Monday, March 5, 2018

March 5

Përshëndetje familja!

Another week come and gone. As you have already seen, I ran into Emily Nielsen Owen so that was really cool. Speaking of which, could you send me that picture?

It was super cold here for most of the week. It continued to snow for like 4 days and then rained a bunch so naturally no one could meet so you know what that means... finding. We got to go do a ton of tracting and a little bit of street contacting. Basically no one was interested, but we gave it our best and it led to a few good experiences. For example, one day I was super sick of tracting so I said a prayer in my heart that it would stop snowing for a little bit so we could street contact, and just then the sun came out and the streets got busy! Just one of those small hand of the Lord moments that keep you going when things get hard. But by the end of the week we were able to meet with our investigators and meet some new awesome people.

One of the coolest things this week happened with Rita. She was sick early this week so we couldn't meet with her, but then at the end of the week with decided to invite her to Stake Conference just in case, but we didn't think she would want to come because it's way far away. But to our surprise she really wanted to come and even ended up bringing her mom and her husband. They seemed to have a good time, even though the first stake conference is always a little bit overwhelming. While there President Anderson pulled a little surprise by inviting all investigators in the audience to get baptized. So that night we had a lesson with her and invited her and she accepted!

We also still have the Jakaj family. They're doing great! We're starting to build super good relationships with them and they loved Stake Conference, especially getting to talk to their son. They've been reading the Book of Mormon now and our lessons with them have been much better. One day when we were down there for a lesson we decided to do some finding in their village and we found some super cool and interested people there too. So hopefully that keeps going well. 

Our other main investigators for now are Leka and Arben and they're doing great too. Leka is a van driver and he drove the branch to Stake Conference. He's already read to Alma in the Book of Mormon and is a super cool dude. He also said he really liked Stake Conference. Arben is a journalist and is cool too. He talks a lot so it's kind of hard to keep him focused in lessons, but he also came to Stake Conference and really enjoyed it too!
That's about all the news for me. Stake Conference was really the highlight/focus of the week. It was super awesome getting to see all my missionary friends and all the people from my past areas. I got to see almost all my converts and a ton of members that I've worked with through exchanges and my past areas. I love all those people so much, it's such a special feeling getting to be with all of them and seeing how happy they all are because of the gospel. I'm so glad I decided to serve a mission. It's kind of sad that this was the last Stake Conference for me here in Albania.

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

February 26

Përshëndetje familje!

Another good week here in Shkodër.

The cold weather in Utah seems to have made it here to Albania. It's been snowing non stop these past two days. Everyone has been super excited because it doesn't snow here very often, but it has been super cold too. And just when things were starting to warm up, well what do you do. 

I'm doing better with the language. There are still a few people that have a super thick accent that I still have a little difficulty understanding, our investigator Rita for example, but in general I'm back into the loop.

Our area is doing pretty well. We've tried to meet with a ton of new people this week, but no one shows up for the lessons we set. But we were able to meet all three of our main investigators this week. 

Our most progressing investigator for the moment is Rita. She's super cool, and is pretty catholic. We've met her a few times now, and she comes pretty much any time that we give her a call. She's reading the Book of Mormon and praying and seems to understand what we teach too. She came to church on Sunday and said that she really liked it. She might still think we're catholic, but hopefully church helped her understand that we aren't.

We're also teaching the Jakaj family. They live in Laç which is about 30-40 minutes past Lezhë and they have a son who is a missionary right now serving here in Albania. The daughter in the family is also baptized so now we're trying to work with the parents. The dad is on a baptismal date, but is pretty shaky on whether or not he'll make it. We were able to get him a Book of Mormon printed in larger print this week, because he can't read the Book of Mormon in normal print, and that should really help him progress.

Then our other main investigator for now is Leka. He drives a van that takes people from city to city and is a super nice guy. He's really busy so we haven't really been able to meet with him a lot recently, but he will be driving all of us to stake conference next week and we'll do our best to get him to come in and listen to the meeting.

On another note, we had zone conference this week. It was awesome, the trainings were mostly focused on the Book of Mormon and the family. So that's what we'll focus on in our work. We're trying to find families and help everyone who comes to stay by being converted through the Book of Mormon. Great things are on the way here.

