Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 - Happy New Year

Hello everyone and Happy New Year! It is crazy to me that it is already a new year! My one full year as a missionary has come to a close and it has been the greatest year of my life! Lots of changes and growth, and still lots more to go! 

It was a pretty chaotic week, especially the first few days. Elder Norton and I, with the help of the Zone Leaders, got the old apartment all cleaned out and got moved into our new apartment. Took a lot of time but it had to be done! We only moved a couple buildings away and now we live in the same building as the Taylors which is great because we can help them out when they need it! 

Tuesday I attended my first Staff Meeting in the Mission Office. We went over the calendar for the next few months and time is just going to fly with all the great things coming up in the mission. I am still adjusting to my new calling but I am really enjoying it so far, especially being able to work closely with the Miners and the Taylors! 

Thursday we had a combined District Meeting with the Zapadny District and had a powerful discussion about how we are the means of salvation for these people. We talked about how we find joy by helping others come to know the Gospel and their Savior, even if it is just one person and even if that one person is ourselves. We got exciting news last week that when we talk to people now we can say that we are here to help strengthen people's faith in Christ and exchange phone numbers so we practiced those conversations as a district. Elder Norton and I have seen great success since we have been able to do that, almost all those we have had the opporunity to talk to have given us their phone number! 
Later on Thursday we had 'Train the Trainers' in the Mission Office. Neither Elder Norton or I have ever trained but we discussed with President Miner and the trainers about our experience as trainees including the good and the not so good. We have some solid volunteers that are training our new volunteers that arrived this past week! 
Thursday night we had a powerful meeting with a less active member who I have wanted to meet since I got here and was finally able to! He is a good man and has a solid knowledge of the Gospel. He told us he wants to start reading the Book of Mormon at the New Year and he knows that he needs to come to church. We are going to be working with him and supporting him on his journey back! 

On Friday morning we had orientation for the 3 new volunteers, one from America and two from Russia. We went to the mission home early to cook the blini (pancakes) and help the Miners prepare. I conducted the meeting and had a little part on obedience and Elder Norton spoke about the gathering of Israel which is always interesting because a lot of the tribes of Israel can be found in Russia! Elder Norton and I also went over some different tricks and tips to Russian studying as well as safety protocol. It was a different orientation with translating and everything but it went well. All three new volunteers are here in the Rostov Zone and will be great additions in their areas.  

Saturday was a special day! We had a meeting with our investigator Georgi and the Spirit was strong in his humble home! He is a long time investigator and just has a few doubts and a hard time recognizing his answers. He reads the Book of Mormon and comes to church and said he feels good when he does both of those things. We taught about the difference between the Light of Christ and the Gift of the Holy Ghost and he understood that well. We invited him to be baptized and he said he is not ready. He has made a lot of progress from what I have heard though and we will continue to bring the Spirit unto his heart and hope that he will let it in! 
Saturday afternoon we used the money given to me from the home ward  P-1, to help someone in need! We chose to help the Motok family, some less active recent converts who are refugees from Ukraine. Elder Norton knows them well and knew that they really needed some help during this holiday season, and he was right. We got new coats, boots, socks, gloves,  and scarves for Vitali, his daughter, and his mom. We also got lots of food for them so they could have a good New Years meal. When we got to their place, we had to wait for them and when they got home they went right to the heater to warm their feet and hands because they do not have suitable shoes and clothes for a Russian winter. They live in a shared home on a refugee base with not much besides their two beds in a small room. It was perfect timing to give them all their new clothes and food, big thanks to Parley's First Ward. They were absolutely in shock and kept saying how happy they were and how unexpected it was. Vitali told us that his daughter just the other day asked him why they do not see any miracles in their lives and he told her to just wait a little longer and something will happen and he said that this was their miracle. He immediately wanted to pray and thank our Heavenly Father and it was a special moment that I will never forget. 
Saturday night, being New Year's Eve, we had to be home by 5 PM. I wish I could explain what New Years is like in Russia but I either would not do it justice or you would not believe me. Let's just say we were woken up from 12-1:00 AM on January 1 due to constant flashes and booms. It is the loudest, constant, brightest night of the year that you just have to see to believe. 

Then on New Year's the streets are dead but we still had a pretty good turnout to Church, the faithful members of Rostov did not let the New Year festivities prevent them from being at Church and partaking of the Sacrament. We only had a two hour block and in Sunday School we talked about Christmas which will be on Friday here and discussed the Savior and his birth. It was probably my last time teaching the Sunday School class as I will be getting a new calling soon but I have sure loved seeing those kids grow and they have taught me so much! 
After Church, the Matekina family invited us over and we had a discussion about how we can keep our prayers and scripture study sincere when we do it so often, something Elder Norton and I have been discussing recently. We came to the conclusion that we can pray for help to do so, that we need to remember that Heavenly Father is listening every time we pray, and that although we should not do it out of repetition, it is better to do it out of habit than to not do it at all. The Matekina family is so awesome and treats us so well, I love them so much! 

We were in by 5 last night as well and will be in tonight as well! Setting goals for the year and getting caught up in my journal during all the time being in our apartment!  

I am loving serving with Elder Norton and we should have a great week ahead of us! Thanks for all the love, support and prayers

Much love, 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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P.S.  Side note - December was the highest baptizing month in the mission since Pres. and Sister Miner arrived in July 2015.  7 Baptisms with a number of people being prepared for January.  2016 surpassed the baptisms in 2015. At our peak we had 67 volunteers we are now at 48.

Pictures: Happy New Year, Me and departing missionaries/volunteers, tree in center Rostov, It is a tradition that the Assistants cook blinis for Orientation Breakfast

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