Monday, January 15, 2018

January 15th

Përshëndetje familja!

This week was a really good week! I don't have a lot of time, but here are some of the highlights.

First off, Zone Conference. This was my first Zone Conference as a ZL which means we got to give our first training. Also the Vlore elders got to stay the night at our house, which was super fun. We were super stressed getting everything ready throughout the week and it took a lot of time out of our area, but it ended up being great. So the way it worked is we were given an hour and a half to split between accountability (where we talk about numbers and goals), our training, and a training from the sister training leaders. We started with accountability and that took way longer than we thought, but it was really good. We have a habit of setting super high, unreachable goals and then just getting discouraged because we don't hit them. So we decided to put a huge focus on the zone creating a realistic goal and holding each person accountable for our success. So we'll see how that goes. Then the STLs gave an amazing training about Christlike attributes, and then by the time they were done our hour and a half was over. So we stood up played a short video and gave a five minute training, and it was great. Then we of course had the trainings from president and the APs, which were both amazing. One of the best parts of Zone Conference though was probably getting to spend some time with Elder Murray. When we served together we didn't get along super well and it was really hard, but now both of us have grown a lot and we've become really good friends. I loved getting to talk to him, he's an amazing missionary.

Other than that, we also had Redi. He had kind of plateaued for a while but this week we had some great lessons with him. Last Monday we had a lesson just on the spirit and how powerful it is and why we want it. The spirit was so strong, he was focused super intently and and shared an awesome story about a time where he felt the spirit super strong when he was younger. And then I had the opportunity to promise him that if he prays to know if the church and the Book of Mormon are true that he'll be able to feel that again. And he listened and promised to do it. Then for our next lesson he said he hadn't had time to put himself in the perfect situation to do a prayer like that, but that his regular prayers had been super powerful and sincere that week and he said he felt different and felt the spirit more. 
Unfortunately right when we were about to invite him to baptism he had to go to work. But we'll meet again on Wednesday and I'm feeling really good about that lesson.

Then today we had another amazing lesson. We met with someone named Entela. She's been coming to the Lewis' English Course and church for a few months but we were just waiting for the perfect moment to ask her if she wants to start taking lessons. Then this Sunday while Elder Schneider and I were teaching second hour president Lewis felt inspired to lean over and ask her if she wants to start taking the missionary lessons, which after a little bit of explanation as to what those are she gladly accepted. She's so cool! She's a literacy teacher and she's super smart. We gave her a Book of Mormon and now she's working on reading two pages a day to finish the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. The lesson went practically perfectly. She has a ton of faith in Christ and understood everything we taught, we used a ton of scriptures and we could tell she was really feeling the spirit. We kept mentioning baptism and she seemed to just light up every time we mentioned it. So then we got to the end and invited her to be baptized and she said she would love to, we invited her to be baptized on 17 February and she said there's no way she could do everything she needs to before then, so Elder Schneider shared 3 Nephi 9:20 which talks about how we need a broken heart and contrite spirit and then we're ready for baptism and she said that that was the perfect scripture for her. So she'll keep thinking and pray about that date, but so far things are looking great! 

Church was amazing yesterday too! We had had a lot lessons with less-actives this week and invited them all to come to church, and then surprisingly, they did! We had a ton of less-actives, semi-actives, and investigators in church and the spirit was super strong in church. Xhoni, the kid we baptized right when I got to Fier, gave his first talk and did a really good job. And then president Lewis shared some of his favorite parts from President Monson's funeral, and it was so cool looking at the audience as I translated and everyone just seemed to be concentrated so intensely on the words that we were sharing. It was a really cool experience.

That's about it for me now, I'm doing great. I love things here in Fier, and Elder Schneider and I are doing great. He's an amazing missionary and I'm enjoying serving with him again.

I love you all! Have a great week, hopefully this gets to you all!

Elder Gardiner

​Picture from MLC. 3 of the original 4 companionships in our MTC district

January 8th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well another week down and New Year's is over. Luckily I'm also over my annual New Year's sickness.

Things are going well here. I'm loving serving with Elder Schneider. It's taking a little bit of adjustment, but he's a great missionary and I'm super glad we get to serve together again.

