Monday, September 26, 2016

September 26, 2016

Ç'kemi familja!! Ju dua shumë!

Well it's finally here, my last P-Day in the MTC. I've had a great time here at the MTC but I'm excited beyond words to get out into the field! I still need to finish packing (big surprise), and I'm finishing laundry right now but other than that I'm ready!

This week at the MTC has been both crazy and amazing! So last week we spoke only Albanian from Monday to Saturday, and that was really hard. But at the same time it was so amazing. I feel like I understand the language a lot better now because of that so hopefully that'll help me in the field. Yesterday was our last Sunday here and it was so good. We said goodbye to our branch presidency and got interviewed to make sure we're ready. I've loved our branch presidency so much, they've been such amazing examples and leaders for us here. After church we had our departure devotional and on Thursday we had In-field orientation, and after those I definitely feel a lot more prepared to get into the field. They really focused on working with the wards (or in our case branches) and that when we do that we'll be so much more effective. We also had our last Sunday devotional yesterday which was a lot of fun and then we got to watch church videos again. We watched "Character of Christ" again yesterday which is an MTC talk by Elder Bednar. It focuses a lot on always working to turn out and focus on others instead of ourselves. That was really inspiring for us especially with us leaving tomorrow. In order to have a successful mission I can't be focusing on myself, it doesn't matter at all what I want, I'm here to serve others. I'm so excited to go and take that to Albania with me!

So General Conference is next Sunday which is so awesome! I'm not sure if we get it next Sunday or the one after that in Albania(because translating) but either way I can't wait to watch it. It'll be so hard to understand because it'll be in Albanian but I'll do my best. But just in case, make sure to send me some notes when you watch it!
That's so exciting that Max is so close to leaving now, he's going to love it!
I can't wait to call you all tomorrow, that's going to be so much fun! be sure to be ready, I should call right at 6! Then we should be arriving at about 12:00, Utah Time, in Chicago and I'll probably call from there too but I'm not 100% sure on the time for that.
It's so crazy thinking that Elder Schneider and I are only going to be companions for 2 more days! I'm so glad we've gotten along so well and we have worked so well together! He's so funny but at the same time he has the spirit so strong with him. I'll definitely miss him but hopefully we'll see each other around in the field! All the Elders heading out with us are so amazing so hopefully I get to be companions with at least one of them in the field!

Also I found my new favorite scripture, it's Ether 12:4. That whole chapter is so amazing and it talks all about faith. I recommend everyone to read that because it's so true. If we have faith then we really have so much hope and the world becomes a better place. There are so many amazing things we have to look forward to both in this life and in the next and we get all of those through faith. When we have faith we have the power of God with us, it's through faith that God works miracles. Faith has been my biggest focus here at the MTC and I've definitely gained a lot more here. I know with all my heart that if we have faith God will bless us in every part of our life. Things may not always go the way we think or the way we want but if we just have faith that it'll turn out ok I know we'll end up better than we started.

Just one last thought for now, we sang the EFY medley yesterday in church as our goodbye musical number(Sisters in Zion/Army of Helaman). That was so cool and I love the part in the song where it normally says "and we will be the Lord's missionaries" but we sang "and we are now the Lord's missionaries". I'm so excited to really get out there! Just 16 more hours until we leave for the airport!

Love Elder Gardiner

Monday, September 19, 2016

September 19, 2016

Ç'kemi familja, ju dua!

So this has been a crazy week, and I'm sure it'll get even crazier. Today we started what's called "Consecration Week" and what that means is that my whole district is speaking only Albanian until Sunday, and we're trying to be even more obedient and spiritually attuned than ever. So this is the only communication I'll have in English this whole week. We've already done a few separate SYL days but this will definitely be a lot harder, but we've seen how much these help us so we're ready and excited for the challenge. 

