Monday, July 24, 2017

Goodbye Krasnodar, Hello Rostov

Hello from Rostov! 

It has been quite the week and I am currently emailing from my old desk and computer in the mission office in Rostov! I guess that leads to the transfer news - I will be serving in Rostov Center once again for the last three weeks of my mission. I am extremely blessed to be able to serve with Elder Weston, a great friend of mine, and to be an assistant to President Miner once again to end my mission. 

It was a great week, but also really sad as I left Krasnodar for the last time. We had less teaching opportunities with packing up and all of that, but we did have a good lesson with Zhenya B. Last week, he received an answer that the Church is true but did not really plan on acting on that answer. It was hard to hear him say that he would still probably go to the Church by his house because it is more convenient and that he has already read the Book of Mormon before and so why would he need to read it again? At that moment, the Spirit reminded me of what I read just that morning in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 28 and I was able to share with him verses 25-30 that if we are content with what we have and think "all is well in Zion," we will lose that which we do have. The Lord teaches us "line upon line, precept upon precept" little by little and therefore we must read, study, feast upon the words of Christ DAILY. It can't possibly be a one time thing. We are always learning and growing and improving. As we walked to the bus stop with him, he said he would probably start coming to Church soon and might even start reading. He is going to Youth Conference this week and I just hope and pray that he will have spiritual, strengthening experiences up there! 

Thursday was my 20th birthday and I was spoiled as always! I got to be on splits with Elders Foote and Romanovskii and Elder Foote made me a great pancake breakfast. We also had district meeting and the Sisters made me оливье, my favorite Russian salad. I got all sorts of letters, presents, phone calls, and texts that made me feel real special even thousands of miles away from home. The youth put a ton of work into putting on a birthday party for Sister Klimash, myslelf, and another member Nastya since all our birthdays are the same week. Also got to teach on our split and it was just an ideal birthday in Russia! Thanks for all the birthday wishes!!

Friday we were in the branch early cleaning the baptismal font for Christian's baptism!! Christian was found on our marshrutka back from the basketball game we went to last transfer by the Zone Leaders. He is from Cameroon, Africa and was taught by the Zone Leaders. The Branch President said it best yesterday. "I have never been to a baptism like that before. Not a lot of people there, but the Spirit was so strong." I was asked to be a witness for the baptism and it really was so powerful. Right when he came out of the water, he bore testimony with a tear coming down his face. Baptisms are so special. I was also able to be in the circle yesterday when he was confirmed as a member. He is a great guy and is already bringing friends to the Church! Our friends from Amway came for the baptism and I just feel like they are so close to being ready to hear the Gospel! 

Saturday morning we were at the Vokzal (train station) to say goodbye to Elder Feldman and then to Elder Foote and Sister Klimash. I got to spend the day with Elder Thayer and Romanovskii and we got to clean the whole 3 story branch which was quite the task but always feels good. 

Sunday was emotional as I spoke for the last time in the Krasnodar Branch. Although I still get nervous to speak, I felt the power and comfort of the Spirit and gift of tongues from the time I stood up at the pulpit. I was able to express my love and gratitude to them and talk about the importance of the Book of Mormon. I felt prompted at different times to testify and I  felt like I was an instrument in the Lord's hands rather than reading a scripted talk. I have grown a lot in that regard, public speaking and going off the script was far out of my comfort zone two years ago but has now become something I enjoy. I learned that the Spirit, when sought after and when I am worthy of it, will truly always be with me. 
I was so overwhelmed by the love and words from the members after Sacrament meeting. The Krasnodar Branch makes me feel like I am one of them. They are truly brothers and sisters to me and I will never, ever forget them. They will always have a special place in my heart and I know I will see them all again whether it be in this life or the next. President Palinkov gave me a hug which is a rare occurrence and he talked about me during Branch Council and he had everyone clap - I will miss him! 
From the branch, President Palinkov drove us home and we were so pressed for time but somehow got fed, packed, and to the train station on time. The Lunds were there and some members showed up to see me off. As I hugged them goodbye, I got pretty emotional and they all stood out the window until my train took off. Being without a companion on the train, I got a pretty good cry in for the three hour trip to Rostov. It was so hard to leave, but I am excited to get to work in Rostov and see other people that I love so much!  I have a lot to do and I am planning on working really hard these last few weeks.  Everyone warned me that leaving the mission will be harder than it was to leave home. I never thought that that could actually be true, but it is. Luckily, I have three weeks left before I have to say goodbye.  Thanks again for all the birthday wishes, for the love support and prayers!!

