Monday, May 29, 2017

Kacher Conference Part 2

Hey Family and Friends,

It has been a week of miracles and spiritual feasts! I have gained a strong testimony of fasting and obedience and continue to learn more every day and week on my mission! 

The miracles started last Monday with our miraculous trip to the Krasnodar Zoo - I will send pictures. But honestly, Monday night was a special one. We met Monday night with Tanya, the woman who walked into the branch a week and a half ago. We sat down and started to teach her about the Book of Mormon because the member that showed her the building had given her one. She stopped us as we read and explained the introduction to the Book of Mormon and said she already knew about it because she had read the entire thing in just a couple days. As we picked our jaws off the floor, she asked us why she feels different when she reads the Book of Mormon than when she reads any other book or scripture? We read Moroni 10: 3-5 with her and committed her to be baptized once she comes to know it is true. She said she already knows it is true and committed to be baptized on June 10th
Since then, she has recognized herself the blessings that come from reading the Book of Mormon. She carries it with her everywhere and reads it at every opportunity. She told us about how before she came to the branch, she was having a rough time - no work, really lonely, etc. She said that since she came to the church and started meeting with us, she has been blessed with a good job and others have told her that she looks different, that there is a new light in her face. 
We have been able to teach her the Plan of Salvation which brought her a lot of comfort as she has lost her parents and three kids to early death and is all alone. She said when she is in the branch she just forgets about the outside world and all is well. She has a friend that gives her a hard time for meeting with us and her friend asked her about what we have taught her. When Tanya answered, her friend tried to tell her that she already knew all of that. Tanya replied, "it is one thing to know, and another thing to feel." 

Tuesday and Wednesday we served Aleksei at his home. Between the two days, we carried 2000 bricks! One of the other guys out there that helps building his home has come to the church for an activity and invited us over to his house! 
Tuesday night we had another miracle. We had just gotten home from service and sat down to study the scriptures when Sister Lund called, saying that a woman walked into the branch and they handed the phone to her. She told us that she wants to learn more and really wants us to teach her husband so we got to the branch as quick as we could and taught her the Restoration. She later told us over the phone that she shared what we shared with her with her husband and he actually listened and was interested to learn more! Their phone has been unavailable for a couple days but we hope to get in touch with them soon! 

At the beginning of May, we fasted as a District to find investigators which we had very little success with in Rostov but since moving here and since that fast, we have been finding more than ever! I know that there is power in fasting and that we are seeing miracles because of it! 
We were able to meet with two less active members this week, both named Vasilly. One of them has a testimony but just needs support and to be called to action, the other will be like an investigator, he was baptized 3 years ago and has forgotten almost everything. We talked about the Book of Mormon with both of them and they both committed to read every day! When we asked one if he will try to read daily, he said no, I won't just try, I will. The Book of Mormon is so powerful! 

Friday night we had Game Night and we decided this week to improve the quality of our game nights and it was a lot better! Our friends from Amway came again and had a great time and a couple members told them more about the Gospel! The one family invited us to their home and they live close to an active, young family and we hope to get more involved with them. 

