Monday, February 27, 2017

Men's Day

Hello everyone! 

It has been a pretty warm week! They have been celebratingMardi Gras here all week to finish winter and to welcome in the warm weather, I am glad winter is coming to an end! 

Last Tuesday we got to reunite with the Miners after they had been in Turkey all week for the Mission President's Seminar. It was so good to see them, I always miss them when they are out of town! Sister Miner brought me some Turkish Delight straight from Turkey which was pretty sweet to get! I am very grateful for the opportunity I have to work closely with the Miners, I love them so much!  

We have continued to work with Aleksander this week, a returning less active! We have been discussing the atonement with him and the power that it is has when we let it. We talked about honesty, he always has a great understanding of all that he reads! He is reading the Book of Mormon daily and has gotten up to the 'Words of Mormon.' We gave him some ties the other day and he showed up to church on Sunday in a white shirt and tie! He continues to progress and it is incredible to witness! 

I wrote last week about our new investigator Elena and she is just golden! After getting her own Book of Mormon last week, she has read to 2 Nephi 19, twice! She reads and then re reads in order to understand better. She said she has become quite the chef in the kitchen because she knows the faster she gets the food ready for her family, the quicker she can get back to her Book of Mormon reading! We taught her the Plan of Salvation in two parts this past week and she really understood it and accepted it. She said it answered so many questions that she did not even know she had! We invited her to be baptized at the end of March as we discussed our life on earth and she said yes! She came to church for all three hours yesterday all dressed up and said she really liked it! It is a major help when she already has friends in the branch that are supporting her. The next step with her is helping her come to the realization that the "good, peaceful, warm" feelings often accompanied with the chills is indeed the Spirit testifying to her that this is the truth! 

Thursday was Men's Day here, so Happy Men's Day to all the Men around the world. I got the great gift of being on splits with Elder Norton on Men's Day! Although it has only been a few weeks, I really missed Elder Norton and it was so good to be back in Rostov teaching people with him! He is an incredible missionary and it was a privilege to be back with him for a day! He is doing great things in Krasnodar, right where he needs to be! 

Friday we had Mission Leadership Council in the Mission Home! It was our first time gathering all together in the mission home for a while. Elder Fisher conducted a great meeting, there was lots of great discussions and plans made for upcoming Zone Conferences. We have an incredible group of leaders right now, all of which are experienced volunteers. Unfortunatey, President warned us all that he can't keep us all in leadership positions until the end because we all go home soon and he has to get some new leaders in and trained by us so they can take over when we are all gone. 

After MLC, I was on splits with Elder Randall, another one of my former companions! It was great to be back with him as well, especially since we went to some families that him and I visited often together. We first went to the Anderson family and they fed us a great meal before telling us all about their trip to Israel that they just got back from. They were on a spiritual high after walking where Christ himself walked and told us we have to get there sometime! We then taught a less active boy in their home about the Priesthood and challenged him to prepare to get the Aaronic Priesthood to which he agreed. 
That night we were in the Inkeles home and it was great to be with them, it had been a while because the Inkeles family is in the Zone Leader's area. One of the Inkeles boys has not come to Church for a few months and Sister Inkeles asked us to come over and talk to him. We had a good lesson about the 10 Commandments and then he did come to Church on Sunday! The Inkeles family is incredible and Sister Inkeles said that I am practically part of their family since I have been here for so long. Love them so much! 

On Saturday their was a training in Rostov Center Branch from Elder Semaikin of the Area Presidency for all the District President's in the entire mission that traveled long distances to come in! I got to translate for President Miner while he spoke which was pretty intimidating seeing as a couple of the men their speak English really well and are Russian but it went well! It was really cool to be a part of! 
After that, we met with our Branch President and just talked with him about how we can help him more. With our callings, we are able to help him get organized and do little things for him to relieve some of his stress. We have gotten super close with him and it really is a great blessing to be heavily involved in the Branch! We continue to see improvements weekly! 