Loves!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
Строка за строкой

Pictures - Our Birthday Cake, Salt Lake City, Krasnodar Stadium, The District, me at the Birthday Party






Monday, July 17, 2017

The Spirit and Free Agency

Helllooo everyone! 

It has been a powerful week in Krasnodar with multiple spiritual experiences and people progressing! 
First off, I want to share with you all a talk that I came across yesterday on LDS.org entitled "When You’re Already Tired and Can’t Do One More Thing" and having had a familiar thought once or twice, I clicked on it and the talk from Sister Eubank was an answer to my prayers! It was the exact advice and guidance I needed to keep going! Don't get me wrong, I have loved my mission so much and will continue to do so until the end but having been on my mission for almost two years, I am tired! Sometimes even exhausted. But we keep going, keep putting our efforts, and keep relying on the Lord who helps us do what we literally could not do on our own. Her talk can be found here - https://www.lds.org/callings/relief-society/messages-from-leaders/eubank-womens-conference-2017?lang=eng

This week we met with Vasilli P.  a couple times. On our second visit, we did some service in his yard and then showed him President Monson's last Conference talk and discussed it. The Spirit of the talk and what we talked about allowed him to open up to us. He has been having some health problems recently and has even been told he may lose his life although he is young and active. He testified to us that God will help him and expressed how he does not want his life to end before he has the time to do what he needs to do. He said that President Monson is probably nearing the end of his life with no regrets, knowing he gave all he could for his years in this life, and Vasilli clearly has some regrets and things he wants to change. It was a powerful, emotional lesson and it was moving to see the Spirit work on him and see him open up for the first time. He was at church yesterday and we got him to interview with the Branch President so they could get better acquainted! 

We met with Vova once again and had a couple members with us to help teach him. The Spirit was there as we taught him and testified to him. Unfortunately, he declined to both read the Book of Mormon and come to church. He said that he wants to change but the changes he is looking for cannot be found in the Book of Mormon and he said when he comes to church, he feels like an amateur in a professional chess club pretending like he knows how to play. I appreciated that he was honest and did not just say yes because we were asking. He has his agency just as we all do! We are not giving up on him, just need to help him see that indeed all that he needs and more is in the Book of Mormon! 

Zhenya, who we met with last Sunday and I wrote about, fulfilled his commitment to pray about which Church is true and texted us and said he got an answer confirming that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is "more true" than the other ones he attends! That was another huge miracle thanks to the Spirit. 

We had a great Family Home Evening in the park with the Biletski mom and the two little boys. We taught them the Ten Commandments using hand symbols and then played some freeze tag with the boys. I have gotten really close with those boys and it is going to be so hard to say good bye to them this week! 

One of our investigators, Anya, fulfilled her commitment and started the Book of Mormon!! It was the first time she has acted and we were pretty caught of guard when she said she actually has been reading - lack of faith on our part. But we were so happy when she said she read! She is progressing slowly but surely! 

Saturday night we took our Cultural Activity for the transfer and went to the Kuban vs. Himki soccer game! I have always wanted to go to a game in Stadium Kuban and even bought Kuban apparel last year and was finally able to wear it! We lost 1-0 but it was still fun! 

Sunday morning Elder Feldman led a great Teacher Council Meeting as Sunday School President. We showed them how those Council meetings are supposed to go, that they are an opportunity to discuss and help each other, not for someone to teach a lesson.
Yesterday's sacrament meeting was all Volunteers! We sang a musical number - "I Feel My Savior's Love" and got to hear final talks/testimonies from Elder Foote and Sister Klimash who are leaving this week. We are losing 1/4 of our mission this week and so many of them have had such an impact on my mission and life. They will all be deeply missed! 

Last night we taught our recent convert Olya and her closing prayer was her thanking Heavenly Father for us and her asking Him to bless us and she was really emotional throughout the prayer and it got me emotional and just realized how hard it will be to leave Krasnodar. After serving here two times for over 6 months total, I have been so blessed to get to know the greatest people who I really consider to be my brothers and sisters. It will be a week full of goodbyes and it will not be easy, but the Lord needs me somewhere else and I will go and do the things which He commands. Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!

Loves! 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
Строка за строкой

Pictures - Soccer Field, Lunch, Cultural Activity at the soccer game






Monday, July 10, 2017

Misha Gets The Priesthood

Hey friends and family,

It was a solid week in K-Dar! We had lots of teaching opportunities once again and an incredible zone conference which made for a great week! 