The members here are awesome! There aren't a lot, we only average like 15 or so people in church every week, but they're super strong. All of them work really well together and really want to go to the temple. They all do their best to fulfill their callings and to serve and teach each other. It's an awesome place here.

All in all, it's really cold here, but it's great. I'm doing great, still having an awesome time.
I love you all!
Have a great week!
Elder Gardiner

February 19

Përshëndetje familja!

Well this has been an interesting week. To get the big news out of the way first, I think I got the flu. I got way sick on Saturday, and I'm mostly better now, but my companion's sick too. But all in all we're doing ok.

In other news Shkodër is really cool. It's really different though, I feel like I'm back at the beginning of my mission language wise. I can pretty much only understand the last half of every sentence, if I'm lucky. Luckily some of my companions have spoken a little bit of gheg for me so I know how it works I just need to work on hearing it. It's kind of funny, every once in a while my companion, who's been serving here for a while now and is Albanian, also doesn't understand people sometimes, so that makes me feel better.

The people here are cool though. We have a bunch of investigators, but they're all super busy, so we're working on being able to meet with all of them. A ton of people said they could meet on Saturday, but then we were sick on Saturday so that didn't happen. But the members here are super great. There are not a lot of active members, but the ones we have are super solid. Unfortunately I wasn't able to meet a lot of them because we were too sick to go to church, but I'm excited to meet more this week.

One cool person here is Eva. She's a nonmember who comes every week just to play the piano for us in Shkodër. She's not interested in learning more about the church, but she's super nice, and I'm sure that if she keeps coming one day she'll find the thing that will help her understand it all and join the church. She's a professional piano player and can easily sight read pretty much all of the hymns.

That's about it for me. Still getting  better, doing my best to not be sick anymore, and try and do missionary work in between. 

I love you all!
Have a great week.
Elder Gardiner
PS. I was so busy last week that I think I forgot to wish you a happy birthday. So, Happy Birthday!!! Elder Schneider and I actually had a little celebration at home on Saturday the 10th, then  I just forgot to write it into my email. I love you!

Regarding companion:  He's from Tirana, his family is in the Tirana 1st ward. We're getting along fine so far. I didn't think we would, but we're doing better than I thought. He has a really strong testimony and he's really committed to mission rules. He's 23 years old. He has a year and 2 or 3 months on the mission, he started 3 months after I got into field, he just didn't have the MTC. He's actually my mission brother. After Elder Mero trained me and went to Gjakova he trained Elder Isufaj for his first six weeks, and then Elder Isufaj was sent to Pogradec.

February 12

Përshëndetje familja!

Another exciting week. To get the big unexpected news out of the way, I'm getting transferred. We had transfer calls on Saturday, and unfortunately I'll be leaving Fier to go to Shkodër. I've loved serving here in Fier a ton, there are a bunch of amazing people here that I've really learned to love. Fier is in a really good position now, so I'll make sure to keep updated with Elder Schneider. Shkodër will be really good too though, I'm excited. I'll be serving with an Albanian companion named Elder Isufaj so I'll get in plenty of practice with my Albanian. Serving in Shkodër means that I'll also be covering Lezhë which is another city close to Shkodër. I think that right now there are only 3 members in Lezhë, but I've heard that it's on the edge of really growing, so that'll be super exciting. We'll be in a district with Tirana, plus covering two cities, which means I'll be doing a ton of driving (Elder Isufaj doesn't have a drivers licence). Also I'll be district leader, so no escape from preparing trainings. I'm really excited though.

Other news, we had a district meeting with President and Sister Anderson, and the APs (Elders Benson and Draper) and it was a lot of fun. They focused their trainings on the Book of Mormon and how important it is as a tool for conversion. They're all super inspiring leaders and make me feel really excited to go and get things done here. After that the APs and the Vlorë Elders (Elders Murray and Wood) stayed the night in our house, which was a little crazy but a lot of fun. Those five are most of my best friends here on the mission and I'll definitely want to stay friends with them after the mission. 

