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.

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