We had the Miners in town this week for Conference and it was so good to see them! It was especially great to see Sister Miner who was able to leave Rostov and come down after having some back problems. Also got to have an interview with President Miner which is just the best time of the transfer. We had a great talk about the work in our area and then he gave me the unexpected news that I will most likely not be ending my mission in Krasnodar as expected. Nothing is final yet, so I will let you know when I know! 

Thursday was Zone Conference! It was an especially good Conference! We were so blessed to be taught a lot about the history of the Church. Within the next few weeks, 1/3 of our mission will be going home and President Miner wanted us to be prepared for the opposition that we will undoubtedly face when we return home and most likely it will be in regards to Church History. We learned from President Miner about the translation of the Book of Mormon and how it really happened. Sister Miner talked about Zion's Camp and the things we can learn from it and how we can compare it to our modern day Zion's Camp- our missions.  Although every testimony, my own included, comes from the Spirit, it really strengthened my testimony to hear more about the facts and details of Church history and to feel the Spirit confirm that what was taught to us was true. I feel more ready than ever to face opposition and teach the gospel now that I have not only a testimony, but factual information as well.

The night after Zone Conference we met with our investigator Anya and she had lots of questions about the Plan of Salvation and it is so awesome to see a person weighed down with questions and concerns about how it all works in the next life and to see how much peace and relief they feel when they find the answers! We were able to start the Book of Mormon with Anya and hope that she will get reading on her own! 
We got to meet with Vasilli G. after he has been out of town for about a month. We also took Kostya with us who is preparing to go on a mission. We taught him the restoration and how to pray and he said a wonderful prayer at the end. He is a very successful man and a deep thinker and although his knowledge of the gospel is minimal, he has a testimony!

Saturday morning we were at the Rinok with Rustam! It is so fun to go out there and a lot of the workers say hi to us and ask us how we are doing. Rustam was kind enough to let us pick out his new mop, after all, "we will be the only ones who use it."  Got to clean his apartment as well and read the Book of Mormon with him. 

Sunday was a very special day because Misha got the Priesthood!! He asked me to do it and I was so happy too, but it was my first time ever giving someone the Priesthood in my life, let alone in Russian.  I was nervous beforehand trying to remember all the things I needed to say and making sure I said it correctly in Russian but when we circled around him and laid our hands on his head, I just felt the power of the Spirit working through me. I felt the most comforting warmth, that was a testimony to me of Misha's preparedness to receive the Priesthood and the reality of the authority that I have as Priesthood holder. It was a  privilege to be able to give someone the gift and power of God that has been restored in these later days through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Afterwards, the Branch President asked the whole quorum about who has their Priesthood Line of Authority and Misha shouted out, "can't I just download it from Google Play Market?"  He cracked us all up. Misha then taught the lesson and we were not there for it because we taught the Young Men but we helped him prepare for it and heard he did a great job.

Last night we finished our weekly planning and were about to go stop by a couple less actives in the area when one of the less actives we work with who rarely wants to meet, text us and said we could meet right then on the banks of the Kuban River. We went down there as soon as we could and had a wonderful lesson with him. Last time we met, he kept asking why there is only one true church and told us how he attends multiple churches and feels the Spirit in all of them. At the time, we were not prepared to answer that question and the meeting did not go well, but this time was different. We were able to read and discuss a few of the verses we found when going over that exact question in a recent district meeting about why there is only one true church. By the end, he committed to pray about it just as Joseph Smith did and that was a huge step for him! Hope you all have a great week!!! Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
Строка за строкой

Pictures - District, last night on the Kuban, Zone Conference











Monday, July 3, 2017

Hot and Humid!!

Hey everyone! 

It is soo hot and humid now in Krasnodar! I love it though, I would rather sweat than shiver any day! It has been a great week in our area! We were able to hit the standards of excellence with ten lessons and more importantly, those that we are working with our really progressing and it is so rewarding to see.

Last Tuesday, like usual, we were in the Biletski home for Family Home Evening with the Lunds. This time, though, the Lunds asked us to do the Spiritual thought because they were just arriving back from Armenia. We did an object lesson about prayer that the whole family loved, but just in general it is incredible to see how that family has changed since last year when I was here. There is a new Spirit in their home and the little boys get so excited when the missionaries come over for Family Home Evening. The two little boys, Vladik and Illya, are my favorites. They cannot remember my name for the life of them so they call me Elder Tank and they love that name. The sisters told us yesterday that they kept talking about an Elder Tank in Primary and they had no idea who they were talking about. I love that family so much! It has been so awesome to see them change and to bring Family Home Evenings into their home! And the best of all, Sergie Jr. who we met with last week came to Church on Sunday for the first time in a long time! 