For our area, we actually almost baptized Redi last week. Key word almost. On Monday we invited him to be baptized on Friday which he accepted, then he passed a baptismal interview, and then he really opened up with us about why he doesn't feel ready. So he'll take just a little more time. We met with Entela again this week and it was another perfect lesson. We taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then went through all the commandments. So she could honestly be baptized within the next two weeks. The three girls came to our Book of Mormon reading class, English Course, and all two hours of church on Sunday. They're so prepared and as long as their parents let them they'll be baptized super soon. They sent us a text after church saying they'll really miss me, which was super sweet. I'll miss them too. We met with a ton of members and I got pictures with them so I'll send those to you as well.

So today and yesterday are basically just a bunch of goodbyes and packing, hopefully we'll actually have time to do everything.

That's about all the time I have for now, I'm working on uploading the pictures right now and then I'll share them with you. They're way too many to send.

I love you all so much!
Mirupafshim, Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner

February 5th

Përshëndetje familja!

This was a crazy week. We just got back from Gjiorkaster so I don't have a lot of time. I took over 100 pictures this week, so I'll send as many as I can. Now here are the highlights.

So hopefully that screenshot goes through. It's a pretty basic summary of our week.

We met with Redi. He's doing ok. We'll meet him again tonight.

The Lewis' had a lesson with Entela and it was good. We'll be meeting her again on Wednesday. She came to church again!

The three girls are still super awesome. Their names are Griselda, Lumesa, and Armela. One of them hadn't started reading the Book of Mormon yet, then she came to church on Sunday with her book and said she did nothing but read all weekend and was in 2 Nephi 10 now. They came early to study again. Super awesome.

Other than that, we had exchanges. We started in Korçë, I served with Elder Ward. He's really cool. Korça is an awesome place. Then we went to Pogradec. I got to serve with Elder Miller and he's an amazing missionary. He only has 6 months in field but he already is amazing with the language and knows how to teach and everything super well. We ended up taking a trip to Elbasan to get baptismal clothes for a baptism, but it got canceled because the woman's husband won't let her get baptized. So hopefully that'll change soon. 

After that, church was good yesterday. We went and did baptismal interviews in Vlore and Radhime after church and lunch. There will be three baptisms in Vlore this week and they're all so cool.

We had our Gjirokaster P-day trip today with Elder Lewis and it was amazing. We went to the ancient castle that overlooks the city and explored the whole thing. There were so many cool things there. The castle was started in the 7th century BC, it was changed to look like it does in the 1400s. Which btw is much older than the USA. They also have an American war plane they landed during WWII. Pictures will come. Most will probably have to wait a week or two.

Other fun news, our mission is getting bigger! Greece is going to become a part of the Mighty Adriatic South Mission on July 1 this year. So that'll be cool. With any luck I'll get to go visit some day on a P-Day.

That's about it for me. I love you all!
Have a great week!
Elder Gardiner

January 29

Përshëndetje familja!

This has been a great week here in Fier. A lot of good things are happening here.

One cool experience was with a guy named Shkëlqim. He came to the last like 5 minutes of church last week and then said we could go visit him sometime throughout the week. He told us the area where his house was and after a knocking a few doors and asking some people no one seemed to know him. But then as we were leaving we went around a corner, and there he was! He said he had just gotten back from Tirana and was tired so he couldn't meet that day, but that we could come back the next day. So we did, we taught a little bit of English to him and his son and then taught the restoration and put him on a baptismal date! Turns out his wife is a devout Jehovah's Witness though, so we're hoping that doesn't become a problem.

We're still working with Redi, things are about the same, but they're looking up. We've had a few lessons about what someone needs to do to be baptized and we're working to help him get over anything that could be holding him back. Also, it's his birthday today so we'll meet him if he has time. 

We had a lesson with Nikolin this week too, and he's so awesome. He's a member here who was reactivated right before I got here. He was baptized about three years ago now and he loves to read and study the scriptures so he invited us over to study with him. He speaks really good English and actually studies the Bible in English instead of Albanian because he likes it better. He's also super strong. He has a makeshift gym that he made in his house, including a deadlift bar that he made from an old train axle and tires filled with cement. He said his maximum weight that he can lift is 440 lbs. but to do that he has to eat 4000 calories a day, and he attributes it all to living the word of wisdom. Right now he's just preparing to get the Melchizedek priesthood, which he should get at stake conference in a couple months. I'll attach a video of him to the end of this email.