This week we've been pretty busy traveling and doing zone leader stuff so we haven't had as much time for regular proselyting, but we have had some good lessons. This week we had transfers in Tirana, two district meetings in Vlorë, and MLC in Tirana. MLC was so cool though, it's a meeting for all the zone leaders and sister training leaders with president and the APs and we got to discuss the state of the mission from last year, and set goals for the new year. Last year was a good year, but we're ready to kick things into gear and get even more done this year. Also it was fun because 6 of the 9 people in my original MTC district were there. So now we'll take the stuff we learned and apply them in zone conference this week. This conference Elder Schneider and I get to give our first trainings as zone leaders, it should be exciting.

As for work in our area, we were able to meet with Redi again. He was really busy with work over the holidays so we didn't see him for a couple weeks, but then we had a good lesson with him on Thursday. We're still working on getting him to accept a solid baptismal date, but we're meeting with him again today and we're having Vëllai Gjika come help us so it should be a really powerful lesson.
Because Elder Schneider was new here we decided to go and visit some of the members and see if they have any people that we can teach. So we got to meet with a few different people, and while we haven't gotten any referrals from it yet, they did commit to think about people they can talk to and share the gospel with.

I had a really cool experience this Sunday. The Stake President, President Mema, came down for church here this Sunday and bore his testimony. Then after church he took me on a split and we went to visit some members who have been offended by President Lewis and he talked to them. I was just there to show him where they lived, but I got to sit in as he talked to them, and it was so cool. I felt his love for them and I felt the power he holds as their caretaker appointed from God he was able to connect with them and to help them in a way we as the missionaries just can't quite do. It was amazing.

That's about it for me. It was a great week, we were super busy though so it flew by.

I love you all, have an amazing week!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, January 1, 2018

January 1st

Përshëndetje familja!

This has been a bit crazy. But to start with the biggest thing, we got transfer calls on Saturday. So if you remember in the Skype we were talking about how it was pretty much impossible that Elder Schneider would come ZL with me... Well I forgot that President Anderson has no rules. So yeah, I'll be with Elder Schneider again next transfer and I can't even attempt to explain how excited I am. And as for Elder Draper he will be whitewashing AP with Elder Benson. I did think Draper would go AP, but definitely didn't see the rest of those changes coming. It's sad to see Elder Draper go, but I'll be seeing plenty of him over the next few weeks in all our meetings and conferences. Also I didn't think I would get to serve with Elder Schneider again so that was a super pleasant surprise.

As for regular missionary work this wasn't the best week for us. We had to move houses this week so the process of cleaning and moving and organizing everything took a good three days out of our work, and we both got sick. So once again I was sick for new years(fortunately not nearly as bad as last year though). Now we live in a brand apartment in the same building as the senior couple, which is a huge blessing.

We did have a really cool hand of the Lord moment though. Earlier in the week we went with the senior couple to give some cookies to a less active family and while we were there we told the son to take his best friend and come have a lesson with us some time. He said he would call us, which in Albania basically means that it won't happen, but then surprisingly this Friday we got a call from him saying he was on his way to the church. Luckily we had just gotten to the church, and sure enough a few minutes later they both showed up and we had an amazing restoration lesson. They even walked through a huge rainstorm to get to the church. They didn't come to church because they slept in, but as soon as school starts they should start coming back. So even when we don't have time to go out and contact God will bring his prepared children to us!

We had a fun service opportunity too this week. We went to an older member couple's home and got to help make cement and then went and picked oranges. Pictures and videos to come. Then we took the oranges to the retirement home and she gave us a bag too.
New Years was a lot of fun. We got to stay up to watch the fireworks, and like always it was insane. I took a video, but it turned out to be huge, so I'll work on getting that uploaded sometime and get that to you. My full year as a missionary is officially over. Now I just have to work the heck out of these last 7 months.

I'm doing great. I'm mostly better now, hopefully I won't be sick at all by the time Schneider gets here. I'm going to miss Elder Draper a lot. He's definitely been one of my favorite companions of all time and I'm hoping we'll continue to stay close through the rest of the mission and after. I love it here and I'm excited that I get to stay here in Fier. It's easy for things to look a little depressing and dismal here but recently I've just been feeling so much hope. I see the people who we have coming to church and they're perfect for what we need. If we can help them accept the gospel, be baptized and keep coming there are a lot of good things coming for Fier.

I love you all. I hope you have a great week and an amazing New Year!!!

Elder Gardiner

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December 25

Since we still have a bit of time for now I'll share a few highlights from this week.