Wednesday we were in the branch from 10 am to 9 pm getting the Krasnodar branch in accordance with the new law in Russia. Pretty much we had to stamp or label ALL church literature from pictures, to magazines, to Books of Mormon, to Hymn books, and everything in between or throw it out. We threw tons out, I will send pictures, but it was quite the task considering we have a three story building full of literature from the 90' s till today! But lots of Papa John's Pizza made it worth it! 
Wednesday night we met with President Palinkov, the Branch President, and went over all sorts of things. He is incredible! 

Thursday was the hardest down pour of rain I have ever seen and we were at the Rinok teaching Diana which is technically inside but the "roof" still got us a little wet. We had a great lesson with her about Tithing and are continuing to help her work towards the temple! 
Thursday night we met with our investigator Anya and taught her the Plan of Salvation. It went way well and Elder Feldman was on fire! It was a "proud dad moment" to see my trainee boldly teaching and testifying in Russian! 
Thursday and Friday we had Elder Romanovski with us who is a new Russian Elder. It was so great to be with him. I love our Russian missionaries/volunteers so much! 

Friday we went to see Vova! Vova is praying more frequently and when we went over this week he had his Book of Mormon out on the table he said he has been reading a little! We are trying to get him to Youth Conference this Summer in Moscow, they are gathering all the youth in the entire Europe East Area and we hope he will decide to go! 
That night I got to interview with President Miner over Skype to renew my Temple recommend. We ended up talking for like a half hour. I am so grateful for President Miner and all he and Sister Miner do for us! They will be in town this week for Zone Conference and I cannot wait to see them! 

Saturday we went to the Rinok to get Rustam's groceries like usual. As we were buying a cow liver from a woman, she asked what we were going to make out of the liver which led to us explaining that we were just buying groceries for an older member of the Church who cannot do it on his own. She asked more questions and as we left, she thanked us for the good work we are doing as volunteers and was really impressed by what we do. It was so nice to hear those words and to know that our service is planting seeds and softening hearts. A lot of the sellers at that Rinok see us weekly and even know us and hopefully we have planted many seeds there!

Sunday was such a great Fast Sunday! Hard to believe it was my second to last! It started in the morning when our lesson fell through before church which allowed us to give a blessing to Sister Sveta, one of my favorite people. She told us right after, that right when we put our hands on her head, she felt better and she even testified about it in Sacrament meeting. I am always grateful to use the Priesthood that I am so blessed to have.
As we were greeting members at the front door, my mouth dropped open when I saw Sister Inkeles from Rostov walk in!! It was so great to see her, she promised she would come down to Krasnodar and she really did! She shared a great testimony in Sacrament meeting and her family is doing well up there! 
3/4 recent converts we are over bore wonderful testimonies yesterday, they are so strong! Speaking of them, this week I have felt the rewards of helping people get to their next ordinance that was heavily stressed by both President Martino and Elder Kacher. We found out yesterday that Olya P. who we have been meeting with and challenging her to get to the temple, met with the Branch President yesterday and is all set to go to the temple in Helsinki at the end of August to get her endowment! We also got Misha, who we have been preparing to receive the Aaronic Priesthood, to meet with the Branch President yesterday. I called him last night and was so happy to hear that all went well and he should be getting the priesthood next Sunday!! Of course every missionary, including myself, has the prominent desire to baptize. But, as I thought of it last night, baptism truly is just the start, it is the first ordinance and covenant, and helping these wonderful people get to the next step/ordinance is just as rewarding. 

We had a wonderful Break the Fast at the Lunds yesterday that I got to translate for. They always make the best food and give a great lesson! I could not help but realize that this begins the last full month of my service as a missionary/volunteer. I am fighting back the tears while typing that, but I also can't wait for what lays ahead (next chapter in life). Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!! Have a fun, safe 4th of July!!

Much love!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
Строка за строкой

Pictures - on the railroad, half of the stuff we had to throw out, the down pour, a member made us cookies (it says Tucker in Russian), on the railroad (again), stamping all the material







Monday, June 26, 2017

Rainnn

Hey everyone! 

