Monday, April 24, 2017


Hey everyone! 

It has been one coooold week in Rostov. I have probably said "I am cold" more this week than in my two Russian winters combined. It has been rainy and really low temperatures all week but to make it worse, the heat in our building was shut off last week, and for a few days we did not have hot water so it really was a cold one! But, other than that, it was a great week! We had lots of opportunities to teach,  we were running around from appointment to appointment all week!

Recently I started studying Doctrine and Covenants and I have been loving it! Last week I studied D&C 5 which talks about testimonies. Testimonies are truly gifts from God, they are not just empty words, but rather a witness from the Spirit. That section talks about how we must be humble before we can receive that testimony and then how we need to share it because that is how this generation will hear about the Gospel- through us and our testimonies! Share your testimony this week! It was not given to you to be selfishly kept, for that which is selfishly kept will be lost, but if it is shared, it will strengthen both you and the person hearing it! 

Wednesday we got to meet with Mark Milkovich, a recent convert returning less active. The Selmash Elders had been working with him for a while and he started to come back to Church just this month. We now do not have Elders in Selmash so we have started working with him. It was our first visit so we did not know what to expect but he blew us away when he had some questions for us from his scripture study, he reads and prays every day and is even wanting to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood! We had a discussion about prayer and will continue to work with him to prepare to get the Melchizedek Priesthood! 

Thursday I was on splits with Elder Clark while Elder Fisher and a few others went on a visa trip and we had a super busy day together. We got to serve Sister Ludmila and read the Book of Mormon with her, yes she can read now! We also got to help the Taylors in the office. We had a lesson with Yegor who is one of the few youth members in the Center Branch. He is such a good kid who lives in a pretty tough situation. We talked to him about repentance and we are trying to help him see how the Gospel is applicable to his life and how important it is. 

Friday I was on splits again with Elder Foote, one of the Zone Leaders from Krasnodar. We also had a great, busy day together. We had District Meeting that day and I gave the spiritual thought about obedience and why we have so many rules on our missions. Missionaries are set apart from the world in a literal sense and therefore, the standards we have help keep us on that higher plane of thought, action, etc. We have authority and power to teach the Gospel and such a great gift requires great obedience.

Saturday we had an incredible branch activity- it was a "Good Deeds Auction." Everyone wrote down an act of service that they were willing to provide and in return received "money" to buy the good deeds of others. We "auctioned" 45 good deeds and it was a ton of fun, everyone got really into the auction! The Sister volunteers did a ton of the "behind the scenes" work to prepare for the activity, but the members did a ton of it which is something we have been wanting to see! It does not do them much good when the volunteers do it all and there is a better turnout when the members have responsibilities in the activity. It was a big success! 

Sunday was a good day of Church. While I was partaking of the Sacrament, I got emotional thinking about the limited time I have left in the Rostov Center Branch. I have been here so long and have gotten so close to them and it just broke my heart to think of leaving. But change is good! 
I was blessed with the opportunity to translate sacrament meeting for the Taylors and also translate Elder Taylor's Teacher Council Meeting. After Church, it was a downpour and the temptation to put on some sweats and go to bed was real but we of course went out and ended up teaching three lessons (everyone was home!) We were able to meet with Aleksei Pavlov who is the son of an active member. He was active last summer but then had some setbacks but has been recovering for a while and now he wants to come back to Church! He has made some huge improvement on his own and even looks like a different man. He has goals and plans to get back to activity and he wants us to help him spiritually along the way. We talked a lot yesterday about prayer and committed him to pray every day before bed. He offered a great prayer at the end of the lesson and he was surprised that the prayer went so well and it was visible that he could feel the Spirit. He thanked Heavenly Father for sending us His servants to him and he told us that it was so good to know that God has not forgotten him. It is such a privilege to be a servant of the Lord and to bring that comfort to God's children. 

Well this is the last week of the transfer so I will be finding out where I am headed soon. It is going to be extremely hard to start saying goodbye to Rostov, but it is time and I will go wherever the Lord needs me. 