Saturday was Zone Conference with Elder Kacher from the Area Presidency and his wonderful wife, as well as the Miners! Sister Kacher walked in and surprisingly remembered my name! The Kachers and I actually met when I was in the MTC and then they were in our mission for my very first Zone Conference over a year and a half ago but I had not seen them since. Those two are incredible and are truly servants of the Lord. It was great to have them for one of my last Zone Conferences and it was their last mission tour in Russia as they prepare to be reassigned to the Africa West Area. 
Here are some highlights from Conference! 
1- Sister Miner talked about patience which is the Christlike attribute I have selected to work on,  per recommendation from my companion :). She read the verse in D&C 123 that says we do all we can in our power but then we must be patient and let the Lord do the rest that is not in our control. 
2- President Miner gave us a new case study - he knows how to make an incredible case study. It taught us how we can prioritize, make the most of our time, and compromise with our companions!
3- Elder Kacher taught about obedience which I really hoped and prayed that he would talk about. He told us that if we are obedient, even to the little things, we will have the Spirit with us, if not, we do not have that right. He said it is a requirement to be trusted by the Lord, but it is not the only aspect of the work, rather it is just the start/the foundation we build on. Elder Feldman and I set goals last week to be more obedient in different areas and we were. I know that is why we saw miracles this week. The Lord saw our efforts and knew He could trust us with a couple of people he has prepared. 
4- E. Kacher also spoke about faith and told us all to repent for our unbelief and that we should do so daily. We must have the faith to find, teach, baptize, and establish the Church here and the Lord will help us with the rest but our faith is up to us, no one else. "We all have the obligation to overcome unbelief." 
5. Sister Kacher taught us about the importance of the Atonement. She searched the Book of Mormon for the word "important/importance" and it only comes up twice. In Alma 7:7 we read of the importance of the Savior and the atonement and then in 2 Nephi 2:8 about the importance to share that knowledge with others which is our privilege to do. 
(Elder Kacher said some real nice things to me at the end as he shook our hands and thanked me for all I have done)
Saturday night we had a Fireside with the Kachers and Miners for all the Youth and YSA in the branch. I was blessed with the opportunity to translate from Russian to English for Elder Kacher and Sister Klimash did the big job translating from English to Russian. It was a big blessing to sit next to Elder Kacher and see him answer questions and teach! 
The Kachers and Miners also spoke in Sacrament on Sunday morning - we had 95 people in attendance!! Elder Kacher gave a great talk and at the end talked about how he woke up Sunday morning feeling really sick and he really did not want to come to Church, speak, etc. He also shared how he and his wife would love to stay in the Europe East Area but just recently got the unexpected phone call that they will be moving to Ghana, Africa. "We cannot always do what we want to do, but we must remember our covenants and we are blessed, strengthened, and sustained to do what He would have us do." Pretty inspiring words from a man who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. 
I love you all! Going this week for my last visa trip, keep Elder Thayer and I in your prayers!  Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!  Enjoy your Memorial Day!!  


-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures: Zoo day, Pictures from Zone Conference, Service Day (all the bricks), When it Rains it Pours!!
(lots of pictures this week - sorry, but I know my mom appreciates them..haha)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mexican Night

Hey everyone! 

I am starting off with a spiritual note, this week I studied Alma 17 in preparation for our Zone Conference with Elder Kacher this weekend. It is one of my favorite chapters because it is so relatable to any missionary but I think especially those of us in Russia. I can just relate to Alma and the sons of Mosiah who leave friends and family to preach among the Lamanites and pray and fast to just be instruments in the Lord's hands to bring some to the knowledge of the truth. 

Last Monday we were in charge of the Family Home Evening for the youth in the branch. We talked about James 1:5 and gave everyone the time to write down a question(s) that they have and to ask of God and I challenge you all to do the same just as Joseph Smith did! He knows all the answers and is just waiting to be asked, but we must listen for the answer and take it for what it is,  because it might not be the answer you want/expect!

Tuesday morning we went out to Aleksei's to serve him aka help him build his house. When I was here over a year ago, the foundation of the house had just been laid and I will send a picture of the progress that has been made! There were a couple other guys out there helping us and we became friends with them and one came to our activity at the end of the week! 
Tuesday night we went to the Biletski home with the Lunds for family home evening and it was so great to be back with them, we used to visit them a long time ago with the Johnstuns. They are a great family and it is wonderful to help the Lunds get Family Home Evening going in their home. 

This week I have learned a lot about spiritual promptings as I have been focusing on them more. I realized on Wednesday that promptings really come a lot more often than I think but they are always inviting me to act, to do something usually outside of my comfort zone or just something unexpected. It is up to me whether or not I just trust the prompting and act on it. This week I felt like I needed to sit by a younger man on the tramvai and I felt prompted to study my Russian words for the day after saying hello. Within no time, he had started asking me about why I was studying Russian and what we are doing here. The conversation did not lead to much besides a friendly wave from him as the tram passed us when we got off on our stop, maybe it was all he needed to get the seed planted for a future harvest! 
Wednesday we taught our investigator Anya the Restoration! When we asked her if she knew of any prophets, her first answer was, "Joseph Smith." She really believes he was a prophet but has not quite made the connection yet that if he was a prophet, then the Book of Mormon is true, and if the Book of Mormon is true, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. She committed to read the Book of Mormon and pray to know if it is true! 
We had a miracle last Wednesday night! We had just finished teaching Anya and we were up in the branch kitchen having a quick dinner before Student Council started. We could hear Margo, a very active young single adult who is very eager to share the gospel, downstairs but we were surprised when she come upstairs with a woman named Tanya and asked us to help her give Tanya a tour of the building. Turns out Tanya had stopped by a few times but no one was here. Margo had seen her reading the sign outside and invited her in to learn more! She expressed how she felt different in the branch building and was eager to give us her phone number and learn more. Since then, Margo has given her a Book of Mormon which she has already started reading, she came to Mexican night and made friendships with members, and she came to all three hours of Church yesterday and told Margo that she already feels like one of us. We have a lesson with her tonight and she is coming to our Adult Family Home Evening as well! 