That was a fast week! It has been a crazy week weather wise in Krasnodar. One minute it is sunny and all is well and the next it is pouring rain harder than I have ever seen and then back to sunny, but now it is just hot! Probably due to the weather, I have had the worst allergies of my life but thanks to some Benadryl from the Lunds, it is all under control now,  after some sleepless nights.

It has been a great week in our area! For the past week and a half, Illya G. a 16 year old member from Crimea has been in Krasnodar. Illya and I met in Rostov when he was there for the youth conference and became friends and he spent a lot of time with us while he was here. He called before he came and although he was coming on a vacation, he wanted to be with us on as many lessons as possible! He has the strongest desire to serve a mission and we were able to go over some of Preach My Gospel with him and it was just awesome to see how bad he wants to be a missionary. He will be a great one in a couple years! 

We have continued to work with Vasilli Petrov, a less active member. Last week we talked about the Priesthood and committed him to stay at church for all three hours so he could be in the Elders' Quorom and he did!! He has come three weeks in a row now and we have worked with the branch council to get him home teachers and involved with Family History work. Hopefully he will develop some friendships and be fellowshipped into the branch and keep repenting/changing.

We also started working with a young man named Vova who is 21 and moved here from Krasnayarsk. He lives in his own apartment but his mom and grandma are also members and live in the same building. Vova was baptized when he was 8 years old and is a great kid. We talked with him about prayer and learned that he had stopped praying because he felt like his prayers were just routine and were not doing anything for him. I talked about how I felt the same way a few months ago when I felt like I was just praying out of habit and talked with him about what we can pray for using Alma 34 and how we need to ponder before we pray and give time after we pray to listen to the Spirit. We related it to him and said that he can even pray for help with all his final exams he is taking. We committed him to pray daily and we texted him to follow up a few days later. He responded, "I prayed and got a 4 on my exam!" (Russians do grades on a 1-5 scale). We were thrilled that he started to pray again and hope to keep teaching him and help him get back to Church and hopefully his whole family in the process.

Thursday we went to Diana's to teach her about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and when we got there, to our surprise a less active member was also there and so we had a great lesson with the both of them. We talked about how baptism is the beginning, it is the gate we enter onto the straight and narrow path to eternal life and discussed what else is on the path such as daily scripture study and prayer, going to church, repenting, and all the covenants of the temple. The less active member, Larissa, invited us over and gave us two referrals to teach some guys that rent from her but it turns out the Sisters already are. Either way, it was a success.

Friday we went to Sergei Biletski with the Lunds for his 21st birthday! Sergei is in the Army and him and I met last year. His family is all active in the Church but he does not come. We had a great visit with him and were able to read some scriptures and talk about the guidance of the Spirit before eating some cake :) He shared with us that he is known in his Army group for his "intuition." He said that although he can't say for sure that it is God, he feels like he has guidance when he needs to make a really important decision with no time for mistakes. We hope to keep meeting with him individually and support him spiritually.

Saturday we spent the whole morning and afternoon with Aren - a ten year old who should be getting baptized next week. The Sisters have taught him but he wanted to learn about service so he came with us Saturday to serve Rustam at the Rinok. Aren wanted to carry all the groceries and help as much as he could! We also cleaned Rustam's apartment with him and read scriptures with Rustam. We then took Aren to the mall to get a white shirt, pants, tie, belt, and sandals to wear to Church before having a lesson with him about the priesthood. He is a great kid and has such a strong desire to serve. It was a special day for him and he asked if he could come every week with us. 

 This week and throughout my mission I have gained a huge appreciation for the Sabbath. It is truly my favorite day of the week and is different from the rest of the days,  I am so grateful for the Sabbath and for the opportunity we have to gather, partake of the sacrament, serve in callings, and learn and grow together. I love the Sabbath and it truly is a delight when I properly prepare for it by repenting and striving to improve. It marks a clean start to a new week and is such a great blessing. I am grateful for the Savior and His atonement that allows us to start over and to receive forgiveness. 
It was a great day at Church and at night we were at Olya P.'s house talking about the Plan of Salvation. Olya is super solid and is heavily involved in Family History work- she even gave me 7 names to do temple work for when I get home that I am so excited to do! She has her own opinions about the Plan of Salvation but we had a really good lesson just teaching it how it is. We are really trying to get her to the temple where she will learn even more about the Plan of Salvation. I was so grateful for the Spirit during that lesson that prompted me to say things I had not even thought of before. The Spirit teaches, we are just the mouth piece!