Sunday we were in the Branch from 10:30 AM to 6:00 PM! That is what happens when we are serving as Assistants to the Clerk but there is no clerk... haha
For both the second and third hours, I translated for Elder Taylor as he conducted his monthly "Teacher Council." I learned a lot about translating this week, specifically about the Gift of Tongues! When I think that I can translate and I don't need any help is when the translation does not even make sense and does not help anyone. Sunday, I prayed for the Gift of Tongues and just prayed to be an instrument to get the great material Elder Taylor had prepared to his Russian speaking audience. The first hour went so great when I just let go of my pride and recognized that I simply cannot translate without divine assistance. Afterwards, I was sure to express my gratitude in prayer and asked for His help one more time for the second hour which also went well. The same principle applies to all of us when we teach others the Gospel! We are merely the mouthpieces that the Lord uses to get his Gospel to His Russian speaking brothers and sisters. When we think it is all coming from us, it is nearly impossible, but when we recognize that we are just instruments and allow Him to work through us, it becomes possible and powerful.   
The Church is true! I love you all! Thanks for all the updates, love, support and prayers!!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures - Mission Leadership Council, Turkish Delight, Elder Norton and Me, Magnet from Jerusalem, One more from Mission Leadership Council

Monday, February 20, 2017


Hey all! 

It has been a snowy week in Rostov, but rumor has it from here on out it is only getting warmer and warmer! Can't wait for some warm weather! 

I have learned so much this week and I am going to share a lot of it with you today! First of all, this week the Spirit taught me a lot about consecration. President Miner spoke at Mission Conference and talked about how a temple is just bricks and glass until it is dedicated, tithing is just money without consecration, and the sabbath is just another day of the week unless you make the effort to consecrate it. The same goes for a mission! The day I reviewed those notes, it was cold and gray outside and I thought, "today can either be just another routine cold, gray day in Rostov or it can be a consecrated 24 hours to the Lord as part of the consecrated 2 years, He has given me to serve him. It is always up to us, whether we consecrate our efforts or not, all about our mindset and our actions! 
This past week I finished the Book of Mormon in Russian for the first time. I took the time to pray about it and ask if it was true just as we challenge so many other people to do. The Book of Mormon is true, no matter what language it is written in. I know that by the power of the Holy Ghost who testifies to every heart around the world sincerely seeking the truth.

We met a few times last week with Aleksander V., he is making great progress! He wants to get the priesthood so bad but said himself that he wants to make sure he is really committed and ready for it. He said he wants to keep reading and praying daily and coming to church for a solid period of time so he knows that he is committed to this long term. We have set a goal with him to receive the Aaronic Priesthood by the end of March and we have had various members from the branch coming with us to his home to support him along the way. He is such a good man and has a great understanding of the Gospel, we just invite him to act and see the changes take place! 

Tuesday night we had a blizzard- the first and last of the winter! Just so happened to be the night we were out with a member home teaching. I got us a little lost and it was quite the adventure looking for one sister's home in the storm. It was all worth it though! 

At District Meeting on Thursday we watched a seminar given to all the Mission Presidents around the world in December of last year. They keep reinforcing that we need to 'teach repentance and baptism for conversion' which has been going on for over a year now which means that we are not doing it well enough! One of our Russian sisters told us all how it is needed here, to change the mindset of repentance being a scary, dramatic thing and teaching the happiness of repentance, that it is a gift to be able to change! Teaching repentance though all starts with our understanding of it and using it ourselves so we are going to be studying it out and talking about it at upcoming Zone Conferences. 

Let me tell you all about Elena!! I wrote last week about how Elder Norton and I challenged an active couple to share the gospel with someone and long story short, they did! Brother K called us last week and said, "come over Friday night, we've got an investigator for you!" So Friday night we met and taught Elena who is a very friendly woman looking for the truth. It brought me so much joy to be able to teach someone the Restoration because although we teach a lot throughout the week, teaching the Restoration happens a little rarer these days. And to teach in a member's home with so many testimonies being born was just powerful! At the end of the lesson, Elder Fisher asked her to pray and then just sit quietly after and listen. She prayed and afterwards was quiet for a few minutes. When we asked how she felt, she made hand motions to her heart and tried to describe the warmth. She was excited to come to Church with the K. family but ended up getting sick and could not come. We were able to teach her again last night in the K's home and she told us that she read the Restoration pamphlet twice and was so excited to get her own Book of Mormon! She committed to reading the Book of Mormon daily and continuing to pray about it. This experience taught me two things, first that it is such a privilege and a joy to share/teach the Gospel with others. Second, members are key to finding and baptizing converts, especially with the law restrictions. Also learned that people like the K's  are so passionate about the gospel and want to share it but just had not been thinking about it until we invited them to do so! To get the members involved, we must invite them! 