Friday we had "the best district meeting ever" in the words of President Miner and I would have to agree, it was so good. We were so blessed to have President and Sister Miner with us, they came down for the day to do interviews - I miss them so much! Elder Feldman gave a great spiritual thought about reaping what we sow and that we always get out what we put in. Sister Klimash gave a great discussion about developing Christlike Attributes, something I used to focus on a lot but have been slacking recently in doing. 
It was great to have an interview with President Miner, I wish I could explain my love and respect for that man. He has been called by God to serve over this mission and I was undoubtedly called to serve under President Miner. 

In Student Council for the past few weeks, we have been preparing for our big Mexican Night that was on Saturday and it turned out to be a huge success and we hope to see some of the fruits of that this week! There were 85 people in attendance at Mexican Night (keep in mind there are usually less than 80 that come to church on Sundays!!), and I would say about half were non members or members that I have never seen in the branch last year or this year. We had seven of our potential investigators come, one investigator, and two less active members. Two of the potential investigators came to church yesterday and one of the less actives, who is reluctant to meet with us but came to the activity and we talked to him there, texted us Saturday night after the activity and said he had set a goal to come to Sacrament meeting and he did! A couple weeks ago, a man called that had met an Elder long ago and he invited us to his Amway presentation and we went thinking it would be a unique way to find, nothing really came out of it until we invited him to Mexican Night and he came with his wife and daughter and they invited some other people that we met at Amway, they all came!! They all had a great time and were asking questions about the Church and want to come to game night! It was the best activity I have seen since coming to Russia, we planted many countless seeds! 

Sunday we taught our Sunday School class and talked about reverence and it went way well. I forgot our lesson plan at home, but I think that was a blessing because it was more Spirit led and went better than usual! A recent convert named Nastya gave the spiritual thought and did an incredible job, I was blown away! The youth here are just the best! 

Last night we got to attend the Mission Prep. class that is held in a member's home for Anton and Kostya who are both preparing to go on missions. It was awesome to be able to share mission experiences and help them prepare for the greatest experience of their lives. 
I love my mission and am so grateful for it! Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!! Prayers to all of you!!

Much love,
Elder Tucker 
-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures - Al's home, Mexican Night, District Meeting

Monday, May 15, 2017

Victory Day/Mother's Day

Hey everyone! 

To my family - It was so good to see all of your faces yesterday and for us to be together as a a family. I was thinking about it last night and it is just crazy that over the past two years, I have only spent about 4 hours with you over Skype and have not seen Riley in the flesh for almost 4 years - I miss and love you all! 

This week was Victory Day in Russia! Victory Day is probably the second biggest holiday next to New Year's and I think it is the coolest holiday around. Russians take so much pride in their country and especially in their veterans that fought in World War 2. They lost millions of people in the war and they are eager to remember that every year. This was the 72nd anniversary of the victory and we got to go out in street clothes and attend the parade and it was great. I was in Krasnodar for the 71st anniversary as well so it was deja vu to be in the same spot watching the parade a year later! We went with the youth to the parade and then there was a barbeque at the Branch President's beautiful home,  it was a great day- I love Russia! 

Wednesday we met with Anya who I met last year when I was here because she would come to our English Gospel Group Discussions and we mostly got to know her and what she believes and started to teach the Restoration. She believes that Joseph Smith was a saint and that the Church is true, but she also believes many other churches are true so we will be teaching her about that this week. A member named Margo helped on the lesson and she is great, she is always asking, even begging, to help us on lessons. It is great to have a member so willing and eager to help! 