Today we went to the biggest Orthodox temple in Krasnodar, it is always interesting to experience first hand the different beliefs of other churches and it always strengthens my testimony that there is indeed only one true church in the world and that is without a doubt The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!  Have a great week!!

Love you all!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
Строка за строкой

Pictures - Orthodox temple in Krasnodar








Monday, June 19, 2017

Misha B and Fathers Day

Hey everyone! 

This week can be summed up by three special experiences with three incredible people. 

First is Anton. Last year when I was here, I become good friends with an active youth, Anton Antonov. I was excited to see him when I got back but soon learned that he had stopped coming to church at some point in the past year, although he actively attends Seminary. We have tried to work with him of course but he usually politely declines or is just too busy. On Tuesday coming back into the city from service, our tram stopped at on one stop and standing outside the tram was Anton! The odds of him getting on our same tram and are same wagon are too small and it was not a coincidence. There also happened to be an empty seat next to me that he sat in. We were able to talk the whole way back and catch up, he just graduated high school, and we talked about his future and possibility of serving a mission, etc. It was just a good conversation and I did not think much would come out of it but when I stood up from sacrament meeting on Sunday, I was so thrilled to see him sitting right behind me! It was his first time coming since I have been here over these past 7 weeks and he came to Sunday School and shared great comments and after Church he gave me a big hug and said he would come more often. The Lord is always putting people in our path, and not just non members! 

Next is Olya- a recent convert, single mom of two kids that we work with. She is so solid, you would never guess that she has only been in the Church for a couple years. We are trying to help her get to the temple to get endowed and she is so ready. We had a great lesson and discussion about it this week. But even more impressive than that, to me, was the discussion we had at the dinner table before the lesson. Olya lives with her two kids but there is also a young couple, Nikita and Nastya who were recently married. As we were eating our soup I was so impressed to hear them talk about their day. Nikita shared how he was able to share the gospel with someone at work who noticed that he has lots of American friends and wondered why. Nastya shared her study from that day in the Pearl of Great Price and could hardly catch her breathe she was so excited about all she had learned - she herself being a recent convert of less than a year. Olya then told Nikita how she was planning on him helping her introduce her brother to his brother who is the Branch President in her brother's city. We did not even ask about their missionary work or their studies, this was just a normal dinner for them. The Gospel is a part of them and sharing it is in their blood.

Last but not least is Misha B., a recent convert that I wrote about last week. This week we were privileged to help him prepare for his sacrament talk that he gave on Sunday,  he has been so nervous about for the past month and a half. When we met on Wednesday night and went up to the Sacrament hall for him to practice in front of us he got so nervous but then said, "let's do it." He went up to the pulpit and gave such a great talk about repentance and did it again on Sunday. Many were worried about letting him speak because he just does not have any filters and many worried that he would say something off topic or something else, but he gave the best talk of the day. It was so sincere and powerful. He might have his fair share of challenges with his disability, but he understands the Gospel better than most and has such a sincere testimony of it. Seven weeks ago, we had little hope with Misha, it was hard to get his attention and he was physically dirty and not to loved in the branch. On Sunday, standing at the pulpit with a fresh haircut, white shirt, tie and suit, he looked and sounded like a man ready to get the Priesthood. I truly feel blessed to see Misha through different eyes. When we meet with him I often think of the day he will be in his perfect form, as will all of us, and I just smile. Heavenly Father loves all of His children and it is such a blessing to feel a bit of that love from time to time. 

Other highlights- Family History Training from a guy in Moscow. Get to the temple, do not take it for granted!
FHE at the Lund's for all the Single Mom's and their kids. 
Sunday School lesson - We all have a personal line with God (prayer, Holy Ghost) and Priesthood line (leaders, prophet). Both lines are dependent on the other and only when we have a balance between both can we get back home to Heavenly Father!  Happy Fathers Day to all the great men that have been an example and have helped me in so many ways!!

The Gospel is true! Share it with someone!  Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!

Loves!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
Строка за строкой

Pictures - We got caught in the rain, again!!



Monday, June 12, 2017

Beginning of the End & Russia Day

Hey everyone! 

С Днем России!! Happy Russia Day! Russia Day is a patriotic national holiday.  On June 12, 1990 Soviet leaders signed a declaration of Russia's sovereignty.  That document symbolized the beginning of democratic reforms in Russia.  It also marked one of the first steps to the official dissolution of the Soviet Union.