Sunday was a great Sabbath! As I was sitting at the sacrament table to bless the sacrament, I looked out at the Rostov congregation and could not help but smile and tear up a little. Rostov has just become like my home ward. I love the people here and have been so blessed to get to know each and every one of them. It made me really happy to feel like I am amongst family and friends here in Rostov. 
During sacrament I learned an important lesson from the Spirit. For the last little while, although i have been happy, something just has not been right. I have been overcomplicating and onverthinking things which has led to me feeling overwhelmed and stresed! I have been praying to know what I need to change to just be the Elder Tucker that the Lord needs me to be. I opened up my scriptures with no clear purpose in mind and was led to one of my favorite verses in 2 Nephi 25, verse 4. Then the lightbulb went on, that I need to simplify! 2 Nephi 12-24 are great chapters but are pretty hard, at least for me, to understand and I get frustrated when I do not understand something. Then 2 Nephi 25 is when Nephi recognizes that those previous chapters, that are from the book of Isaiah, are pretty complex and he begins to teach plainly. The Gospel, missions, callings, the Church, etc. can be extremely overwhelming and may not bring much peace if we get caught up in the complications of it all. The Gospel is and should be kept simple and I felt so much peace after I received this guidance to simplify! My soul, like Nephi's, rejoices in plainness. It was exactly what I needed to hear, a clear answer to my prayers from my loving Heavenly Father. 

I love you all! Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!  Until next week!!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures: Me and Elder Nielson, Snow, Sun, Volunteers

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mission Conference and Valentines

Good morning everyone! 

What a week! I am positive there will not be another week like the one we just had in terms of events and planning for them!  Happy Valentines to everyone this week!!

Last Monday we were able to be a part of the farewell festivities for on of our Russian volunteers that was going home. We usually don't participate but we were there for translating purposes and it got me thinking of all the valuable lessons I have learned on my mission so far and what I need to do to keep learning and growing until the very end. I am so grateful for my mission and am going to give it my all these last 6 months! 

Tuesday we had staff meeting with some additional office time to make final preparations for the arrival of the Nielsons. We had a lot of time in the office this week and even outside of the office we were doing a lot to prepare for the conference or contacting volunteers with their travel plans. Limited on how much time we had to get out and meet with people, but we will have this full week to make up for it! We did have some solid lessons this week though! 
Tuesday night we were in the Kushnarenko home. Brot. and Sister Kushnarenko are incredible members, Brot. Kushnarenko is in the Branch Presidency and has brought many family members and friends into the church. We shared with them the story of Alma and Amulek and told them that they are our Amuleks and we need them in the work with us! Although they have already shared the gospel with many, they had stopped and were thankful for the reminder. We invited them to think of people ready for the gospel and by the end it was hard to get a word in because they kept thinking of potential people to invite over and meet us! Just a testimony builder that even with solid members like them, nothing happens until an invitation to act is made! We must be asking people to get involved in the work, it won't happen on its own!

On Wednesday, the Branch President picked us up and we all went to Aleksander's home to teach him! President Butenko talked about a change of heart and recognizing the difference between the Spirit and the power of the devil. It was a powerful lesson and at the end, he felt impressed to give Aleksander a blessing. After the blessing, Aleksander jumped up and said, "paidyom fperyod" which means like "lets keep moving forward!" 

Thursday was full of meetings! We were in aprons in the mission home bright and early cooking blini's for breakfast for our new volunteers and their trainers for orientation! We had a solid group of volunteers and it made for a great, high energy orientation. Immediately after orientation and some great food from Sister Miner, we had our 'train the trainers' meeting, Elder Norton led and did a great job. 

Friday afternoon we had President and Sister Miner as well as Elder and Sister Nielson in our apartment for an apartment check! It was over as quick as it started but it was so great to finally meet the Nielsons who flew in late Thursday night from Salt Lake! After the apartment check, I got to have a one on one interview with Elder Nielson which was pretty incredible. We talked about the mission and then I asked him some questions and he gave me some inspiring answers/advice. I have no doubt that Elder Nielson was called by God to serve as Director of the Missionary Department and I am grateful for the opportunity I had to interact with him! 