Wednesday night we went over to Eddi's house to help him with English. Eddi is the 16 year old non member son of Varvara - a long time member who served a mission and the son of Andrei - a non member who often comes to church with his wife and is just the best guy. I got to know Andrei last year when we served him by helping him build his house. Andrei got home on Wednesday night and when he saw me,  he gave me a big hug and even remembered my name! That part member family has so much potential and I hope and pray that we will have the opportunity to teach Andrei and Eddi to unite their family!

That night on the bus home, it was just us and the conductor, an older woman. We talked for the whole hour home  she was so friendly and asked about my family and everything. She had no interest in coming to activities or giving us a phone number, but it was a good seed planted and you never know what will come from it!

Thursday we had a great District Meeting about inviting the Spirit into our lessons and just teaching by the Spirit. Someone shared that more often than not, our first thought, if it is a "good" thought, is more than likely from the Spirit. I have started to recognize those first thoughts more and although I am not perfect at acting on them, I am trying to be a first responder to promptings of the Spirit! I was also able to teach about language study plans since we have 3 new volunteers in the district and having goals, plans, and motivation to learn the language is crucial!
That night we got Yegor for Seminary and before Seminary started, we met with him and read the Book of Mormon together and discussed it. We read 1 Nephi 4 which is full of principles, one being spiritual promptings. Yegor shared different times he has felt promptings and the times he failed to act and the times he acted and how much better it feels to act although it is scary/outside of the comfort zone. He is such a great kid and will make a great missionary in a few years!

Friday we met with Anatoli- the man that approached us last week and gave us his number. We taught him the whole Restoration and it went very well, he told us he understood everything and it really seemed like he did. Towards the end, it seemed like he was a little ashamed to pray and would not accept a Book of Mormon, but he took the Restoration pamphlet and committed to read it. He is a good man with 4 kids and we hope that we will be able to continue to teach him and help him come unto Christ! 

Friday night we had Student Council which we are a part of. We mostly talk about the work going on with less active youth and plan upcoming activities. The youth here are incredible! 

Saturday morning we were at the Rinok getting groceries from Rustam! It is quite the challenge to get all the stuff he needs in the busy market but the people out there know us and are pretty helpful. We were able to start the Book of Mormon with Rustam from the beginning and we talked about how the Lord always calls ordinary people and magnifies them- from Moses to Lehi to Joseph Smith to his young missionaries and everyone in between! It is His work! 
Saturday night we taught a less active member named Murad who was active and even served as the Branch Mission Leader earlier this year(go figure). He has since been baptized in the Seventh Day Adventist Church and called us to talk about the Bible, we gladly agreed. He seemed pretty shocked when he realized that we too believe in the Bible and that we did not disagree with the things he wanted to talk about. We read the 8th Article of Faith with him and explained that the Book of Mormon does not replace the Bible but rather supports its teachings while giving us an even deeper understanding - it is truly another witness of Jesus Christ. I asked him how he was baptized in the Adventist Church and he explained what sounded very similar to our baptisms in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I then asked if he received the Holy Ghost and he said no, our bodies are temples and the Spirit already presides in them. He challenged us to find in the Bible where the giving of the Holy Ghost is written. We read in Acts 8 where Peter and John give the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands and he had no answer to why he did not receive the same gift in the Church he just joined. We had a great conversation and he wants to meet again. After we met, Elder Feldman and I were talking with the Lunds about how the Church is so true. I am so grateful for the Restored Gospel and for the Church that has the restored priesthood and all the ordinances necessary to return to Heavenly Father. I am also grateful for the Scriptures - the Bible, Book of Mormon, and others for all they teach us! 

Sunday was a special day - Happy Mother's Day to the greatest Mom in the world!! (I mean ever!!)  Great day to Skype with my family!!

We are the youth Sunday School teachers, they are such a solid group of youth, there is not a lot of them, but they are all faithful members of the Church! Yesterday we talked about how we can improve our scripture study and they themselves came to the conclusion to make a group chat over an app to share what they study each day in the scriptures! It was so awesome to see that they have the desire to improve their studies and to help each other out!  Thanks for all the love, support and prayers!!

