift one could ever have! (We are planning a thanksgiving/Christmas activity for the branch).
The rest of Thursday I was on a split with Elder Clark and we had a good day together. He always has good questions about how to do things better and although I do not always have the answer, we always have good conversations about how we can improve ourselves and our work! 

Friday was Mission Leadership Council in the Mission Home which is always such a powerful event. All the leaders of the Rostov Mission are so passionate about this work and improving, it is always so inspiring. This MLC was one of my favorites because it was so well put together and organized by the assistants. We had a great discussion about planning and organizing and what the mission needs right now. I was also asked to give a 10 minute training on making an organized Member Book which was really fun to do. We got a clear plan for Zone Conference that will be on December 6th. We are going to talk about faith, organization, and planning with the main theme being, "The more excellent way" from the verses 1 Corinthians 12:31 and Ether 12:11 in hopes to help all understand that we can either do this work the easy way or the more excellent, better way that the Lord would have us do! It should be a good one! 

Saturday we had a lesson with Bogdan and Nikita. We talked about faith and repentance and they asked great questions and had a good understanding of those first two principles of the Gospel. They have not received permission yet to be baptized but little 8 year old Bogdan did a full fast from Saturday to Sunday in hopes that it will soften the heart of his parents. The Branch President also asked all of us in Sacrament Meeting to include Bogdan and Nikita in our fast next week so that they can get baptized! They were not expecting that announcement! We continue to work with them and hope and pray for the best! 
Later Saturday we got to go to Brother Yuri. He is a less active member that we are over but we did not have his phone number or address. He showed up to church last week and I talked to him and found out it was him! There was lots of confusion with his address still but after a few attempts we found it and met with him. He is moving in a couple days up towards Moscow but he came to church again on Sunday and we will keep in touch. 

Sunday was a good one! I got to pass the sacrament which I had not done for awhile and it was really humbling to see how all the members so reverently and prayerfully partake of the sacrament. We had a pretty full house too which is always good to see! The highlight of the meeting though, was when the primary sang "I love to see the temple." It was the first primary number I have seen in Russian. Sister Taylor has done so much to help the Primary program here and she does not even speak Russian! It might have brought a few tears to my eyes! 
Sunday School lesson went alright this week, it was not the most reverent hour but sometimes I think it is payback for when I was not the best in Sunday School! We talked about overcoming our doubts that we all have about the Gospel. Challenged them all to bear testimony next Sunday and most said that they would!!

We have a great week ahead of us starting with a lesson with Yura our investigator tonight who has not been able to meet for a couple weeks. We had another tender mercy on Sunday when an active member invited us over to her house this weekend and said that these recent converts we really want to work with will be there and they want to start coming back to church! We have not been able to work with them because some of their family members are against the Church so we could not go to their house but we will be meeting and teaching them this week!
Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!  

Love you all! 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures: Christmas decorations in the office,  Sunrise, While you all had a turkey dinner-this is what I ate on Thanksgiving(next best thing..haha), Me and Elder Norton, Me and one of the Assistants,District Training Meeting

Monday, November 21, 2016

New Comp and Happy Thanksgiving

Hey all!

Sorry to write so late, we did some service today! 

It has been a different week being without Elder Shumway for the first time in 4 1/2 months, but I am very thankful for my new companion, Elder Randall is great! He is from Gilbert, Arizona where he went to Highland High School just like me haha. He has spent the last ten months turning things around in a little area called Taganrog and is adjusting to life in the big city! We get along well and it is going to be a good transfer with him! 

Wednesday we got to take Sister Ludmila to an eye appointment, it is always a great time when we are taking her around. She is just constantly laughing and joking around, truly one of a kind. We have been trying to increase her faith as she prepares for the operation this Thursday, she is pretty nervous! At her appointment this week, I asked her what she is going to do when she sees me for the first time and she said she might just die. And I said, "yeah, out of fear" and she got quite the kick out of that. I am so excited for her to get her vision back! 
Wednesday night we had a District wide activity here in the Center Branch with Brother Ivan who is one of the head coaches of Rostov's soccer team. Russians love their 'futbol' and just about everyone in Rostov is a big fan of FK Rostov. He is a long time member, has kids that served on missions, etc. and he just led a discussion about a Liahona article. It was really good and there was a pretty good turnout. 

Thursday we met with Ilya, the Elder's Quorom President, to find some members on Social Media that we have lost contact information for and to help him get Home Teaching organized in the Center Branch. Him and I have gotten pretty close and we are glad to help him in any way we can! 
Later in the day on Thursday we went to our English School and helped on an advanced class. They were all excited to meet Elder Randall and it was good to see everyone. After that, we met with Lika, a member here who really wants to help bring others unto Christ!