Saturday morning we were up at 5:45 and getting ready for the spiritual feast that awaited us at the Don Expo Center. It was pretty hectic when we got there and everyone was arriving and not everything was ready in the rooms, but it all worked out in the end! In the morning we had a 45 minute Leadership Council in which Elder Nielson told us that as future leaders of the Church we need to learn to be 'quick to observe and then quick to act.' We can't think "when will they act" because the "they" is us! 
After the first MLC, we gathered as a whole mission for the first time ever and that was powerful. I was up front with Elder Norton and got to look out to the whole Rostov Mission and just thought how blessed I am to serve with such incredible people. I wish I could have just recorded all of it but I will give a couple highlights. Sister Nielson talked to us about companions and how we can work with each other. She talked about their family and how when their kids got married, they married people that were not a part of the Nielson family traditions and it is an adjustment but everyone brings their own strength that adds to the family. The same principle applies with our companions who are all different but have strengths and that we don't! 
Elder Nielson taught us about the atonement and how their is two 'powers' of the atonement - the redeeming power and the enabling power. We often only think of the redeeming power which cleanses us from sin but should not overlook the enabling power which makes a good man better and gives us strength! 
He also said that he could go in a primary around the world and ask what are the two reasons we came to Earth? He said the two answers are always 1) to get a body and 2) to be tried and tested. He then asked us why we all get so surprised when we have trials? It is literally one of the two reasons we came here! He told us that we have a hard mission and gave us some insight on what goes into calling someone to Russia- he told us we are a very special group. They had a son who served in Russia and after taking the BAR exam told them, "I served a mission in Russia, I can do hard things." We don't choose our trials but we do choose how we respond to them. They are a requirement in this life to learn, grow, and become. We should embrace them and even be thankful for them, and if brave enough, ask for them. 
Elder Nielson also gave us some perspective. Working world wide, he sees the big picture. He told us that after 25 years of the Church in Russia, we are exactly where Brazil was after its first 25 years with the Church. Brazil now has over 30 missions and almsot 2 million members. He assured us that the Restoration did not happen, but is still happening and we are still in stage one in Russia with the next step being more stakes and finally a temple. He also put into perspective the miracle that we are even here. He showed us his General Conference talk from 8 years ago in which he described the fact that the Church used to pray for missionaries to get to Russia and here we are and we often take that fact for granted. He thought he would never see the day! 
We had a great question and answer session and one thing he stated was from President Packer who said in all his almost 50 years as an apostle, he never felt fear. Fear and faith cannot cooexist and if we have faith, we will not fear! 
We then had an evening MLC for a couple hours and he taught us that if we don't speak up, we are part of the problem, we have the responsibilty to teach correct principles to those we work with. We then went around and shared our impressions from Conference before he offered a powerful, kneeling prayer. It was 12 hours of learning that I still have not completely digested. I will never forget that Conference! 

Sunday we had the Nielsons in Center Branch and they gave incredible talks. Sister Nielson talked about how she was raised in a small branch in South Texas and dreamed of big 'Salt Lake' congregations and now here small branch is a huge ward! She challenged all to come to church to give and not to critique. Come to participate and pray for those that speak and teach us rather than give criticism. 

Sister Miner told me to get to bed early last night and get a nap in today and I was pretty exhausted after this weekend but extremely grateful for the experiences and the Spirit that was with us. 

This week will be week #1 with Elder Fisher, my new companion! We are going to get to work and I am super excited! Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!

Till next week!
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures -  Miners with me and the Nielsons, Goodbye to Elder Y, Mini bananas, American cereal (thanks mom for the package, everything I needed and more!!), pictures from the Mission Conference

Monday, February 6, 2017


Hey fam and friends,

It has been a busy, stressful week and probably a busier, more stressful week coming up! Not a whole lot to report this week because we spent a good amount of the week in the mission office making plans! This past week was the last week of the transfer so we worked with President Miner to get transfers sorted out and on top of that we have the entire mission coming to Rostov this week for Mission Conference! So we had to plan where everyone will be staying for Mission Conference and had to carefully plan that,  so that after conference everyone can get to their new areas with their new companions as quickly and smoothly as possible! Transfers in and of itself are usually a lot of work and to combine it with the first ever Rostov Mission Conference was pretty hectic but it has all worked out with some divine help. Not to mention, this transfer is affecting every single companionship except for two so we had about 8 pages typed up of everyone's instructions to travel in for Mission Conference and to get to their new areas! 