Also this past week we got our flight plans! So we have to be at the travel office at 3:50 AM on Tuesday, Sept 27th, which will be rough but I'm still pumped. Then our flight leaves at 8 from Salt Lake, so I'll probably call at 6 AM so everyone be ready!(maybe even a little earlier, we'll see) I'm excited to call you all, it feels so weird that I haven't heard your voices in so long! Our flight is to Chicago and we have about 3 hours of layover there so I'll get to call again there but I'm not exactly sure when. Then after our layover we fly all the way to Austria! Our flight to Vienna is super long but it's going to be so cool, I've always wanted to go to more places in Europe. Then we have a 4 hour layover in Vienna, and then it's straight over to Shqiperia! I've heard that we get to take a nap when we get there which will be awesome, but then it's straight out into street contacting. I'm so excited to know where I'll be serving and who my trainer is! It's going to be so weird not having Elder Schneider as my companion anymore though! Hopefully we get to serve together again later in the mission though. I'll send a picture of my flight plans later with more specific information when my camera finishes charging. But for now just typing it out, it's SLC-Chicago 8:40-12:59, then Chicago-Vienna 4:30PM-8:35AM Sept 28, then Vienna-Tirana 12:45PM-2:20PM. I don't know if that includes time zone changes or not, because those are going to be hard, but that's what we have. Then we also have a flight from Tirana back to Vienna 2 months later but I'm pretty sure we won't take that.

Also we got our new name tags this week! They just changed the spelling so it fit Shqip pronunciation so my new name is Elder Gardnër, but there are some that changed spelling a ton. Elder Schneider is now Elder Shnajdër, Elder Johnson is now Elder Xhansën, and Elder Draper is Elder Xhrejpër. Shqip is so cool! 

Also we had another Apostle come speak to us last Tuesday! This time it was Elder Cook and it was so awesome! Their testimonies are all so strong and powerful and we learn so much from them. Also I want to talk to you about choir. That has honestly been one of the best things ever. Even though I'm definitely not the greatest singer I've loved participating in that. There is so much power in singing and the spirit is so strong whenever we sing hymns. I challenge you all to always have a hymn that you can sing or bring to memory if you ever are in need. I know that it will help you in any situation. And dad reminded me so much of this when he told me about the time where there was bagpipe music on his hike, I really wish I could have been there because those two are a perfect combination.

While I've been here I've also been reading the Book of Mormon not only more but with a purpose. That's definitely one thing that I was bad at before my mission. The difference that that book has made in my everyday life here is so apparent and I've definitely seen the power it has. There is a drastic difference in our lessons based on how well we use the Book of Mormon, it's so critical and so powerful. I've grown so much here and I can't wait to see how much more grow out in the field. I can definitely see the difference that has come from trying to have the spirit with me all the time here in the MTC and I hope that I can continue to have that after my mission.

So I'm still loving it here with all my heart. We've had some amazing lessons, and some that weren't so great. It's really cool that because most people in my mission are either Muslim or Atheist they know nothing about Jesus Christ and so little about God. That's been so amazing to teach here, I love teaching about our Savior because he really is everything. I know that he loves all of us and I love that I've been blessed with that knowledge in my life. I've seen the undeniable power that we are promised by God when we're teaching about Him and His Son. In one of our lessons we were teaching about the Gospel of Christ and we felt impressed to ask our investigator Fjorela if she would be baptized and she said that she would think about it, then Elder Schneider asked her what was holding her back and she said she wasn't sure she could do it, especially since her family is very devout Muslim. But then we read Ether 12:6 with her that teaches about we don't receive until after the trial of our faith, then we just testified that it was the right thing for her to do. The Spirit was there so strong and so we reinvited her and she accepted. That helped build my testimony so much about how powerful the Spirit is when we use the scriptures and we are unified. I also know that our Heavenly Father will help any of you as you share the gospel, it's a promise and He will never break a promise.
So that's all I have for now but if you have any other questions be sure to ask me

Mirupafshim, ia kalofsh mirë!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, September 12, 2016