On Friday we had District Meeting with lots of new faces in the Center District! We talked about having the faith to find and baptize and how the Lord is without a doubt preparing people in this area, but he will only lead them to his prepared servants. I know that there are prepared people in Rostov and that as we put in our efforts, we will see miracles! That evening we had weekly game night and some of our regulars did not come but we still had an alright crowd come for games and treats! 

Saturday we got to clean the bottom floor of the branch in the morning before going to see Bogdan and Nikita! We taught them the second half of the Restoration and they are understanding more and more about the Gospel! I have come to learn from teaching them that the Gospel, when kept in it's purest form, is so simple. Simple enough for a child, in this case quite literally. The Restored Gospel is such a beautiful, simple message that often times gets over complicated but the basics are what it all comes down to! They will be asking their dad for permission to be baptized either this weekend or next so we continue to pray that we will see a miracle! 

Sunday I decided to fast after studying about fasting on Saturday which really increased my understanding of fasting and why we do it. It is really for increased spiritual strength and not just because everyone  else is doing it on the first sunday of the month! This fast meant more to me and as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, it was like "rejoicing" rather than a multi-hour struggle without food and water! Fasting works, I know it! 
We had a smaller group in our Sunday School class and the lesson went really well. We talked about being spiritually self reliant and not relying on the testimonies of others but truly having our own testimony. We discussed questions from Elder Klebingat that essentially asked, If judgement day were tomorrow, would you be ready spiritually? They took the topic very seriously, one was even brought to tears! So then we talked about how we get a testimony using a talk from President Uchtdorf- Step 1 being to have the desire and Step 2 studying the scriptures. We introduced a 90 day challenge where they have to read the scriptures for 90 days in a row! Told them they could choose a reward but for now they said they don't want a reward, they just want to study for their own sakes! Pretty sweet! 
Took the Sacrament to Luda then went out in the -1 weather for about 3.5 hours going to less active members. Some actually opened their door this time and talked to us for a minute but did not get into any of the homes. There is still lots of potential though, we know we are needed to someone, somewhere!

I love you all so much, I am so grateful for the incredible friends, family, and support team I have,  that makes it possible for me to be here. Have a great Thanksgiving! 

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures -  Me and Elder Randall, Sneg(snow in Russian), Flowers, Service Crew today, Me and Elder Norton

Monday, November 14, 2016


Hey All,

It has been one hot week in Rostov, honestly it has been like over 70 degrees but now we are back to cold and rainy. It was also the last week of the transfer and it was a bittersweet one! 

Last Monday was full of little miracles. All three companionships in Rostov center received online referrals of people wanting a Book of Mormon. I have never received an actual online referral on my mission and to have all 3 of us in one day,  was quite a miracle. Got to call our referral and he was a really nice, sincere man looking for the truth. Got a Book of Mormon sent to him! Later that night we happened to be right on Sister Ludmila's street when she called for us to come over and just pray with her to calm her nerves about the operation that should be happening this week. We are rarely ever over there! Then last but not least we were in a taxi going to Severny and I got talking to the driver who recognized our clothes and told us how he was once an investigator of the Church! The odds of that are also quite slim. These are just a few examples of the things we see daily! 

Tuesday I was in Severny with Elder Nelson for a split. We had a solid day together and got some good organization going for their member and area books, something we are pushing for as a mission right now. Volunteers do incredible work but if none gets recorded, it makes it hard for the future volunteers! We met with two less active members, one of which was a former branch presidency member who was so nice and seems ready to come back to church! It is always great to work in other areas and interact with all the different members. 

Wednesday we had a solid District Meeting, our last one all together. We talked a lot about how to know where the line is between making friends and our callings as set apart servants of the Lord. It has a hard line to be drawn but necessary!  
Most of our nights this week were spent out on the streets of Rostov looking for the less actives we are over, in our roles as volunteers, I have gotten real good at making cookies but unfortunately no one got to try them because all the ones we went to either moved, were not home, or did not want us over at that time. At times it got discouraging, but we have lots of valuable information now to move forward with and we ran into a couple of less actives on the streets while going around and were able to give them some cookies! We said lots of prayers to know what we can do differently to get in with these people and have received lots of answers! 

Thursday we got to meet with Sister Inkeles' husband, Anton, who is less active, with President Miner. Turns out Anton speaks English so we did not have to translate hardly at all but it was a powerful meeting! We learned a lot about him and he was really thankful that President took the time to come by. We hope we can continue to work with him and just get him the passion for the gospel that his wife has! 