 Today is the first day of my last full transfer as a missionary/volunteer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (beginning of the end).  I have thought about what goal or theme to set as I usually do at the beginning of a new transfer. My theme will be the advice of Gordon B. Hinckley's father to him on his mission to "forget yourself and go to work." I am trying to put off all the thoughts and mixed emotions about going home and just work until the end and a great verse to go along with that is Alma 38:2 which reads "And now, my son, I trust that I shall have great joy in you, because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God; for as you have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord your God, even so I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments; for blessed is he that endureth to the end." 

Last Monday I received a testimony that God truly does answer prayers, often times through other people. After a rough week, I was praying to know what I needed to change to make things better and two of my good friends gave me answers to my prayers. The first came from Elder Chipman who suggested that I study the talk "Then Jesus Beholding Him Loved Him" from last Conference because the leader who gave it just toured his mission. It helped me a ton and answered a lot of questions I had. The next answer came from Matt Wilcox who suggested that I switch up my prayers and start doing "but if" prayers like you could say a prayer asking Heavenly Father to be a better trainer and to find 10 new investigators, but after you would say something like "but if "not..... please help me be patient as I learn and grow as a trainer and please bless me to be diligent as I try to do finding.." That was also some much needed advice and has helped me a lot this week grow closer to my Heavenly Father! Thanks guys for the great advice and an answer to my prayer.

This week was a lot better than last which felt really good after the frustrations of the week before. We were able to achieve the Standards of Excellence in teaching and finding and getting someone new to Church! We also did a good amount of service and still had some extra time which means we can accomplish even more! I really want to be able to keep moving the work forward and try to avoid the ups and downs of the roller coaster of missionary life but I know they are sometimes necessary.

Monday night we were at one of our less actives, Vasilli P,  We have been working with him for a few weeks and he came to Church on Sunday and it was such a happy moment to see him walk in! We had read with him parts of 3 Nephi 18 and discussed the sacrament and he felt the Spirit tell him that he needs to get to Church! 

In our mission right now, we are doing a weekly search in the Book of Mormon to answer questions of the soul, which is more like common questions we get asked and we are trying to answer them using only the Book of Mormon. This week during District Meeting we went over the first question and it strengthened my testimony so much to hear over 10 verses/examples from the Book of Mormon that answered "why bad things happen to good people." I am really thankful for this exercise that we are doing and I know it will be really helpful with our teaching and even after the mission as we meet those very same questions from others. 

We got two new investigators this week, Volodia and Sasha.  One was a former that just showed up to Church which we are grateful for because there is no teaching record for him. When we taught him this week he said that in other churches, people only go to Church when they need it, when things are going bad. He said, "I think we need to go to Church every week." We agreed :) The other is a 15 year old boy that lives in the Lund's apartment building who has great faith and is so happy! 
We have seen a lot of progress in our recent converts this week! 

We met with Diana who's next step is the temple! We talked about that with her this week and she is so ready, she even has an active recommend. We hope to help her get there this summer!

Next is Misha, another recent convert who has some special needs and is so in tune with the Spirit and says really deep, profound things and also some of the funniest jokes. President Palinkov asked us to get Misha a haircut and a new white shirt for Church which we did and he looked like a new man yesterday! He should be getting the Aaronic Priesthood soon and is giving a talk this Sunday in sacrament meeting.

This week we went to Vasilli G,, another recent convert we work with. A few weeks ago we talked to him about the Book of Mormon and he committed to read it every day! As we followed up on that, he said that although he did not quite read every day, he has started to read regularly. We were surprised to hear that after reading so much, he had not even made it past the Testimony of Joseph Smith in the very front but soon found out why. He shared with us how deeply he studied and pondered every word and the significance behind different dates, titles, etc. I loved his statement that, "if something is true, you can analyze, take it apart, ask questions, and put it to the test." I had never thought of that before but he is right. The Book of Mormon is true and we should not fear to study it deeply, ponder every word, and even ask questions. 

Sunday was a good one! I was asked to speak in Sacrament meeting.  I have been asked to speak pretty much every week  I have gotten here but then every Sunday it turns out I don't need to. So this time around I thought I was ready to give the talk I had already written but I felt like I needed to rethink it and after praying, felt like I needed to talk about serving in our callings. It went well thanks to the Spirit and Gift of Tongues. Remember that the most important calling in the Church is the one you have right now (President Uchtdorf) and they who the Lord calls, he always qualifies (President Monson).  Have a great week!!  Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!

I love you all! 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures:  Sunsets. Russian Flag




Monday, June 5, 2017

Visa Trip #7 & A Living Prophet

Good Morning everyone! 

Wow, it has been a quick week. I hope everyone is good.   Well, as far as our area goes, I have honestly been a little frustrated this week. I just did not really feel like we fulfilled our purpose. Most every lesson we had set up fell through and Tanya, the one who read the Book of Mormon and was preparing to be baptized, did not show up to the meeting we had planned with her last Tuesday. We have called her countless times and our phone just says "number busy," we had a member call and she got the same result. Another member saw her on the streets and Tanya told him that she would love to come back to the Church, but is a little offended that no one has called.. We hope and pray that her phone will start working or she will just return to the branch. I also had a visa trip this week and five hours in the branch for registration on Saturday which led to less time to teach. But this week will be a lot better! 

Last Wednesday the Zone Leaders called and asked if we had done our cultural activity for the transfer which we had not so we all went to the Локо(Krasnodar) vs. ЦСКА (Moscow) playoff basketball game here in Krasnodar! Krasnodar lost, but it was way sweet and I was grateful for the opportunity to go! 

Thursday marked my seventh and last visa trip! Although it was pretty eventful, it was my favorite one because I got to be with Elder Thayer who I respect and love being with him. We almost missed our first two flights due to the check in system being down in Krasnodar and due to Elder Thayer getting questioned in Sochi. In the end we made it back to Krasnodar safe and sound. We got through passport control in Krasnodar quicker and smoother than ever and we were pretty exciting thinking that we had made it through our last ever passport check! I walked past three officers and was catching up to Elder Thayer to exit the airport and go home when one of the officers said, "молодой человек!" ("young person") and I knew he was talking to me. He asked to see my passport and before long they had both mine and Elder Thayer's passports and were asking me to go into a room for some questioning. The men that talked to me were very nice and just doing their job. They asked about the Church and how I ended up in Russia. One asked, "Did you choose to come to Russia?" "No" I replied. "Who sent you here then?" "A prophet." "Is he alive?" "Of course." They soon realized that all was in order and let us go. We may not be allowed to testify or teach the gospel publicly, but when they ask questions, we can give the factual answers. I was grateful for the opportunity to share what I know to be true even in a hostile situation. 

When we got out of the airport, we had a Black X5 BMW pick us up as our taxi to take us home. What was even better was the man behind the wheel, Aleksander. He had met missionaries before and had lots of questions for us that we were able to answer and clear up a lot of misunderstandings he had about us and the Church. We were also able to talk with him about the living prophet and I was grateful for two opportunities back to back to, in a round about way, testify about Thomas S. Monson and the Twelve Apostles. Aleksander did not believe that we don't receive money for serving missions, that we/our families pay for it, and that we get up at 630 am  and go to bed at 1030 pm  when there is no one around to watch. We hope to see him again at our weekly Sports Night! 

Friday we had District Meeting and I was asked to give the spiritual thought. I talked about opening our mouth and the importance of it, as well as the consequences if we don't, and the blessings if we do. Sometimes it is easy for me to open my mouth and let my light shine but more often than not, it is still a challenge. I am really trying to focus on opening my mouth and putting in my efforts so that the Lord can work miracles through me. After all, nothing happens in missionary work until we find! 
As I mentioned earlier, we had registration after our visa trip, during which we cannot leave the branch because we do not have our documents on us. But this time it just meant more time with Elder Thayer which was great. Saturday was also had Seminary/Institute graduation and there was a big activity for it that we planned in Student Council. All the volunteers sang "We'll Bring the World His Truth" for the musical number which was pretty powerful. The youth here inspire me! 

Sunday morning we met with our recent convert Misha who should be soon getting the Aaronic Priesthood! We are getting him a white shirt this week and a haircut and he will be looking sharp on Sunday

I was called to be Secretary in the Sunday School Presidency yesterday and my companion was called to be the Sunday School President and we are way excited about it! The Sunday School organization down here is pretty unorganized and reliant on the volunteers so we hope to be instruments to improve it! President Palinkov (Branch President) gave us great instruction yesterday, he is incredible!
We had a solid Break the Fast yesterday for the Youth at the Lund's home. I was asked to translate for their spiritual thought which I love to do. I love fast Sunday so much and the strength that comes from it. Hard to believe I only have a couple left on my mission. Hope you all have a great week!!  Thanks for all the love, prayers and support!!

I love you all! 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures: Sunset at bball arena, bball arena, Elder Thayer and I bball jersey's, Sochi, our small plane (visa trip).