I love you all! Thanks for all the updates, love, support and prayers

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures - Best Dessert, Mom-this is the how your package came to me (I am sure this is not how you sent it, but I believe I received all the contents), Good Deeds Auction.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Христос Воскрес

Hey everyone!

Sorry for writing a little later today,  we played soccer this morning! 

This past week was a tough one in regards to teaching, we had so many appointments fall through. But it was a really rewarding week as we rendered service in our branch calling and serving others, we also had a couple spiritual feasts! 

One of those spiritual feasts was Wednesday's Zone Conference! The Spirit was so strong as it usually is, I love the special atmosphere that only exists when we all gather together, it is powerful! Sis. Miner gave a great talk about perfectionism, a big problem in our mission and a big problem for me! I learned that I am indeed a perfectionist and by the end of the week, I learned that I am so far from perfect, but that is how it is supposed to be! Heavenly Father does not expect us to be perfect, yet. We have a mission full of high achievers that are used to excelling in many different aspects of life and when we come on our missions and start to fall short, make mistakes, etc. we are hard on ourselves! "To be worthy does not been to be perfect," we are all just trying to improve and do what we can in the work of the Lord and our efforts are indeed enough! 
Elder Weston taught us about faith, specifically about the faith to find new, prepared people to teach the Gospel to. He broke down faith into three steps: 1) Hope - hoping for something that is not guaranteed or seen with our physical eyes, 2) Act - acting on that hope, doing something about it, and finally 3) Evidence - evidence that what was hoped for in the beginning is in fact there, it is possible,  and true, etc. I really loved those steps and they can be applied in so many different ways! 
President Miner taught about the Savior and showed us the Church's video, 'The Lamb of God" and I felt the Spirit so strong throughout the film. I thought, as we watched, that I would feel angry or hate towards those that betrayed the Savior and ultimately took His life, but as I sat there feeling the peace and warmth of the Spirit, I realized that Christ is the Prince of Peace and not of revenge, hate, or opposition and that was a great lesson to learn. 

Last week we were able to serve others by helping out with English! We are involved at a couple English schools and there are some potential people in both schools that could become investigators soon! Ilya (member) and Anya (recent convert) also asked us to meet with them and help with English and that was really fun and rewarding. As we were talking with Anya before we started, it was inspiring to see the fire she still has in her for the Gospel being baptized just a few weeks ago. She told us how last Sunday she got her Temple Recommend to go do baptisms for the dead in a couple weeks with all the youth and how she has been showing everyone her recommend. She also will be getting a patriarchal blessing at the end of the month and is so excited! She thought she had to wait for a year but we told her that she could get one and signed her up! 

We got to visit Sister Toma a couple times this week! Friday was her birthday and we took her some juice and flowers and the Sisters made a cake for her. She was so excited when we came, she said it was the best birthday of her life. She was going around thanking us all for coming and she looked at Elder Fisher and I and said, "especially these two, they saved me a couple weeks ago when they brought me some food." We also took her the Sacrament on Sunday and showed her the Church's Easter video which she loved. She has a great testimony and is a special woman! 

Last Thursday, the Patriarch arrived from Utah! His name is Gary Browning and he is just a humble, incredible man! He was the very first Mission President in all of Russia and although he is 80+ years old, he is magnified in his calling as a traveling patriarch and the members here have been blessed by his willingness to serve. On Saturday we were in the branch while he was giving blessings and there really was a different, reverent atmosphere in the center branch that one member talked about in Church yesterday during a lesson. Everyone that received a blessing was just so happy and filled with the Spirit afterwards. Our recent convert, Ruslan, traveled in to get his blessing and it was my first time ever seeing him in the flesh and not just over Skype! The coolest part is hearing what tribe everyone is from. From all the blessings Saturday, every single person belonged to a different tribe. I am convinced that all 12 tribes are present in the Rostov Center branch now, but will confirm this week. We often read about the gathering of scattered Israel and hear about it, but to actually see it with my own eyes was an experience I will not forget. The House of Israel is being gathered! We have been heavily involved with these blessings as the branch clerks and 16 so far from the Center Branch have received their patriarchal blessing and there are still more to go! 