Friday we had Mission Leadership Council via Skype and we talked a lot about getting members involved in the work. That was an answer to our prayers because we have been trying to do it all on our own. We need to follow the guidance from President Uchtdorf and find our Amuleks! President Miner was pleased to announce that we are back to teaching an average of 8 lessons per companionship which was our high before the law! The mission is moving forward with our new standards of excellence, we have learned what is possible when we just raise our expectations and our faith! 

Friday night was game night like usual but this week we had a great turnout. We talked as a district that we need to invite more new people and we did just that. It was great to see so many non members in the branch! We had a few really awesome people come that we hope to start teaching soon. 

Saturday we taught Bogdan and Nikita the first half of the Restoration. We are continuing to pray for them and they are going to ask their dad for permission to be baptized soon! After the lesson, they wanted to play soccer with us so bad but they do not have their own ball.. That night we got a ball for them and left it outside their door and listened as they found it and were so happy. They were very thankful, we love our little brothers! 

Sunday Bogdan and Nikita of course came to church with their Grandma and Great Grandma and asked if they could come with us to get the Inkeles boys for Church so they did and then they asked to sit with me during sacrament. Feel like a dad sometimes, but I love it. Just hope we can see more miracles with them and get them baptized! In that Sacrament meeting we had 100 people which was really awesome to see. There is so much potential in this branch and they really are doing a lot to improve and move forward! 
We got to teach Sunday School because we are the only teachers as of now and it went pretty well. Had a big class and they, for the majority of the time, were quiet and participating. Ever since we introduced homework and rewards for those that do it, the whole atmosphere has changed! 
After church we had a coordination meeting with the Relief Society Sisters and went through the whole ward list. They do an incredible job at visiting the sisters and so do we but we don't communicate. So it was so helpful to sit down and exchange information and know who is working with who- another answer to our prayers! 
Took the sacrament to Luda, she was pretty emotional that Elder Shumway is leaving. As we left, she just stood in the doorway and cried, just broke our hearts. We will be helping her this week as she prepares to get her vision back! 
After that we took a late trip in pouring rain to a city called Bataisk to give Sister Anderson a blessing. The Andersons just moved here from America, she is Russian and he her husband is American and they switch off where they live every few years so their kids learn both Russian and English. We gave Sister Anderson a blessing and had a nice visit. Our taxi driver to and from their house was so awesome and prepared for the gospel. He was a young, nice guy with a family, does not smoke or drink and even changed a song that was playing because of bad words. He wanted to talk about the church and everything of course we invited to Sports Night and we told him we will talk to him more there! There are prepared people everywhere, whether or not they choose to be taught or be baptized! 

Today has been sad seeing Elder Shumway pack up and go. It has been an incredible 3 transfers and I am going to miss him dearly. However, I did get to see Elder David today which cheered me right up. 
Tonight I am staying with the Assistants and my new companion, Elder Randall, gets here tomorrow. He has been in Taganrog all year which is in the Rostov Zone so I know him really well and I am excited to serve with him! 
Transfer #10 is officially under way! Thanks for all the prayers, love and support!!

Love you all! 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures - Final District meeting all together, District Selfie, The Dream Team, Cookies, Sunsets, Elder Boyer and Elder Norton, Elder David and Me, Goodbye to Elder Shumway, MLC Skype and Training

Monday, November 7, 2016


Hey everyone! 

Another week down in south Russia! Biggest change recently with our new standards of excellence is that all day every day is in Russian! Elder Shumway and I only speak Russian for most the day, our district and coordination meetings are now all in Russian, and we all just talk to each other in Russian! It has been way sweet! This week we also got our first snowfall but it was just early one morning and didn't even stick, today is real warm and nice! 
Sadly, this will be my last week with Elder Shumway. I am going to miss him so much and hope you will all get to his homecoming. It has been a fast 3 transfers and it will be sad to say goodbye. Transfers are not until Friday but I know I will be in Rostov once again next transfer and I have a great new companion coming in but more on that next week! 

Early last week we went to Sister Ludmila to do some service and she was very thankful we decided to go that day because she had an eye appointment that she obviously could not go on alone because she is blind and her caretaker was not really wanting to take her. So we got to take her to her appointment, guiding her every step, and walking her through all sorts of tests. We found out some really exciting news, she will be able to get an operation either this week or next and get her full sight back, in just one eye for now! Crazy to think that she will be able to see us! She told us not to worry, she won't judge us by our looks, although she asks us who is better looking haha. We will be taking her to her appointments because she does not have anyone else really, and it will be quite the moment when she sees us for the first time!! 