Love you all!

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures - All from Victory Day/Happy Mother's Day to all our wonderful MOMS!!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Return to Krasnodar

Hello from Krasnodar aka Paradise! 

Well, I am not going to lie, it has been a challenging week no doubt about it. However, I have grown a lot, made a lot of changes in my work, my testimony has been strengthened, and my flame of faith is burning brighter than ever. I am grateful for trials and challenges and how in the end, they really are for our good. It has mostly been tough, because we are white washing our area, meaning we are both new here. It is my first time white washing and is a lot harder than I thought it would be but I think the hardest part is over and sooner than later we will be fully adjusted and working! 

First few days of the week were also hard because they were filled with goodbyes in Rostov. As the days got closer to leave, it just got harder and harder! Monday, the Butenko family made a ton of Borsch and my favorite cake for us and for all the youth that had not returned home yet from the Conference which was way nice of them! Monday night, we were in the Inkeles home and saying bye to them was hard as well, they are like family to me, especially Sister Inkeles who is like a second mother to me. 

Tuesday morning I got be with Elder Norton which was great and we visited Sister Ludmila for the last time, probably the hardest goodbye of all. As we walked out of her apartment, she stood at the top of the staircase crying and it just broke my heart. I love her so much and I am so thankful that the Lord sent me to her to help her as she regained her eyesight and came back to Church. She will always have a special place in my heart and she told me that her door is always open for me. 
Tuesday I attended MLC for the last time, it was just a short one over Skype. We talked a lot about trying new things and balancing our work - we tend to focus on one aspect of the work and the others fall away but we need to find while we teach, teach while we find, while still reactivating, and serving! It is always a blessing to be taught by President Miner! After MLC, we had "Train the Trainers" which I have attended multiple times but it was different this time as I am actually a trainer and it was inspiring! 
Tuesday night we were with the Kiokasyan family, another great family from the Rostov branch that is Armenian and they made us some incredible Shashlik, I will send pictures. All the goodbyes were hard, but we definitely we were not hungry the first part of the week!

Wednesday morning was orientation in the Mission Home and that was where I met my trainee, Elder Feldman! He is from Reno, Nevada and is just a stud. He is shorter than we all expected, but is a bodybuilder, so he has got me beat in that regard. He has been adjusting quickly to Russia and it's unique characteristics. Having always been the younger companion my whole mission up until now, it has been interesting to see Russia through his eyes and it has made me realize how much I have gotten used to it! He tells me I walk to fast but other than that, we are getting along well! Training is also a new experience and pretty similar, I would imagine, to parenting in the regard that everything I do, say, etc. is seen/heard and he follows suit so I am constantly aware of what I am doing and trying to set the best example as possible for him which has helped me a lot to improve and be more diligent! 
Wednesday night Elder Norton and his trainee took us to the train station to help us with our big heavy bags and it was hard to say bye to Elder Norton as well, knowing that we will not see each other until we are home! My heart ached a little as the train pulled away from the station and soon the city of Rostov was disappearing over the horizon but a few hours later we were in Krasnodar! Had a rough arrival seeing as we had four huge bags and it was a late night,  but I was grateful to walk into a very nice apartment and a big bed! 

Thursday morning we had a great District Meeting about finding new investigators, specifically through members and we decided to fast as a district to find and we have already seen huge success! We have more potential investigators than I have ever had since the law came out last year and even got two referrals last night. We have high faith in this area and this week we should be teaching lots and finding new investigators even with the holiday tomorrow

Thursday night we picked up Yegor for Seminary just like we used to when I was here last year and got caught in a huge rain storm! Here it will be sunny one minute, a downpour the next, and back to sunny the next, I love it! 
We got to serve Rustam a few times this week! He welcomed back "Brother Tucker" on the phone before we went and served him in his home and taught him about the Book of Mormon. Saturday morning, he sent us to the Rinok to get his groceries because he recently got surgery and cannot leave the house. That Rinok can simply not be described, hope to show it all to you one day but the people there know us because we are there weekly with Rustam but this time we were without him and it was a miracle that we were able to find all that he asked for from the certain people that he knows!  Afterwards, while we were waiting at the train stop, a man came up to us and asked what we were selling. He soon asked where we were from and when I said America, he immediately asked, "Is your Church on this certain street, which he named" (which is the address of the branch). Turns out he had come to English club in the past although he hardly spoke any English. He gave us his phone number and told us he is very interested to meet with us! It was a much needed miracle and reminder that 1) the Lord is preparing people all the time and 2) people know who we are and we must be ready at all times to find/teach! 

