Monday, August 7, 2017

Fought a good fight, Finished my course, Kept the Faith

From Zach's Family - This will probably be Zach's last post, since next week he will be going to the Mission home preparing for his departure.  We just want to express our appreciation to all of your for all your love, support and prayers, through this wonderful journey.  We love you all!!

Hey Everyone (sorry this is a little long),

I will start by saying it was a week of miracles and tender mercies. By Tuesday night we had only taught one lesson and we had set an ambitious goal to teach 15 by the end of the week. We gave it our all and with divine help, we were able to reach that goal. More importantly, many that we taught kept their commitments and attended church, read the Book of Mormon, or started praying again.

It is hard for me to even write these next words, but this will be my last time writing home since next Monday we will be checking into the Mission Home for our last night. I am not going to try to summarize the last two years of experiences, trails, changing, growing, learning, teaching, inviting, and love in this email, but I would like to leave you with the words of Ammon from Alma chapter 26 who described the last two years of my life and what I am feeling right now better than I ever could.

 
1 And now, these are the words of Ammon to his brethren, which say thus: My brothers and my brethren, behold I say unto you, how great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started from the land of Zarahemla (Salt Lake City) that God would have granted unto us such great blessings? 2 And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell? 3 Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites (Russians), were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work. 8 Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever. 9 For if we had not come up out of the land of Zarahemla (Salt Lake City), these our dearly beloved brethren, who have so dearly beloved us, would still have been racked with hatred against us, yea, and they would also have been strangers to God. 11 But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. 12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. 13 Behold, how many thousands of our brethren has he loosed from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us, therefore have we not great reason to rejoice? 14 Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell. 15 Yea, they were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought them into his everlasting light, yea, into everlasting salvation; and they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love; yea, and we have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work. 16 Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel. 27 Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites (Russians), and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success. 28 And now behold, we have come, and been forth amongst them; and we have been patient in our sufferings, and we have suffered every privation; yea, we have traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God. 29 And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison; and through the power and wisdom of God we have been delivered again. 30 And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some. 31 Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us. 35 Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name. 36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land. 37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.
Sorry that was a little lengthy but as he said, "I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." First I would like to thank all of you for the support and love over the past two years. I have a testimony that Heavenly Father has blessed me with the greatest friends and family and I would not be where I am today without you.

I will close with my humble testimony that I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father. He knows us personally. He knew where to send me and where I was needed, He knew that although I would have never chosen to come to Russia, that it was the perfect place for me to serve and that He could use me here. 
I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I received my first testimony of the Book of Mormon when I read it whole-heartedly two and a half years ago. After studying it daily for two years in both Russian and English, that testimony has taken root and blossomed. The Book of Mormon answers questions and is often how I find answers to my prayers. Most importantly, the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ. He is our Savior. I have personally experienced the power of the Savior and His Atonement as I have repented, changed, and grown and as I have seen my beloved brothers and sisters do the same. 
I love the people of the Russia Rostov-Na-Donu Mission. It has been a privilege and blessing to serve here under the direction of President and Sister Miner who are without a doubt called by God. I will be leaving a big piece of my heart here when we fly out next Tuesday morning but I know a huge part of my heart is waiting for me in Salt Lake City. 
Missionary work is the greatest, sweetest, most marvelous work in the world. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, from Salt Lake to Russia and everywhere in between. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in these latter days by the prophet Joseph Smith. Thomas S. Monson is the prophet today, through whom the Savior Himself guides His Church.  I am grateful to have been a representative of Christ, and will continue to do so.   I leave this with you in His name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

Signing off from Russia,

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
Строка за строкой

Pictures from this week

Seeing who can hang the longest after playing some soccer on P-day, Third biggest temple in Russia, in the little city of Novocherkassk (which Elder Weston and I had the opportunity to go there last week)






Monday, July 31, 2017

Reunions in Rostov

Hey! 
Let me just start by saying how great it is to be back in Rostov - home of Sharma and so many people that I love! Week 1 as an assistant(again), is always busy and crazy with people in and out of our apartment for transfers, train the trainers, orientation for new missionaries, and leadership conference but it all went well! I am loving serving with Elder Weston and learning from each other! It was a week full of reunions both with volunteers and members that I thought I would not see again but have been so blessed to see people I care a lot about and teach them the good news of the Gospel.

Tuesday we were with Elder Altuhov who is a new Zone Leader and just a stud. He has only been a member two years and the light of the Gospel is visible in him. That night we went to Ludmila which was probably the most tender reunion of them all. When we walked in, she recognized Elder Weston and then Elder Altuhov introduced himself and then she looked at me and said, "who is this?" She recognized me, said, "Tucker!" and started to cry. She calls me her second Savior and it was good to be with her. That same night we finished the Book of Mormon with her! I was in awe to think that just one year ago, she could not even see us and that night we finished the Book of Mormon that she had read all on her own up until the last two pages. It is truly a miracle and I was blessed to be there to experience that milestone event with her. 

Wednesday was orientation for our one new Elder, Elder Sweeney who will be an all star missionary. That night we met with our investigator David who speaks English and is looking for his faith to be strengthened! He has started the Book of Mormon and is starting to recognize answers to his prayers. We were blessed to have the Krasnodar Elders with us that night, only a few days without them and I already miss them! 

Thursday was Mission Leadership Council in the Mission Home! I am always amazed at the incredible leaders in the Rostov Mission! It has been awesome to see a lot of the younger volunteers step up as we lose a lot of old, experienced ones, we will be down to 29 volunteers soon! President said how it is pretty crazy that every six weeks we send home our best, most experienced volunteers but he expressed his confidence in the rising generation. We had a great discussion about finding - a big challenge right now, keeping records in area/member books, and baptizing! Should have a good round of Zone Conferences coming up! 
That night we were walking home and ran into little Saveli Inkelis who asked us to walk him home. It was great to surprise Sister Inkelis and be back in their home, she just loves the missionaries and is still doing missionary work herself. In fact, on Sunday she pulled us out during Sunday School to meet her driving instructor that she gave a Book of Mormon to and was sharing the Gospel with. She is the ultimate member missionary! 

Friday we got to meet with Zhenya N. which is big news because Elder Norton and I worked with him extensively and he was coming back to activity but then he asked us to stop calling and stopped coming to church. It was great to see him and see that he has started the Book of Mormon again and teaching him felt so good! 

Saturday we were at the Kerokisyanis, a member family. The kids, and this whole branch apparently, have grown up over the past few months. Little Simone turned 12 since I left and even got the Priesthood! We had a great lesson with them about the Plan of Salvation, the Spirit was so strong. I love teaching the Plan of Salvation! 
Sunday was great. It was pretty funny to see the look of people's faces when they saw me, they were surprised to see me back in Center branch and it took them a minute to realize that it was me. It was good to see all the members! 

Last night we were with Alexander V. who we worked with a ton,  last time I was here. He recently had his liver stopped working and was in the hospital for a while. He has been having problems with his vision too so we read the Book of Mormon with him and he asked us to get it for him in an audio format so he can listen to it. We were also able to bless the sacrament in his home as he cannot leave his house while recovering. 

Found great comfort in the scriptures this week,as always! D&C 24:7-9, 12 and D&C 31:13 were answers to my prayers! I am trying to give my all for Zion, opening my mouth, and fighting through the end of mission trials knowing that the Lord is always with me, even more than ever before. 

I love this work and it is true! Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
Строка за строкой

Pictures - MLC, Best burgers in Russia, Sons of the original mission moms, Mission Home, Mission Leadership Council








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!!