Saturday every single one of our lessons fell through, but the day ended on a good note! Elder Holland along with his wife and Elder and Sister Dahlstrom of the 70 came to Russia and held a meeting in Moscow that we were able to tune into for all the members of Russia! I was pretty happy to be listening to one of my favorite apostle as he addressed the Russian Saints. He talked about the power of one and how Church members in Russia might be small in number and often times the only member at home, work, school, etc. but he challenged them to never forget that the Savior performed the Atonement all by himself and He did that so that we never feel alone. It was an incredible broadcast! After the broadcast we also sent in the branch's Quarterly Report as part of our Clerk responsibilities, and cleaned the branch. 

Yesterday was Easter! Easter is a major holiday in Russia and the one day a year we can "proselyte." Everyone, and I mean everyone greets you on Easter Sunday by saying, "Христос воскрес!" (Christ is risen) and then you are required to respond, "Воистину воскрес!" (Indeed He is risen!) Everyone also eats these things called кулич, I will send a picture, as well as painting eggs and onions and other traditions I probably don't know about. One member said, "Although we celebrate Easter differently, we have one common denominator and that is the Savior!" 
Sunday and Sundays in general are so busy but as Elder Taylor just said to me, "It is good to be needed" and that is very true, we are so blessed to be able to be so involved in the branch and serving the members. The morning started with Branch Council which went better than usual! We created an agenda for the meeting to keep us all on task and to do it as instructed and it worked! I got to translate sacrament meeting for the Taylors and Miners, we got to teach the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School class on short notice but it went well, translated some more for President in interviews, and after Church we were able to get out and have 4 lessons! Busy day! 

One of those lessons was with Aleksander who has been doing really well! He has been super sick and stopped reading and coming to Church but one night we went over and we saw him praying to bless his food through the window which made us so happy! He has started reading again with some new glasses that we got and he said that the hymn " Did You Think to Pray?" keeps coming to his mind as he prays and reads! As we left yesterday, he said with a smile, "I don't think I will miss Church next week." We had not even invited him but had just read with him and testified too him about the Savior and told him we all missed him yesterday! Slowly but surely! 

I love you all! Христос воскрес!" Thanks for all the love,support and prayers!!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures - night snack(toast,mayo,cucumbers), Easter, Helping the youth at the Branch, Zone Conference

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Conference Christmas #4

Good Morning! 

I don't know about all of you, but I am still on a spiritual high from watching General Conference this week! What a great opportunity it was to hear from our Prophet and Apostles. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the one and only true Church on the Earth, has living apostles and prophets who give us direction and guidance for today. We are so blessed! I prayed and fasted in preparation for this Conference, and as a result I honestly felt like the Conference was directly for me. I felt the personal knowledge that Heavenly Father has of me, He knows us all and when we put in our efforts, He puts in His. It was weird to think that it was my fourth and final time watching Conference on my mission. I received so many answers and so much hope, and will share a little of my thoughts, in just a bit. 

Last Monday we had our Cultural Activity, and this one will be hard to beat! We got to attend the FK Rostov vs. Krasnodar futbol game here in Rostov with Brother and Sister Inkeles! They were able to get us tickets through Brother Ivan who is the second main coach for Rostov, and a member of the Church. Futbol is a major part of Russian culture, but especially in Rostov- FK Rostov is supposedly the best in Russia! It was a dream come true to attend a game here and see the passion they have for the team! I will never forget it! 

Tuesday night we were at Sister Ludmila's, it was a special night for her as she turned 80 years old! She is such a light to the world, so full of love and joy at her age and with her physical limitations. I love her so much and have been so blessed to serve and teach her over the past several months! 

Wednesday we attended a new English School and the people there are so great! They understand our roles here really well thanks to former volunteers that have gone there, we understood that quickly when they offered us hot chocolate instead of tea or coffee. We hope to be able to find people to teach from our service there, but it also is a great source to improve our Russian as well! 