Throughout the week, I was reminded of the words told to me multiple times as I prepared to enter the MTC. Everyone told me that the first few days would be hard, but to just hold on until Sunday, and that was exactly what I needed this week. Being back in the Krasnodar Branch for Church helped me so much. The Krasnodar branch is a special place, it is honestly like a big family. The people here are so great and loving, they are different than the people in other cities. Everyone was welcoming me back but they thought I was just here for the day for a split or something and they would ask where I am serving and I answered, "here!" and it was just a happy day. Some of the youth have matured so much over the past year and there were lots of new faces in the branch as well as most all the ones I knew and loved from a year ago! 

I was so grateful that Sunday was fast sunday! Helaman 3:35 was the theme of my week. I have prayed more than usual and fasted on Sunday and I cannot even explain how much peace, guidance, comfort, and joy that I have experienced thanks to fasting and prayer. It has been a humbling week but, just as the verse says, I feel stronger than ever! They are two basic actions, but they work, I know it and I experienced it this week! We got to break our fast at the Lund's home (the Senior Couple here) with all the youth which is always a great end to a great fast! 

Last night we were at Vitya's and his mom's place and when I walked in I said, "I'm home!" Vitya is like a brother to me and I am so glad that we get to be with them! We talked to them about missionary work and it turns out they share the gospel with everyone,  we read the section in Chapter 9 of PMG called, "No Effort is Wasted" because every conversation, act of service, etc. is a seed planted and we do not know when, where, and how it will get harvest but the conclusion we all came to,  is that we just have to plant! 

My theme for this transfer is to "Inquire and Rely" which means to pray more and rely on the Spirit because 1) I do not know what I am doing as a trainer and in this new area 2) the Spirit knows better than I do and 3) I have become to reliant on myself! 

Tomorrow is Victory Day so Happy Holidays to all! Talk to you on Mothers Day!! Thanks for all the love, prayers, and support.  


Elder Tucker

Pictures - Borsch, me and the Taylors, Shashlik, MLC, Me and my new companion Elder Feldman, Me and Elder Norton,  Our new trainees, A lady made us take this picture...haha, Volleyball this morning (notice the Ute apparel).

Monday, May 1, 2017

Goodbye to Rostov

Hello, everyone! 

What a week! Week 6 of transfer week is always crazy with transfer planning and all that but it has been a little different this time, knowing it was my last week in Rostov and in the Mission Office. 

I'll start with the exciting news! I am being transferred to Krasnodar where I will be training Elder Feldman who arrives in Russia tomorrow night! This is honestly a dream come true! I have always hoped and prayed for the opportunity to return to Krasnodar and for the opportunity to train! I am a little nervous seeing as we will be white washing and this will be my first time ever being the older one in the companionship, let alone training. Lots of growing coming my way, but I could not be more excited! And to add to the excitement, Elder Thayer will be with me in Krasnodar as one of the Zone Leaders so we will get to finish our missions in the same branch after hardly seeing each other throughout our missions! 

This week I have continued to study Doctrine and Covenants. I prayed to have my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith strengthened and that is when I came across D&C 6 which is full of incredible scripture and guidance. As the scriptures say, we know them (prophets) by their fruits and one of Joseph Smith's "fruits" is Doctrine and Covenants. D&C 6:18 reads, "Therefore be diligent; stand by my servant Joseph, faithfully, in whatsoever difficult circumstance he may be for the word's sake." It is my privilege to stand by Joseph and share the message that he restored. Joseph Smith was a prophet, I know it! 

This week we got to share that very message of the Restoration in its fullness with Aleksei who has a great understanding of the Gospel and already knew the message but as we taught, he was reminded of the power of the Restoration and had some moments where it all clicked like it had never clicked before, like why there was even a need for a restoration. He has been praying daily and has the desire to get back to church!