We had a good meeting with our little brothers Nikita and Bogdan. We talked about the covenant of baptism with them and they had a good understanding of it by the end. We fasted with their grandma and great grandma and other members on Sunday for their parents to give them permission to be baptized! We have been calling them at night to remind them to say their prayers as they asked, so they don't forget. They even called us today so see if we could go for a walk with them haha. They will be waiting for us to get back to them this Saturday and we are all just praying and hoping for a miracle with their parents! 
Had a couple great meetings with Yura this week. He has started the Book of Mormon and uses a pencil to underline different words and verses that he has questions about, and he has lots of them! We went over the 10 commandments, per his request, and he wanted to fully understand each of them and accepted them as truth. Then on Saturday, Sister Inkeles called us unexpectedly and said meet me at the branch in 10 minutes, I'll be with Yura- a great surprise! She told us that they had started talking about the Word of Wisdom and he wanted to know more about it. We covered the whole thing and he just loved it. Immediately after he asked why we didn't teach that to him the first lesson. I don't know about other missions, but the Word of Wisdom usually sounds pretty crazy to non members just because it is different from the culture here. Yura, being prepared for the Gospel, does not smoke or drink- which is a rare find in Russia- and was totally open to giving up tea and coffee. He said he has always had feelings all of that was bad, which was why he quit, but this was just confirmation to him that those feelings were right. He also said that although he won't say the Book of Mormon is true yet, he has found truth in it and he is taking the next step and going to ask to not have work on Sundays to come to Church. He is hesitant to pray which we need to focus on with him next but he is progressing in the right direction! 

Thursday we were in Zapadny Rostov for District Meeting where we discussed different examples of faith in the scriptures that apply to us. I love the example of the 2,000 young stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon who were so obedient, which leads to an increase of faith, that none were killed in battle. I know that as we are obedient, our faith will increase and we will be protected and see miracles as they did! We also have to believe in the impossible as Elder Martino taught us at MLC, because if it were easy, it would not require faith. Then the Taganrog Elders taught us about effectiveness, urgency, and back up plans. I was really impressed by Elder Clement, who is training, who taught his part in Russian! Was a great meeting! 

Friday I was on splits with Elder Wride, one of the assistants, who I love and look up to! He is very organized and speaks Russian so well! Learned a lot from him about Russian and just how to make the most of our time and the maps and resources we have! 
Friday I also got to have an interview with President Miner which is always sacred time! We discussed the Zone and things coming up with transfers and such. He told Elder Shumway later that he was surprised that we did not talk about Utah Football at all haha. He also told me that he had a Conference Call recently with all 16 mission presidents in the area and the Area Presidency and that Elder Martino was still talking about his splits with the volunteers in the Rostov mission- both with us and with other companionships. 
After talking with President, got to chat with Sister Miner as she checked my planner. We also talked about the Zone and the mission and different things, could talk to her for hours. I am so grateful for the Miners and for the relationship I have with them! Great people!!

Saturday we went to Sister Inkeles' with Sister Miner! Sister Inkeles, when we went over to her with President MIiner and Elder Martino, said she wanted Sister Miner to come so we fulfilled that request. She also said that she has two dreams, 1- to attend General Conference in Salt Lake and 2- to see a Mormon Family and how it all works. So Sister Miner came to fulfill her second dream and talked about what they did as they raised their kids. She used the talk on Family Councils given by Elder Ballard. Sister Inkeles loved it and filled her Liahona with notes, she was so grateful to have some women time with Sister MIner and to learn from her and it was our privilege to translate and be there! 

Saturday night as we cleaned the branch, a man walked in named Alim, and he asked, in English, if I knew Brady Thayer and I was just shocked that he was speaking English and knew Elder Thayer. Turns out he was a friend of theirs way over in the Astrahan area of the mission and now lives in Rostov. He came to church Sunday, we talked to him, he knew a little about the restoration but is mostly interested in going to America.. But that can always change! A cool tender mercy! 
Fast Sunday was great! Got to bless the sacrament for the first time in quite a while which is always a great experience. Then we got to hear the wonderful testimonies of the members here. Sister Miner stood up to testify and pointed at me to come up at translate and it caught me off guard, I was honored but I hope I did not mess it up to bad!! 
Our Sunday School lesson went very well! We had President Miner in our class with us which helped, all the kids participated and we had such a good discussion when usually we spend most the time talking over them and telling them to quiet down. They even did their homework and got treats for it and asked what their next assignment would be! Two of our students also testified in sacrament meeting which was pretty powerful and rewarding to see! 
Today we got a referral which literally never happens! Someone in Rostov wants a Book of Mormon in Russian! 
Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!

Till next week! 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures - Christmas came early!!! Thanks Mom (don't worry I will not open them until I am suppose too!!, District Bowling today, I bowled 151.