September 12, 2016

Ç'kemi Familja! Ju dua shumë!
Thanks for all the awesome stories and pictures! That was awesome logging on to my email and seeing all those. That really looked like a great time!
So to start, this week has been so amazing! Last Tuesday Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke to us! He taught us all about repentace and what it really means for us and how we repent. It was so powerful and it's so amazing hearing about these things from the Apostles because of the amazingly powerful testimony they have. One phrase that stuck out to me is when he said that Christ personally leads this church, I know it through faith and experience. Another awesome thing was when he said that "faith is the reward for obedience." I know that's true and I've definitely seen that here. I've gained so much faith here and I just keep doing my best to be obedient.
But that's not all, yesterday Elder M. Russel Ballard came and spoke to us! That was so cool to have Apostles two times in a row. The spirit that exists in the room when they are there is completely indescribable. It's so powerful and I learned so much through it. The focus of his talk was that we are here representing Christ. He said that that is something that we have to understand right now because when we understand that it will completely change our mission. He talked about volunteers who went in and helped people after the floods in I think Louisiana and how they were going into the homes of people who had lost everything. Then he related that to us and told us that that's what we're doing, people need our message and we have the opportunity to help them. This Gospel should be everything to us because it is everything, I'm so glad that I was blessed to grow up in this church and for the countless blessings that have come from that.
We also had our first Skype TRC on Friday! So as I've explained before our teachers take upon themselves the personalities of people that they taught on their missions, for example we've taught Juxhin and Maksim, and right now we're teaching Mysteak and Fjorela. But for the other class for their second investigator their teacher was Mimoza who was a person she taught on her mission. But then on Friday we got to the computer for Skype and the person we taught was Mimoza! That was so cool and she was so amazing! She pretty much taught us the lesson, we would share a scripture or our testimony or something and then she would just go on for like 5 minutes with these amazing thoughts and stories! She is such an amazing example and that made me so excited to get out and serve! So turns out now she has missionaries living at her house and we got to talk with them for a little bit too! That was such a cool experience and ever since then it's all felt so much more real! I'm so excited to go out and serve these amazing people! 
Also we get our travel plans on Friday!!! We're so close now but we're making sure to listen to our presidency by finishing strong!
I'm doing great and the language coming really well! In our lesson with Mimoza I couldn't understand everything she said but I understood a lot more than I expected! This language is so weird but I love it! Every Saturday we do "SYL (Speak Your Language) Saturdays" where we speak vetëm në Shqip për gjithë dita, and even though it's really hard it's definitely helping. I'm actually starting to be able to think in Shqip now and it's becoming a lot more natural. I still have a long long way to go but I'm working my hardest and I'm excited for the challenge. We're even lucky enough that we get to watch General Conference në Shqip in our first week!
Just one last thing to tell you all about is one of our new friends here. His name is Elder Folkman and he's going to Korea. He's on our floor in the residence, and we leave our door open so he kind of just walked in one day and we've all been friends ever since. He's super funny and we see him around pretty much everywhere now. It's been awesome getting to know some of the other missionaries here too, there are so many amazing people here, it really is unlike anywhere else.
Also I did run into Adam finally! I just saw him at choir on Tuesday so I went and talked to him for a minute or two. He seemed to be doing well but that's about all I got.
All in all another great week!  Mirupafshim!
-Elder Gardiner

Monday, September 5, 2016

September 5th

Ç'kemi Familja! Ju dua!
So to start out thank you so much for the package! My friends laughed pretty hard at your "best day ever" note. I have so much food, I'm honestly not sure if we can all eat it fast enough. 
Second off I still haven't seen Elder Martin yet. It's so weird because I've seen so many people I know but somehow still not Adam. But I'm sure that I'll still run into him sometime. I have run into Elder Wride a few times though which has been fun.
Unfortunately because today is Labor Day the temple is closed. But that does mean we have extra time for email today so I'll be back on later if there are any other questions. 
That sounds like such a fun trip though. And those are some pretty good pictures, make sure to keep sending me those. I can't wait to get to Albania and go on some trips of my own!
Also thank you so much for sending me my friend's emails, it's fun to hear those throughout the week. Quick question, what is going on with Nate Mather? I thought he was in Texas? Is he still in Texas just teaching Burmese people? I would be very grateful for any clarification but it all sounds so cool.
Now on to what's been happening here. So last night we had a devotional where Chad Lewis, the one who played football for BYU and in the NFL, spoke to us. It was so cool! He talked about "jumping over people" where when he was playing football he was constantly thinking about that and constantly working to be able to do it, so when the time came and the opportunity arose it was just natural to do it. Then he related that to us where we constantly have to be thinking and desiring to serve and when our time comes we'll be ready. He also talked a lot about the people he baptized on his mission and how much joy his mission brought him even to this day. I'm still loving it here but I'm so excited to get into the field!
We also watched a video about the life of Joseph Smith for movie time last night and that was so awesome! It really makes me wonder how much I'd be willing to sacrifice for this church because he literally sacrificed everything. Those early saints went through so much but I'm so glad that they did it all for us. We are so blessed for their hard work and for the persecutions and trials they went through. And now I'm so excited to be able to bring this gospel that they sacrificed so much for to the rest of the world.
So by now we've learned pretty much 99 percent of Shqip grammar which means that now we're just working on understanding and applying it all. It's really hard work but it's coming, day by day, piece by piece. The gift of tongues is so real and I'm so glad that we have that as missionaries because there is absolutely no way that we could do this without it. Just to give a small example of why this language is so hard to anyone who's interested, Albanian doesn't have a word for "the". For example, if you want to say the book it's libri, if you want to say a book though it's libër, but there are also different forms of the word like librat which is plural, and librit, and librin, and librave which all have completely different context. And that is just one of the reasons I'm in here for 9 weeks. 
I've been doing really well here but I did get a huge migraine on Friday night. It was actually the worst one I've gotten in years which really sucked because it made us miss TRC again. But I ended up taking a nap back at the room and I was feeling ok enough to go back to the last half hour of class. So now this week our schedule changes a little bit so now we have TRC Wednesday mornings which means it's time to start skyping real Shqiptar(Albanians)!
So this week was also our third week as Zone Leaders, so we got released. It was so much fun serving in that position but I'm glad to have the extra time for study now. The new Zone Leaders are Elder Draper and Elder Nielsen and they are so awesome and they're going to do so well. They are in the other Albanian district, which is awesome because we all get along so well. We make sure to keep things under control but we all have a lot of fun together. 
I can't really think of anything else to say right now but I'm sure that I'll be back on later.

Also just a random additional thing that was really funny this week. So one day we were just sitting in class when they told all the sisters that there was a random mandatory meeting that they all had to go to in like an hour. So they kept announcing it so we got super interested. So after they went they came back and were just busting up laughing. And so what had happened is they called them all to a meeting and started with an opening prayer like usual, then the MTC president got up and said "so as you all know, it's bat season". So turns out 17m which is the building where all the sister missionaries (used to) live is completely infested with bats. There are a lot of crazy stories about it, but I'm not sure how many of them are true. So they have professional bat catchers working on it now but they had to evacuate floors 2-4 and move them to a different building. It's pretty much become the new running joke of our district. So yeah, that's been fun.

I have done the unthinkable, I've started running for exercise time. It actually makes me feel better after doing it and I've dropped like two minutes off my mile time, which isn't saying much. I think that might have contributed to my headache but I'm being extra careful now and it's been fine since then.

Info on the pictures, the left one is us with the Turks. From right to left it's Elder Mazzei, Elder Natress, shoku im(my companion), me, Elder Morrell, and Elder Allen. Then we just have us at the temple and then our room. It's just the four of us in our room and we have an extra set of beds for our stuff plus two extra closets which is great with all the food y'all have sent me. The room's still a little small but we're still loving it and getting along great!