We had a cool experience yesterday before church. The three girls who have been coming to English Course all came to church half an hour early to study the Book of Mormon. We came out from preparing our lesson for second hour, and they were all sitting on the front row quietly reading their own copies of the Book of Mormon that they had marked. Now if we could just get more members to do that church would be so good!

A lot of people here in Albania, especially older people, have a hard time reading and can't afford glasses, so it's hard for people to read the Book of Mormon. That's the case with one of the members here named Bilbil, he can read a little bit but because he is a welder and doesn't have eye protection his eyes get tired really fast. So we made him a big copy of the Book of Mormon, and now he can read it! We gave him the book and he was so excited! In the lesson he insisted that he was going to read the whole chapter that we were going to discuss. So now he should be able to study and learn at home too!

Then on Sunday we made a mistake. We unknowingly told two member families that we would come over for lunch that day. So we ate lunch with one and then found out we were supposed to go to the other too. So we had to eat lunch twice. Which with how much members feed us is pretty much impossible. But the food was super good. The first one made us enchiladas, which I haven't had in years now. The members here are awesome, and really good at forgiving missionaries for their stupid mistakes.

Lastly, we had a stake priesthood conference on Saturday and that was really cool. They had a general meeting and then three separate classes where they talked about missionary preparation, for the strength of youth standards, and how to perform priesthood ordinances. We actually had a lot of people come from Fier and they all seemed to learn a lot and loved the conference.

I'm loving it here in Fier, and Elder Schneider is the best. I love him a ton!

Just as a heads up, we're planning on going on a P-Day trip to Gjirokaster next week so I'm not sure how much time we'll have to email next week.

I love you all so much! Have an amazing week!
Elder Gardiner

January 22

Përshëndetje familje!

Well another good week here in Fier.

This week, has been good. We had that lesson with Entela last Monday, but she didn't have time to meet again throughout the week. But she came to church and gave a bunch of perfect answers in second hour at church.
We met with Redi again. It was an ok lesson, but like usual it kind of jumped around a lot, and so the spirit came and went back and forth through the lesson. So there's still plenty of work to do there.

We had a game night this week and it was awesome. There are three girls who come to our English Course and church and they came. Also a member, Nikolin, brought his friend, and they had a great time. It was a lot of fun, we had a bunch of members there and investigators and the members did a great job friendshipping them. We played bingo, hot potato, fruit salad, and a balloon juggling game. Fruit salad is one of those games where everyone has to switch chairs as fast as they can to not get caught in the center, and everyone loves it! Plus we are trying to teach the three girls, but we want to meet with the family first, and their mom showed up to get them from the activity. So hopefully we'll be able to start that soon.
I also went on an exchange to Lushnje this week with Elder Tobler. It was good, I actually got to do some street contacting and we weren't insanely busy, so it was a bit of a nice change. Elder Tobler's really cool. He's super tall, but other than that everyone says we look a lot alike. I actually have a picture of me with him from an exchange I did with him in Elbasan with Lindis.

English course has been great recently. Our class is mostly full of children and families so we've been playing a lot of English learning games, and they love it. And then we've been having great spiritual thoughts. So people have been having fun at the church and learning about the gospel, so double bonus!

This morning we went and helped a member family get rid of a ton of mold from their walls. That was a lot of fun, and wasn't actually too hard since all the walls here are actually just concrete. And plus, they made cinnamon rolls for us after.
I have a few pictures to send you from the past few weeks, I actually remembered by camera cord today!
We got to watch the special announcement this week, and it was so cool! I'm so excited that Russel M. Nelson is officially our new prophet. I felt really strongly that he really has been called of God to lead his church. He's going to do amazing things as the prophet!

I'm loving things here. Elder Schneider have had a ton of fun together this week. He's so awesome and miracles are happening with him here.

I love you all and I hope you're all doing well!
Elder Gardiner