Sunday we got to take the sacrament to Sister Toma and we talked to her about the Resurrection with Easter coming up. It was so powerful to discuss with her the fact that her, and us, and all of you will be resurrected. She has one working hand and can hardly walk, but will be perfect at some point. She did say that she has been working out though and as soon as she can walk well enough, she is going to get to the branch for Church, that is her goal! We were able to get her some more food last week and her daughter that takes care of her is no longer sick so she should be in good hands! She is another light in my life and does not let her incredibly hard circumstances weaken her testimony or hope of what is to come.

Between WednesdayThursday, and Sunday, we got all 10 hours of Conference in! I loved all of it of course, but my favorite sessions were definitely SaturdayAfternoon and Sunday Morning, Priesthood was also incredible! I don't know for sure, but I think the Plan of Salvation was mentioned in almost every single talk on Saturday Morning and that really stuck out to me. I have been pondering the Plan of Salvation often with the exciting recent news that we will be welcoming a new member to our family in September and I am so grateful for the knowledge we have of that perfect plan! (Yes, I am going to be an Uncle). There were multiple mentions about our discipleship, but I really loved Robert D. Hales' words about how we cannot be part time disciples of Christ! It is a state of being, not just actions! 
Elder Holland, as always, gave an incredible talk about staying in the choir. Sometimes it is hard to sing and sometimes we just need to listen to the song of others, but we just need to stay in the choir! I loved when he said, "come as you are, but don't plan to stay as you are." We are all trying to improve ourselves and change as we stand as close as we can to the Savior and try to match his perfect pitch. 
My favorite talk was probably Gary B. Sabin's about being "all in." That was something I really needed to hear as I strive to be "all in" at the end of my mission. He said that if what we are doing is not working, change it! If we are tired of walking, run! Change what needs to be changed in order to be fully commited to the Lord! 
Elder Andersen talked about overcoming the world, something I have studied and thought of a lot on my mission as we are set apart from the world. He gave a great tribute to President Porter who was our Area Presidency and truly did overcome the world. President Porter was serving as our Area President until the very end of his life and is a great example of letting the Kingdom of God come first. 
Elder M. Russel Ballard talked about goal setting and after his remarks, I took the time to set life goals as he advised and I would advise all that have not done so to do so! He, along with a few others, challenged us to study 'The Living Christ' in an effort to come closer to Him and renew our commitment to Him! 
We were so blessed to hear from our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson. Both of his messages were short, but some of my favorite as well,  because they were so simple and to the point. In Priesthood, he talked about charity, a true basic of the Gospel. We can be smart, cool, funny, happy, talented, etc. but without charity, we truly are nothing. If we do not have charity, we are missing the mark! He also talked about the Book of Mormon and I add my testimony to his that it is so important! If you don't know that yourselves, find out! Read it! 
President Uchtdorf also gave great messages about leadership in the Church which also really helped me. I loved the quote, "Never break rule #6- don't take yourself too darn serious!" Those were some words that I needed to hear! 
There was so much said about the Holy Ghost and the Godhead in general during Sunday's sessions that helped me to better understand the role of the Holy Ghost. I am trying to get better at recognizing the Spirit and being a "first repsonder" to his warnings, promptings, and guidance. 
I could go on and on about Conference but those were just some of my biggest thoughts and impressions. Lastly, just want us all to not look around so much, look up! I often look around too much and it gets discouraging, even seems to be impossible. We must always keep an eternal perspective and rely on the God that has everything planned out! 

I love you all and hope you all have a great Easter Sunday! Иисус воскрес!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures -  Watching Conference, Bowling, Go Rostov, We got some scarves

Monday, April 3, 2017


Hey everyone!

Hope you all had an incredible Conference weekend, we will be watching this week and I am so excited I can hardly handle it. Conference is such a blessing to be able to learn from modern day prophets and it is like Christmas for a missionary/volunteer.