Wednesday I spent the night in my old apartment here in Rostov and had splits with Elder Burgoyne, a Zone Leader in Rostov who will be taking over as Assistant! Thursday we attended District Meeting in Zapadny where Elder Thayer led a great discussion about relying on the Spirit. I reflected about how, at the beginning of my mission, I was fully reliant on the Spirit and grace of the Lord every single day as I could not speak the language or do much at all on my own. I realized that now, having been here a while and more comfortable with the language and the culture, I have become more reliant on myself. This transfer, I want to (and will need to) be more reliant on the Spirit and humbly follow the will of the Lord, rather than my own. 
We had a lesson with a man who, when I served in that area, was never home or did not want to meet. I probably stopped by his home close to 10 times with  a couple companions and never got to meet him. Turns out they meet with him regularly know and we had a great lesson with him! 

We also went out to the Andersen family in Bataisk and it was hard to say bye to them! Sister Andersen has been so great to me and I will miss that family! We had a great lesson about trials and how they are part of the plan and for our benefit! 

Friday we reunited with the Miners who had been on the road for 10 days with the Patriarch who gave 68 blessings during his three week stay! I attended my final staff meeting before the Miners took us and the Taylors out to dinner. There are many things I will miss about Rostov, the things will I miss most is working with the Taylors in the office and being able to work so closely with President and Sister Miner. When Elder Nelson visited our mission a few months ago he told me how blessed I was to have the experience to serve as President Miner's assistant and that I will never forget it - he was right. 

Saturday we got to translate for President Miner while Elder Semaikin from the Area Presidency conducted a training for all the District Presidents in Rostov. One of the points he taught from Elder Holland's recent trip to Russia was, "Did my visit really strengthen the faith of the people there or did I just preside?" That same question can be asked at the end of every lesson, talk, etc. Was it just a general lesson with no growth, or did the faith of others actually increase because of it? 

This weekend we have had all the youth from the whole mission in Rostov for a Youth Conference and it was so great to reunite with so many people that I love! The youth of the church in Russia are incredible, they inspire me with their firm testimonies and desire to share the Gospel with others. The future of the Church is in good hands! 

Sunday was my last Sunday in Rostov Center Branch and I will likely never forget it. I was blessed with the opportunity to not only testify, but to give a ten minute talk. I have felt for a long time that I need to speak about the power of testimony at the branch and was given the opportunity to do so. I spoke after all the youth in town testified and most all of them said how they did not really want to come to Conference but they did and were very grateful for it. I shared how, honestly, when I heard I was moving to Rostov, I did not really want to come either. But, 10 months later, I have gained such a profound, deep love for every single person in the Rostov Center Branch and now I do not want to leave. 

One of the many things this branch taught me was the power of a testimony! I told them that after 10 months of attending sacrament meeting here, the best ones are the first Sunday of every month when they all share their testimonies. I shared Mosiah 18:8-9 and a quote from President Monson that if we don't share our testimonies, we will lose them. I challenged them to share their testimonies and although Elder Holland promised a temple in Russia, when and where depends on them! Volunteers cannot legally testify on the streets, and we need them for the Church to continue to grow! I have never felt more guided by the Spirit and more help from the Gift of Tongues than I did during that talk. I felt like I was just opening my mouth and the rest came out for me. 
I was overwhelmed with love, support, and some tears after Sacrament meeting. One sister said that I have been here long enough that they are allowed to hug me since I am like family and before I could do anything about it, about 6 sisters gave me a big group hug.. I wish I could write down all the incredibly nice things that were said and all the love that was felt but I just can't do it justice. I honestly felt like I was giving a farewell  talk from my home ward. All I know is that although I will not physically be here, my heart will always be in the Rostov Center Branch. I am so thankful for the opportunity I have had to serve in different callings here and teach the wonderful members the good news of the Gospel. I will never forget my time here. 

The goodbyes continue today and tomorrow and we will be off to Krasnodar on Wednesday!  Thanks for all the love, support, and prayers!!

Much love,  

-Elder Tucker//Старейшина Такер
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Pictures: Taco night with some of the Elders, thanks to Elder Weston fixing them for us!!, some of the youth attending Youth Conference from the Volgograd area.