By Friday night we had all plans made and done, but then President Miner called on Saturday morning and told us after not sleeping all night, he had made some inspired changes. Sadly, Elder Norton will be leaving Rostov to go to Krasnodar as a Zone Leader. We had never even discussed that as an option in our weeks of discussing transfers, but the Lord needs him down there and he is going to do incredible things. It has been a privilege to serve with Elder Norton, I think he is the best of the best and I look up to him so much. Learned more and saw more miracles in this one transfer with him than any other time on my mission. But with that unexpected change as well as some others, we were back in the office changing and finalizing all the plans for the week coming up in regards to travels! It is all planned, we will wait and see to find out if it all goes according to the plans.

Tuesday I got to have an interview with President Miner which is always something to look forward too! President is the most humble man I know and I know for a fact that he has been called by God to preside over this mission. It should be noted that President Miner is not only over all the volunteers and the work we do but also over all the branches since there is not a stake here. Although he does not speak Russian, he fulfills his responsibilities in an incredible manner that simply would not be possible without the Lord's qualifying hand. I am so grateful for President and Sister Miner! 

Thursday was a full work day and I was on a split with Elder Williams who is one of our newest volunteers while his companion was on a visa trip. Thursday night we met with Zhenya who called us earlier in the week and shocked us when he asked if he could help us out on lessons! They apparently had some talks about it at Church last Sunday and it inspired him to help us on lessons and of course we were pretty excited to hear that he has the desire to share the gospel! We talked to him about missionary work and how every member is a missionary and he told us how all his friends know he is a Mormon but usually when it gets brought up he just pushes it to the side with a joke but he said he needs to take advantage of those opportunities to share the gospel! 

Friday we had Mission Leadership Council over Google Hangouts. I conducted the meeting and we had a pretty good discussion but after talking to the Zone Leaders after, we learned that most the time they could not hear/understand what was going on. It will be good to get everyone together in person this week! 

Saturday we got to go to a lesson with the Miners that Sister Miner actually set up with a girl she has become good friends with. Turns out she is a former investigator and has an incredible 14 year old son who speaks English pretty well and reads the Bible every day! They fed us some soup and we just got better acquainted before Sister Miner shared the Bible story of the Samaritan women and how we, like her, have received testimonies of the Savior and we are going around to share it. After the lesson, the Miners took us to dinner, mostly for Elder Norton's last time, it is a big blessing to be able to spend so much time with the Miners! 

We met a couple times with Aleksander this week, a less active member. He has started reading and praying again, and says that every time he starts, everything in life becomes easier. We had a great lesson with him about the Sabbath day and the Sacrament, he has a great understanding of the Gospel. He came to all three hours of Church yesterday and after Church he said his kids didn't come because they don't understand the significance and he said he wants to teach them! Saturday and Sunday we got to call every companionship in the mission to tell them their transfers and their travel plans, it was pretty fun to hear their reactions! This next transfer will be a solid one! 

Sunday was a powerful fast and testimony meeting in the Center Branch, they are usually all special but Sunday's was more powerful than usual. There are so many genuine testimonies in the hearts of the Russian Saints and when they share it, it is hard not to feel the confirmation of the Spirit that they are speaking truth. Sister Ludmila was able to come and bear her testimony again. As she walked up to the pulpit I could not help but think of the Ludmila we visited weekly back in the Summer who was completely blind and had not even left her apartment for years. Now she is testifying in Sacrament meeting about how it is all thanks to the Savior. One perk of being in Rostov already for 7 months is to see the progress and miracles the come with time. Most of the time you plant a good seed or start something good and then get transferred before the harvest comes, but I have been able to see both the seed planted and the harvest while serving here, which I have been so grateful for this opportunity.

After Church we had a two hour branch council to set goals for the year and although the council was all over the place, we got good goals set and they were talking about specific people that they can focus on to bring back to activity or get to the temple, etc. If we reach the goals that were set, the Rostov Center Branch will be in good shape by the end of the year! 

Well that is it for the week! Crazy week coming up with Elder and Sister Nelson coming in from Salt Lake and the whole mission coming in, lots of prayers will be needed! Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!

Much love, 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures - Transfers, Volunteers