This past week was a good one, starting with Monday night. We were an answer to someone's prayer and one member testified about it yesterday so I will share her testimony with you. She said something along the lines of this: "Good morning brothers and sisters, I would like to testify today that God hears and answers our prayers. Last week, our grandson was taken to the hospital with a stomach infection and was in need of some medicine and something to help him breathe (don't know how it translates). It was already late, it had been raining all day, and we did not know how to get those things to him and his mom who could not leave his side in the hospital. We said a prayer and the next thing we knew, our doorbell was ringing, we picked up the intercom and heard, "Hey it is the Elders, we have some cookies for you!" We were able to, through the elders, get all that was needed to the little boy in his time of need..." The miracle is that we had not even planned or even thought to go to their apartment that night. We had taken some cookies to another less active but we got to her apartment and  heard that she moved,  we were by their house and just felt like we should go. I wish you could have seen the shocked look on their faces as we walked in their home with cookies and when we told them that that hospital is right by our home. It was a blessing to be able to serve them in a time of need! 

Wednesday we were serving Sister Pavlova again at her home and in her yard. We were also able to teach her and answer some questions she has been having in regards to the Plan of Salvation. I could not help but think how blessed we are to have the knowledge that we do of God's plan for us. It is the key to happiness in this life and for out eternal progression.  It is the truth! 

Thursday we had a great District Meeting about the Will of God and how in some scriptural and real life accounts it is hard to understand why things happen and how it could possibly fit into the Will of God. We came to the conclusion that He is all knowing and sees what we do not. His purpose is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man and all that he does will support that goal. 

Thursday we were also able to teach Ruslan, a recent convert, over Skype. We have been teaching him the lessons from the Sunday School course "Gospel Principles" because he lives multiple hours away and does not have a branch in his city. We talked with him about the Pre-Earth life and the plan that we all accepted to come here and the main part of the plan being the Savior himself. Once again, great knowledge thanks to the Plan of Salvation. Ruslan will be getting a patriarchal blessing next month, so I will finally be able to meet him in the flesh! 

Thursday night we had the Volgograd and Krasnodar Zone Leaders with us for Mission Leadership Council on Friday morning! We had a great meeting Friday morning in the Mission Home mostly discussing finding and teaching skills. Our teaching pools mission wide have been drying up so we are trying to focus on finding new investigators and have created a new standard of excellence to find two new investigators each week,  which will really be a challenge seeing as most companionships do not find any most weeks, it is exactly what we need! Of course if we find them, we have to be ready to teach them so we are also trying to improve our teaching skills, especially with the five missionary lessons. At the end of the meeting, we surprised all the leaders with smart phones which they were excited about! MLC has been a highlight of my month for the past 10 months.

For the rest of Friday I was on a split with Elder Clement who is a great friend of mine, he is pretty young on the mission but a great leader! We had a couple of great lessons together and it was great to be with him and council together on different things. 

Saturday morning we fulfilled our seminary teaching duties with our one student Anya. It has been pretty sweet to work with her because I was her Sunday School teacher a few months back and she was pretty quiet back then but she has opened up with us and we have good lessons with her! We talked about our testimonies and being bold in sharing them, not ashamed to be a Mormon! She is of course the only member amongst her friends but she shared some experiences of sharing with them what we believe! 
Saturday we had a baptism for a young boy from the Severny branch, I love baptisms! After the baptism, the sisters called us saying the branch was a mess and no one was there to clean so we got to clean the branch Saturday as well, makes the meetings on Sunday mean a little bit more when you clean on Saturday night! 

I want to share with you all some things I loved from Church on Sunday. In Gospel Principles, we were talking about the atonement and an investigator shared that he always used to ask his father what to get him for his birthday and his dad would always say, "Get straight A's." The investigator went on to compare it to the Savior and how we need to utilize the atonement and 'get A's" in this life to strive to pay back the unpayable debt that we are all in! In Elder's Quorom we talked about temptation and one brother said that we need to fill our minds with light so that there is no room for darkness (temptation.) When our minds our empty, that is when the adversary can come in but if it is filled with light, there is no room for his tricks and lies. 
After church we went out to Elena's, we have hit a major road block with her.. She has made great changes in her life and was blessed with some new work. That new work, though, is daily from 7 AM to 8 PM and her only day off his Sunday and it is her only day with her family and to get things done so she has no time to read, come to church, or meet with us. We have not lost hope, though, just need a miracle!  We have planted seeds and I am sure something will come of it.  
Hope you all have a great week!! Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!! Until next week!!
Much love!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures - Cleaning the branch, MLC meeting