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

November 27

Përshëndetje familja!

Well today's been a little crazy and we're just getting back from Tirana so I don't have a lot of time. But here's a quick summary from the highlights of the week.

First off, Thanksgiving was great. The food was pretty good(not quite like homemade thanksgiving) and it was awesome getting to be with some of the missionaries that I haven't seen in a long time. Elders Larsen and Lords gave their departing testimonies as well as 4 of the sisters from my mtc group. It was a weird feeling seeing that happen, but they gave great testimonies and I'm very grateful to have been able to know all of them. We also got a new group of missionaries here, so I'll start getting to know them over the next few weeks of exchanges. I'll send pictures from this sometime.

As for our area, things are going well. We had a really good lesson with Redi and now he's on a baptismal date for either the 23 or the 25 of December. I have a lot of faith that it'll happen, he's super ready.

Elder Draper is super awesome, I've already learned a ton from him and we get along super well. He's a huge Star Wars fan, he knows the gospel super well, and he has a ton of ideas for how we as members and missionaries need to improve the church. I'm loving serving with him.

Other than that, it's just the usual. The church got painted. I tripped super bad on concrete playing soccer (my knee's a little messed up, but I'm fine). We went to Tirana today to get our car fixed and then played frisbee and got lunch with a ton of the missionaries. All in all a good week.

Also Elder Draper and I watched the new videos about religious freedom made by the church and they're so good. I recommend them to all of you. Here's the link, and the videos are under the examples tab.
And lastly. The new "Light the World" website and videos have been released! So make sure and see those because it's also super amazing! It starts this week on December 1st so everyone be ready! I'll talk a little more about that next week too.

Love you all! 
Elder Gardiner

1. Elder Larsen, Elder Draper, and I
2. Our original MTC group
3. My MTC district

Monday, November 20, 2017

November 20th

Përshëndetje familja!

First off, we got transfer calls this weekend. Surprisingly, Elder Larsen will be leaving Fier and Elder Draper will be coming. It's really sad to see Elder Larsen go, it's really been a pleasure serving with him. But on the bright side, I am also super excited to work with Elder Draper. Elder Draper is from Oklahoma and was in my MTC group and we were good friends back then and he's a super cool guy. So this should be a really good transfer, I'm really looking forward to it.

So other fun things. We went and did a service project with the Weidmans. We unloaded a bunch of refugee supplies from a van for the red cross. Hopefully they all go to a good use!
We had a ton of time out of our area, but it was still a good week. Church was really good this week. We had less people than normal, but it was more reverent than it's been in a while. We had a high counsilman come and give a talk and he did a great job. Elder Larsen also got to give a testimony because he's leaving and it was super good. He had a very good mix of testifying and inviting the members to take their testimonies and to begin to take the branch and support it on their shoulders. We also taught second hour for all the adults and talked about service. We tried to get the members to list specific things they can do to serve others because most of the time when we talk about service everyone just talks vaguely and doesn't change anything. But this time at least some of the members took the lesson and then actually applied it!

We also met with Redi a couple times. Right now he just needs to make the decision to focus more on the gospel and do the things necessary to receive the blessings. He seems like he has a ton of desire, but he's just distracted and busy by the other things going on in his life. So we had a good lesson about Alma 32 and what he needs for the seed to grow. But then he didn't come to church again on Sunday. So hopefully we can help him decide to take the step of faith to act more.

Other than that, I went on an exchange in Elbasan on Friday. It was the day of the branch family home evening activity so I got to see a ton of the members while I was there. We even got to do a lesson with Lindis and some other recent converts. It was super fun and great seeing everyone again, especially getting to see how well everyone's doing. 

We also got to go to Vlorë to do some baptismal interviews.Two kids got baptized and they both did good on their interviews, and they might have another baptism this week. The kid who might get baptized this week was someone I taught when I was there and he's super cool, so I really hope he gets baptized. But I'll have more on that next week.

To answer your questions...I'll still be a Zone Leader. Also I forgot to mention Thanksgiving. We will have a mission conference on Thursday in Tirana and they'll give us some form of Thanksgiving lunch, it should be good. And no, I did not see president Owen. He did an activity with the youth, but the missionaries weren't invited. 