This week we had another set of exchanges and in a twist of fate I got to work in all 3 of my past areas. In Vlore we got to go to a missionary homecoming welcome activity. That was fun because we got to hear a few stories from her mission, and got to see a lot of members. Then our Elbasan exchange was fantastic, it might have been my favorite exchange ever. The day started off normal, we had some lessons with investigators, taught English Course, and met with some members. Then we had a little bit of time left so I felt like we needed to call Lindis and have a lesson with him. So he came and we had a super good lesson. We just read a chapter from wherever he was in the Book of Mormon, it wasn't even one of those especially powerful chapters, but just discussing it between the three of us was super powerful. Then we just talked a little bit about how he's doing, how much both of us have changed, and what's going on in Elbasan. Then Lindis asked me to give him a blessing, and it was the most spiritual experience of my mission so far. The words just kept coming and I felt like I understood his situation and wanted to bless him with anything possible. I honestly can not describe the amount of charity that I feel for him. He's honestly like a brother to me. 

Then on Saturday we got to go to Durres for the stake Christmas program and I got to see a ton of the members from Durres. The program was great. The church was packed and everyone seemed to have a really good time. It's amazing how much it feels like there's a part of me that I've left in each of these places I've served.

On a sadder note, Redi didn't get baptized this week. He's ready, he's just too worried about what everyone else thinks. So we'll keep working with him, but it might be a little while before he gets baptized. But on the upside, we had a lot of investigators come to church and people are progressing really well. There are three young girls who have been coming to English Course, and they came to all the activities this week, and also they've been in church these past two weeks. So this week we'll try and talk with their parents, and hopefully we can teach all their families.

That's about it for me. Have an amazing Christmas!
Elder Gardiner

December 18

Përshëndetje familja!

So this week we were basically out of our area all week. But it was still a good week.

To start out with the parts that actually took place in Fier. We had an awesome game night activity on Monday for Light the World that we invited the members and everyone else to come to. We had two families from our English Course that came and loved it! The members were great and did a good job at fellowshipping them, and then the kids even came to church on Sunday! Unfortunately that week we were late for English Course both times because to baptismal interviews so we looked a little unprofessional but it still worked out. Other than that, we met with Xhoni and Redi. They're both doing ok, but neither were in church. We're still really hoping that Redi will be baptized this weekend. He seemed like he would last time we met, but it's been almost a week since then. So more on that next week. Kristo, who is one of my best friends here in Fier had his birthday the day before mine and turned 16. So on Sunday Elder Lewis ordained him a priest and I translated for that, which was a super cool experience. He'll be an amazing priest and a huge help for the branch. Side note, translating is hard, but also kind of fun being able to just switch between both languages both ways and try to help two people who can't communicate on their own be able to talk to each other.

Then the rest of the week was mostly just spent traveling. We were in Lushnje two days, and then in Vlore twice too. And fun news, one of my favorite investigators just got baptized in Vlore! So we got to see him when we came down for his interview and that was great. After that we were in Korca for a day. I got to see Elder Schneider again and working there was a lot of fun. The next day we were in Pogradec. The Elders there are Elder Miller and Elder Richards and they're super awesome. We had a super fun exchange with them that included a #LighttheWorld concert that President Anderson and Sister Anderson came to as well as 170 other people from Pogradec. It was a lot of fun and an amazing way to introduce people to the church. They had a lot of people in church yesterday!

The week flew bye but it was a lot of fun. I'm still doing well. Loving it here in Fier. Elder Draper is awesome, and we still get along fantastically. I feel like I finally know the new missionaries in our zone after our exchanges. I have the pictures, they're downloading now and I'll send them today when I email again later. 

We're still figuring our an exact time for the skype next week, but for now plan on like 10 or 11 AM your time.

I love you! Send me any questions or things I might have missed.
Elder Gardiner

Birthday cake
Elder Draper and I made Cinnamon Rolls
Me, Elder Larsen, Romeo, and Gjergj from Korca
Me, Elder Draper, Kristo, and Ervin at one of our light the world activities
Me with Manuel (the one who got baptized this week in Vlore)
Elder Larsen with the Gjika's (There is one with me in it, but I don't have it yet)
Our exchange in Korca last transfer

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

December 11

Përshëndetje familja!
I've had a good week here. Fier is still going well. I'm 20 now, so that's fun. 

As for our week, we've been really trying to use #NdriçojeBotën as much as possilbe. So we've planned a bunch of activities and now we're trying to invite everyone we can. So yesterday we went through the member list and called every person that we had a number for inviting them to the activity that we'll have today. Some of the numbers didn't work and not all the people answered, but we did get to talk to a lot of members that we've never met before and some of them seemed like they would really try and come to the activity today. We've also gone out with a poster throughout the week and talked to everyone about Christ and service. 
For my birthday we went over to the Liçaj's for lunch which was fun. Yesterday was also the Licaj grandma's birthday so we celebrated together. The food was good and we even had a birthday cake. So as for a birthday on the mission goes, it was great!

Redi is still doing well. We had a really good lesson with him where we read 3 Nephi 11. We were trying to just focus on Christ and his power to bring us peace in our lives, but we got to the end and Redi said the thing that stuck out most to him was where it talks about baptism and how important it is. So this week we'll work out all the details for his baptism. So it should be awesome!

He's our only steady investigator for now, but we've been trying to find some new people. We've invited a lot of people to the activity tonight and members are too so we should have some new people to meet with this week. The senior couple has a woman in their English class who is super cool and super smart and she's been coming to church for the past couple of weeks. They said they'll talk to her about taking the missionary lessons, and she would be an amazing member. So hopefully she accepts!

We had an exchange with Lushnje this week and I got to serve with one of my friends who's going home in a couple weeks. It was a lot of fun and it was cool getting to work with him. Also, Elder Lords and Elder Larsen go home this week so we went and played frisbee with them and a lot of the other missionaries today.
This next week should be really crazy. We have baptismal interviews in Lushnje and Vlore, district meeting in Vlore, exchanges in Korça and Pogradec, and a special Light the World concert in Pogradec, and then we'll have to stay the night in Elbasan. So basically we won't be in our area most of the week. It'll be fun.

The weather's back to normal. We've had rain off and on, but it was actually good weather today(which is lucky because my jeans aren't dry so I had to wear shorts). 

It's crazy that it's almost Christmas. I totally hadn't even thought about the skype, but I'm super excited. We'll figure that out this week and let you know next week. Let me know if there's a certain time that would work best and we'll try to work around that.

I love you all! Have a great week!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, December 4, 2017

December 4

Përshëndetje familja!

This has certainly been an exciting week. Back in Utah you all may have had to deal with some snow, but here the weather's been equally if not more crazy. From Thursday night until until about a few hours ago it's rained almost without stop. So basically all of Albania is flooded. It wasn't too bad here in Fier, but we had to go to Vlorë for a baptismal interview and probably about half the city was under a foot of water. We almost didn't make it to the interview because all of the roads were flooded, except for the last one we tried. So the work of the Lord presses on, the interview went great and the investigator got baptized on Satrurday!

This week was also Albanian independence days. November 28 and 29 are they days Albania celebrates their independence from the Ottoman Empire 105 years ago. So the Fier music school put on a performance for the city, and one of our members is a really good singer in the music school so we grabbed a few members and decided to go support her. It was a ton of fun, and while we were there we actually ran into a lot of less actives and investigators!

Redi's doing good too. He's going through a hard time because he feels like he can't really trust anyone and that everyone is out to get him(except us) so that's been hard. But he keeps reading and praying, and is still planning on getting baptized.

We've met with some cool new people this week. I don't have a lot of time so I won't go into a lot of detail, but mainly we've been getting and meeting with referrals. There are some really cool people here, and sometimes it's hard for us to find them. But the members know them and when they bring them they're way more likely to accept it and stay.
In less fun news. Some members got offended and decided they wouldn't come back to church. So hopefully they change their mind. That's always super sad to see, but we'll do our best to help them.

We were in Tirana again today because they finished fixing our car. We went up and got to hang out with a bunch of the missionaries, it was great. We also went bowling with Elder Larsen and Elder Lords. I won the first time, but then Elder Lords rolled a turkey in his first three frames of the second game and just steamrolled all of us. Needless to say it was a great break.

Elder Draper and I are getting along so well!!! I've always really liked Elder Draper, but I didn't know him super well, and turns out we have a ton in common! He loves Star Wars, we have a super similar taste in music, and he loves Brandon Sanderson too. But we also work super well together, he teaches really well, knows Albanian super well, and I've learned a ton from him. I'm having a ton of fun and growing a lot!

I have a few pictures to send sometime, but I can't upload them here. So I'll upload them sometime this week and send them next week.

I love you all!!! Have an amazing week! Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner