Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26th

 Përshëndetje familja, ju dua shumë!

So not a lot to update you on after the skype yesterday, but things are still going great! We had a full day p-day today which is why I'm emailing a little later than usual. That was so fun, we ate lunch and then went and played pool with some of the members.

So other than that, we had a ton of people in church yesterday which was so awesome! We had so many people that we even had ushers and had to refill the sacrament trays during the sacrament because we ran out. That was super cool and I feel like things are really changing here for the better! Right now we're teaching a couple people but our main investigator for the moment is Lino. He's really cool and he has a ton of faith in Christ and he has a lot of desire to follow his path. So we've had some really good lessons with him and also his friend Disi. 

This week has been super crazy and we've done a ton of work getting ready for Christmas. We worked a lot with the members and we went around and visited as many members as we could to invite them to the Christmas activity that we had on Friday. That was so cool because we had like 125 people there! A lot of members brought friends and family and everyone seemed to have a good time!

I loved having that skype yesterday and getting to talk to all of you! It was so awesome getting to see all your faces and hear your voices! Also I think it's awesome that you still have those flags hanging up, definitely a good addition to the living room! Also the weather here was beautiful today, it was really warm and the sun was out all day. Sounds like a big difference from back home.

Also I need you to send me the name of Max's grandma so I can tell Xhuljo! I told him about that and he was pretty excited about that.

Also yes, Motra Hall and Motra Miles were both in my MTC group which is pretty fun. Our district is awesome, we work really well together and we all get along super well!

I love you all so much! I can't think of anything else to say though but I should be on a little bit longer if you have any other questions.

I love you! Until next week!

Monday, December 19, 2016

December 19

Përshëndetje familja!

So this has definitely been an exciting week here in Elbasan!

First off, Elder Cani is so cool! He's super funny and he's such a great missionary! So far we've been working super hard together and we're seeing so much change here in Elbasan, it's awesome. One thing that I've really learned from Elder Cani is not just working hard but working smart. We do a lot of contacting but when we do it the goal is always to have a lesson with them right then instead of trying to set one up for another time. That's been super cool and we've had some really cool lessons and met some awesome people. Another thing we've been doing a lot of is working with the ward members. Right now we're really trying to become good friends with all the members, especially the active ones, and to really try and strengthen them, then at the same time try and find less active ones and bring them back. We've been doing a ton of things with them and we try to make everything we do with them fun but then also teach them something at the same time. Also thank you for sending me that picture with all the members, they're awesome. Some of the ones we've been doing a lot of things with recently are Xhuljo, the other Xhuljo, and Hasan. They're super fun and they're super good at soccer. So yeah, that's one thing that Elder Cani does really well, and he's super good at relating to the members. I love serving with him, and my language has gotten a lot better because now I'm learning where I make a lot of mistakes when I talk and I learn things the correct way the first time now, which is super nice. Also Elder Cani speaks really good English. He didn't know any before his mission and for the first part of his mission he didn't really learn it, but then he got called to serve in Macedonia and the missionaries there don't speak Albanian so he had to learn English and Macedonian, which would be super hard. It's really fun because we are helping each other learn each other's languages so there are some funny mistakes that both of us still make.

So other than that, things have been pretty normal here. We've had a ton of first lessons and new investigators this week so hopefully we can keep meeting with them. We've had a couple cool lessons, like yesterday we were walking to Vëllai Dhamo's house to give him the sacrament and we met two people on the road so we felt like we should invite them to have a quick lesson and show them the Ndriçoje Botën video and it ended up being a super amazing lesson and we committed one of them to baptism! Then we also had a soccer activity on Saturday and we ended up inviting a lot of members to come play and Lindis ended up bringing his brother and he had a great time. So then at the end of the game we invited him to come to church with us and he did! So now we have a lesson scheduled with him and I have a lot of hope for that! 

Other than that, we've been doing a lot of stuff to get prepared for Christmas. We have a ton of things planned for this week and I'm so excited! Christmas day will be weird though, we only have one hour of church but then we have a district lunch and the Christmas Skype, but the rest of the day is a regular work day, then the day after we have a full day P-day instead of just until 6 PM. Speaking of the Christmas Skype, I'm still not sure when I will call just because the schedule for that day is super weird, so it'll probably be some time after 4:00 PM Albania time(8:00 AM Utah time) but before 6 PM. I'm sorry I can't really get any more specific than that but that's just how it works with Christmas being on a Sunday. I am super excited to see you all then though!

Also it still doesn't feel like Christmas time here just because of the weather. It's super sunny and there's no snow, but when it gets dark or windy here it's super cold. Also most people here don't celebrate Christmas here, and even the ones that do it's very different from American Christmas. But New Year's here is insane!!!(or at least that's what I've heard). I'm also super excited for New Year's here, we get to watch movies on New Year's Eve and I totally expected it to just be like 17 Miracles and Ephraim's Rescue but there are so many good movies that have been approved, like Star Wars 7 is approved and so are the Lord of the Rings movies, so let's just say I'm super pumped.

So that's about all for me here, I'm loving it here and things are going so great here in Elbasan! If things keep up like this Elbasan could become a ward soon!

Mirupafshim familja, ju dua shumë!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 12

Përshëndetje familja! Ju dua shumë!

So as you all know by now, jam nëntëmbdhjetë! It doesn't feel any different but I mean it was a really fun birthday! We made brownies and I ate a lot of sufllaqe (I also had birthday krepës on Friday). 

But definitely the craziest part of the day was transfer calls. So drumroll please... I'M STAYING IN ELBASAN!!! I honestly didn't think I would be but that's how it ended up. I'll be the district leader here and Elder Cani is my new companion! Elder Cani is actually an Albanian from Durres and he's super cool! I'm so excited to serve with him and I hope that I get a lot better at the language while I'm with him. Elder Maurer is going up to Shkodër now though. I was hoping that we would get to stay together but I guess that just wasn't the Lord's plan so that's fine with me.

This has been a bit of a crazy week here in Elbasan. We've met a lot of really cool people and then we've had a lot of people just dissapear. Recently we've been having a problem where we have really good lessons with people but then they just dissapear, but we're not letting that get us down and we're just doing our best to work our hardest. There's one saying that Elder Maurer told me that is so true about missionary work, it's "work harder and worry less". One thing that I've really learned from serving with Elder Maurer is that all we have to do is work our hardest and then if the people use their agency to not accept our message at least we can say that it wasn't because we didn't work hard enough. I've loved working with Elder Maurer and it's definitely been work. Now I just have to make sure not to slow it down, that and to make sure to not hold anything back as I serve. Shkodër is about to get one fantastic missionary!

So at the moment we don't really have any real investigators. Ervis did show up to church yesterday though and that was awesome(he's someone who we were teaching a while ago from English Course until he dissapeared.) Also church yesterday was awesome, we had more than 50 people in sacrament meeting which was the highest it's been since I got here! Also Ersi is the new Gospel Principles teacher for Sunday School and he's an amazing teacher! Also I've made one goal and I'm determined to accomplish it. I need to start teaching Lindis' family, they're so cool and the one family home evening we had with them was so awesome. The two little girls come to church almost every week and they even came to the church open house and the fireside that we had on Saturday. We gave them a Book of Mormon to share and they seemed like they really like reading it. Also it's awesome because when Lindis reads the Book of Mormon, which he's almost finished already, he reads out loud which is an awesome way to share the gospel. So hopefully that all works out!

As I mentioned a little bit above, we had an open house at the church on Friday! We had a short meeting where Bajame, Lindis, President Karanxha, Elder Maurer, and Sister Saldanja all gave short talks and then we took them around to all the rooms and explained what we do in church! We were hoping that more people would come but it still ended up being really cool! Then on Saturday we had a Christmas fireside where we talked about Christ being the light of the world and the true meaning of Christmas and that was awesome. 

So another experience from this week. On Saturday we walked an old lady who is a member here home after the fireside. She has bad legs so she uses a crutch and her right hand is very broken and swollen and her house is really far away. She showed us her home and that was a very humbling experience. She has practically nothing, and unfortunately there's not really anything we can do about it other than just pray for her. It really makes me a lot more grateful for everything I do have.
Some other things that have happened this week though that were more fun. We visited Vëllai Dhamo with Lindis on Saturday for Ndriçoje Botën and that was a ton of fun. He loves that I'm from Utah and every time we go over he jokes about Utah being "fabrike misionarave" or "the missionary factory" It's super funny because of how hard he laughs every time he says it, I love it. Then also this week I got offered weed for the first time! 
As you can all guess, we said no. Also I don't know why but pretty much daily we talk with someone for like 10 seconds and then they give us a handful of mandarin oranges and insist that we take them. It happens everywhere we go and I have no idea why they all feel the need to give us fruit, also I don't understand why they all have bags of oranges with them everywhere they go. But I figure things could be worse than getting free mandarins so I'm not complaining.

So I'm still loving things in Elbasan and I feel like my drive to get things done here have been redoubled. I love serving a mission and there's definitely no place I'd rather be! I love you all and I'm praying for you even harder now! I hope everything settles down and works out well with you all!

So until next week, mirupafshim!

Love, Elder Gardiner

Senior Missionary Terri Weidman posted this on Facebook with the photos:  Omelets in a bag and saying goodbye to a couple of our Elbasan missionaries. Happy Birthday Elder G.

Monday, December 5, 2016

December 5th

Përshëndetje familja, ju dua shumë patjetër!

So just to start, this has been an amazing week here!

So to start with some fun experiences from this week. We were tracting earlier this week looking for a guy we had met in the road a few days before so we started with where he said he lived but no one was home so we decided to just try the rest of the doors in the building on our way down. So a few floors down we got to a door with really loud music/tv coming out the door that sounded like it was in English. So we knocked on the door and a guy came to the door so we started with just the regular door contact and after only about 15 seconds he just said "më fal, nuk kuptoj" (sorry, I don't understand) so turns out his name is Mike and he's from the United States but he's here with the Peace Corps! We didn't end up being able to have a lesson with him right then but we did have a pretty good introduction and he gave us his number so we're going to try and visit him again this week. 

Then we also had another couple lessons with Tauland too. He's so cool and he's really good about reading the Book of Mormon and he always asks us questions if he ever doesn't understand something which is so awesome. He seems like he really has a desire to learn more and the lessons with him have been going great. However, it has been hard with him because he lives in Librazhd on the weekends so he hasn't been able to come to church yet. Hopefully he can come next week though!

Then on Saturday we had just finished cleaning the church and had walked Ersi back home and we ended up taking a different way back to the center and then we ran into a guy named Antonio. He had met with the sisters a few weeks ago and we tried to get a lesson with him but he ended up not showing up, so we talked with him for a few minutes and then took him back to the center for a lesson. He's from Albania but he worked in Greece for a long time. He's a Muslim but while he was in Greece his pronari was a Christian(and from the sound of it a Mormon) and he was a really good influence in his life and ended up giving him a Book of Mormon, which we didn't believe at first because usually people don't understand that the Bible and Book of Mormon are different books and confuse them all the time but he's convinced it was the Book of Mormon, and he read it and really believes it's true! So we had a lesson with him where we read 2 Nephi 32 with him and taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was such an amazing lesson and the spirit was so strong in that, he has so much faith and we were able to testify so much and it was really powerful. At the end we committed him to baptism for December 31 and he seems like he has a really strong desire to get baptized. We told him to meet us at the center on Sunday and then come to church with us but he never showed up. But we met him later yesterday and he said that he slept in and that's why he missed church. So we set up a lesson with him again today and hopefully he comes to that!

Then we also had a lesson with a guy named Amarildo and he's super awesome. He's been coming to church for the past few weeks but we've never been able to set up a lesson with him. So his story is that he was taught here about 7 years ago when Vëllai Knight (one of the Albanian teachers at the MTC) was a missionary here. Apparently he was about to get baptized but then Vëllai Knight got transferred so he decided not to. Then there were a series of times where he was working in Greece and then some misunderstandings so he stopped coming to church for a while. But he's started coming back and in the lesson with him Elder Maurer and Elder Ingram(we were on an exchange so I wasn't in the lesson) really talked with him and figured out his story and committed him to get baptized! So now we just have to wait because he might go on a trip to America and that will change when he get's baptized but it should hopefully be sometime within the next month or two!

Then we had another lesson with a guy named Bardhi who we had met before and he's really cool too. He works in a lokal and doesn't have a very set schedule so he's really hard to meet with, also he talks super fast (like faster than sister Pace) and he literally doesn't stop, like I don't think he even breathes he just talks with no end. But he's super cool and when we can stop him long enough to teach him he seems to understand and learn really well.

Also, another super awesome thing that happened this week is that Xhuljo Kashari got back from his mission on Wednesday! His dad is the first councilor in the branch presidency here and their family is so awesome! He served in the London mission and he has a very strong British accent even when he speaks Albanian. He's so cool and he's always asking us how he can help, and he always talks about how he's still stuck in missionary mode. So it's been awesome having him help us and he is a super hard worker. We had a lesson with him and the other Xhuljo and that was so awesome, it's so cool to see the desire that so many of the youth here have to serve a mission.

And also Light the World has been awesome so far! We started with a service project where we all went and cleaned the park in town and it was so cool because a ton of people actually showed up and helped! We've been showing the video to all the members and everyone else whenever we get the chance and it's really cool to see how powerful yet simple it is.

Now onto the rest. Thank you everyone so much for all the birthday wishes! It's crazy thinking that I'm actually almost 19, time sure does fly out here. But honestly I couldn't think of anywhere else that I would rather spend my 19th birthday than being out here serving the Lord! And plus this Saturday is going to be a crazy day, we have a big devotional that we're planning on that day, and then that night we get transfer calls! I really hope that somehow Elder Maurer and I get to stay here and work together longer but I guess we'll see on Saturday.

And yes I have gotten the first Christmas package and I love the Advent Calendar! I haven't gotten the second one though, it might be at the mission office but as of right now I haven't heard anything about it.
I love hearing from you all every week and I hope everything is going well, even though it does sound a little crazy with everything going on. Also I'm so glad you're all doing the Light the World initiative, it's super cool hearing about that!

Regarding Devin:  That's so awesome!!! That's going to be such a cool mission, it's crazy how many of my friends are state side spanish speaking now! If you see him make sure and congratulate him for me! Tell him I'm so excited for him and that he's going to love it!

Thank you so much for everything, I love you all so much!
Mirupafshim, ia kalofshit mirë!
Elder GardinerIMG_3590.jpegIMG_3591.jpegIMG_3592.jpeg