I love you all, have a great week! Mirupafshim, Zoti ju bekoftë!

Elder Gardiner

November 13th

Përshëndetje familja!

So sorry that this is coming out late, we've had a bit of a crazy day. Normally we would be proselyting at this time, but we ended up having to go to Tirana for a doctors visit and got permission to email tonight instead. We don't have a lot of time, but still better than nothing.

We've had a fun week with some cool experiences. First and foremost, we went on a two day exchange starting Thursday night in Pogradec and ending with Saturday in Korça. It was a ton of fun getting to serve in those cities. The people there are so awesome. Right now those are the two fastest growing areas in the mission! Also bonus I got to be with Elder Lords and Elder Schneider who have been two of my favorite companions. We got to meet some of the members which was super fun. Elder Wilson(the one I served with in Durres) was one of the missionaries who opened Korca so I've heard a ton about these people so it was a lot of fun actually getting to meet them, and turns out they are just as awesome as Elder Wilson described!
So other than that, we're still meeting with Redi. He's super great and we've been working with him on prayer and scripture study with the purpose of getting an answer from God. Unfortunately, people at his work have found out that he goes to church and are trying with everything they can to stop him from going. So these past couple weeks he hasn't been able to come on Sunday, but we've still been having some great lessons.

We also have a new investigator named Rexhepi. We met him street contacting and he said he was interested in learning more about our church and the Book of Mormon. Then yesterday we had a super good lesson with him. Turns out his brother in law is a strong member in Vlore and he's talked with him a bit about our church. He doesn't have much of a religious background, but he said he's excited to learn more and see where this takes him. He even accepted a baptismal date for the weekend before Christmas!

Also yesterday, we had a really fun lesson with a woman named Drita. As we were walking to her house we just couldn't quite figure out what we needed to teach her, so we decided to just try our best to follow the spirit. So after a bit of conversation we got on the topic of angels and what do angels look like? So we felt like we needed to read the testimony of Joseph Smith from the beginning of the Book of Mormon where Joseph talks about meeting Moroni. She was so amazed! After every sentence she read she would gasp and just say "wow, this is so true!" then at one point she looked at us and said "I know that your church is true". She still has a way to go before she'll be ready, but she wants to start meeting more now and will hopefully come to church.

So that's about it for me. I'm doing great. I'm all better after the whole being sick thing last week. We've got a super busy week coming up including transfer calls this weekend, so I should have plenty to talk about next week. I love you all, sorry if I made you worry!

Mirupafshim, Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner

Here are a few pictures from the past week. I have a couple more on my camera, but I don't have that with me for the moment.
These two are from our time on the news with Redi.

Austin speaking parts are at 7:38, 25:40, and 37:15.

November 6th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well this has been a pretty interesting week here in Fier.

First off, I was on the news! The Lewis', Elder Larsen, and I were all on Redi's morning show. I didn't talk a ton because Elder Larsen was in charge of translation, and probably spent most of the time looking awkward on camera, but it was still cool. We got to talk about our missionary work and our beliefs and spread the word. Hopefully some of the people watching will be interested in learning more!

We also had a branch Halloween activity which was really fun. We had games and food and like always traditional Albanian dancing. A lot of people came and everyone seemed to have a good time!
We didn't end up having our exchange in Elbasan, but we did do one in Vlore. I got to work with Elder Murray again and we met with some people that I was working with when I was there. It was really fun, and great seeing the people again.

Unfortunately not all things were great this week. Yesterday I either had super bad food poisoning or the flu. So I spent all Saturday night throwing up and then Sunday not feeling well. Unfortunately I wasn't feeling well enough to go to church either, luckily everything worked out at church still, but not fun. I am feeling better now though.

Also, Redi didn't get baptized. He says he just doesn't feel ready yet, and that he wants his parents to support him in it, so he'll get baptized soon, but not yet.

But all in all it was still a good week. We got our car back(it hasn't been repaired yet though) and we should be going on an exchange to Korça and Pogradec this week which means I'll get to work with Elder Schneider for a day, so I'm super excited.

I love you all, and hope you're all doing well! Have a great week!

Mirupafshim, Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner