Monday, July 17, 2017

July 17th

Përshëndetje familja!

So this has been a very busy week with a lot of amazing experiences.

To start, our new mission president is super awesome! His name is President Anderson and he's from St. George. He has 6 kids, worked in investing, and served a mission in Taiwan. He is so enthusiastic about the gospel and he loves missionary work. In the years since his mission he's been able to help teach people living in China and loves inviting people to be baptized. On Wednesday we had a meeting where we met him and his wife and got to know them a little bit. One really cool thing about them is that Sister Anderson is Mr. Birrell(one of my favorite teachers of all time)'s sister, so that was a really cool connection. We had a zone conference this week and we received a ton of cool trainings  about how we can bring the work further even faster. President Anderson has given a lot of focus on getting people baptized and giving them then gift of the Holy Ghost while also increasing retention and activation by working with the less actives. I'm really excited for the opportunity that I have to work with him for the next year. 

So as for our work here in Durrës, we have some new investigators with a cool story. So one day we were out street contacting, so a guy and a girl passed and I said hi to them, they kept walking and then stopped and talked to each other for a little bit then came back. Their names are Regjina and Ferdinando, and turns out she used to live in Elbasan and was taught by the missionaries there, has been to church, and wants to learn more and get the Book of Mormon, whereas the guy is her Italian friend that she's translating for, he's cool but he doesn't speak English or Albanian so all communication has to go through Regjina. So we set up to meet them for a lesson the next day. They came, but they didn't have time so they said we'd meet later that week, but they don't have a phone number. So we went but they never showed up. So for they next day I kept praying that we would meet them again. Then later that night we were out on the road and we found them! This time we were able to show them where the teaching center was and give them a Restoration pamphlet. Then they showed up randomly another day at the same time we were at the center and we set up another lesson. So this week while I was on an exchange in Tirana Elder Schneider and Elder Ellsworth had a lesson with them and it went super well. Regjina said she really feels the spirit when she reads the Book of Mormon and they both had read the restoration pamphlet we gave them before the lesson. So I have a lot of hope for them, they're super great!

For other investigators, Kristi is super busy with school right now so we haven't been able to meet recently but he said he's still reading and praying. He should finish up with all his tests at the beginning of August and then he'll get baptized super fast. Fatjon has been super hard to get into contact with. We've called him a ton and he's answered a couple times, but still no lessons so far. We've started teaching the Gjergji family again, the lessons have been ok so far but it's hard to get both of the kids in the lesson at the same time. We also are teaching a guy named Nick and he's super cool. He's from Durrës but he moved to England about 14 years ago and now works with the British Navy. He used to go to our church here and he was really close to getting baptized before he moved, now he just wants to know if it's still something that he wants to do and he wants to establish a stronger relationship with God. He came to church on Sunday and really liked it, he said it was just like when he was a kid.

Other than that, Elder Cani is back! He's been living in Italy for the past few months but now he'll be back in Durrës for a while. Elder Ellsworth has also served with him so we went today and hung out with him for a while, that was a ton of fun. Also we had transfer calls on Saturday night, Elder Ellsworth and I will be staying together here in Durrës! So I'm really excited to stay here, I'm loving it so far and really enjoying being serving with Elder Ellsworth. Also Elder Schneider and Elder Lords will be staying in Tirana so our district probably won't change either, which is great because this is the best district ever.

I have a few pictures to send, but I forgot my camera cord at the house so I'll probably send those next week. But if you remember about Alex from my last email, he took a picture of me in the church so I'll send that to you.

Thanks for being so awesome, it's great hearing from all of you!

Ju dua shumë, Zoti ju bekoftë! Mirupafshim!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, July 10, 2017

July 10th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well I don't have a lot of time to email this week, but it's been a great week here in Durrës.
So for a quick update on our investigators. Kristi is doing great. He's understanding everything we teach so well and he applies everything to something that he had already learned before. He's so smart and he's studied a ton of different religions. It's cool because for a lot of things we teach him it's something that exists in a different religion, but we're the only one that has the whole truth. We had a lesson about Joseph Smith where we watched the movie about his life, then at the end we were able to testify about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and the Spirit was there so strong, then after that he said that he feels like he has received enough of a spiritual witness that he could testify about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon too now. He also wants to teach people in Italy about these things now too.

Fatjon is in Tirana for now just visiting his cousin, so we haven't been able to meet. But he did call us and talk for a little bit so at least we were able to keep contact.

We've met with a ton of members this week, it was great. The members here make great food, and they give us soo much, I've eaten way too much this week! With us being gone for a week all the members decided that they needed to have us over, so that's been great because that's helped Elder Ellsworth to get to know them a little better and they've given us a lot of advice for what we can do to improve the work, and we've had some powerful lessons with them too. Now we have even more appointments for this week.

We also were able to meet with Andre again this week. He's here with his wife and baby daughter as refugees from Crimea. We had a cool experience with him too, right now he's applying to renew his permit to stay in Albania but he was having a lot of problems with it. For some reason they just kept delaying and not accepting parts of his application. So we met with him and said a prayer together to help him, then the next day he called us and said that the first step of his residency permit just got approved! Now he has to go to Greece to go to the embassy to work on it more, and he was so happy that he invited us to go with him, which we unfortunately had to decline, for obvious reasons. But that was a really cool testimony for the power of prayer.

Another cool experience, we were at this one pasta place that we go to a lot and pretty much every time we go we run into other foreigners. So this time we went and at the table next to us there was a guy with super long black hair who didn't speak Albanian. So we got talking to him and turns out he's here as a freelance photographer, he's living in Australia, his parents are French and Iranian and he's grown up in a bunch of different countries throughout the middle east. So he's a super interesting guy and he ended up asking if we have a church here, so we told him where the church is and he said he would love to come. Then Sunday came and sure enough he came, we had someone translate for him and he stayed for all three hours.

Then today we went up to Shkodër and played some ping pong and pool with Elder Collins, Elder Mero, and Elder Harris. We had a ton of fun and it was great getting to hang out with Elder Mero for a bit. Then we went out to lunch with all the Shkodër missionaries. It was a super fun P-day trip but it took a long time to get there and back. I took a couple pictures with me and Elder Mero, but I don't have time to send those this week. 

So all in all we've had a great week here. I love you all and hope you have a fantastic week!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, July 3, 2017

July 3rd

Përshëndetje familja!

Well I'm finally back in Durrës! It's been another crazy week but things are going great!
So to start, my last few days in Tirana were really good. We met with a lot of really cool members. One of the ones we met was Vëllai Gjylameti, he's one of the stake high counselors and he's so cool. He met the missionaries when they were helping with relief for the Kosovo war, which if you know about Balkans history that was a horrible event, he talked about how there were a lot of people and religions who came to help but that our church did more than the others. So that was his first contact with the church, then later he started meeting with the missionaries and was an investigator for the next 10 years. It took him a long time to get over smoking and alcohol and to decide that he needed to be a member of this church, but then ever since he's been super strong.

Then we got back to Durrës on Wednesday evening. I enjoyed my time in Tirana but honestly it feels so good to be back. It's still super hot but here in Durrës we have the sea which gives us a nice breeze. Also it's so awesome seeing all the people again. We had a pretty nice welcome back, on Thursday we had a baptism! A girl who was taught in Tirana but lives in Durrës on the weekends got baptized here. On Thursday it was super hot and humid, and well it was so hot that the AC at the church lit on fire. So that all got fixed up but we didn't have AC for the baptism so it was super hot but it all ended up working out fine. President Weidmann came down and baptized her, Sister Weidmann gave one of the talks and then Motra Xheka gave the other, then at the end President Weidmann bore his testimony so that was a super powerful spiritual experience. 

Other than that we've done a lot of street contacting and met with a ton of members. We had a lesson with the Paja family and they're super awesome. He told us his convesrsion story and that was super cool too, he talked about how he was so prepared for the gospel and that he was always looking for the truth. Then one day while he was living in Italy he met the missionaries who were his next door neighbors and he had so many questions and all of them get answered perfectly by the gospel. Then a little while later he felt like he needed to go back to Albania to help establish the church here. He's an amazing member and it's so cool seeing how converted he is.

Fatjon (turns out I've been spelling his name wrong) showed up to the baptism on Thursday and he loved it. It was great seeing him there. We've set up other lessons and invited him to church but he's been asleep every time that we were supposed to meet, but hopefully we can meet some time this week. 

We also met with Kristi again. He's doing well, he read a little from the Book of Mormon, but didn't come to church. But after our last lesson with him he promised he would read more from the Book of Mormon because it teaches us the truth. He's the one who is a free mason and he accepts everything super well and loves learning, we just can't meet super often because he's really busy busy with school. 

Then yesterday we had one of the craziest lessons I've had on my mission. We met with a 15 year old member who said that she needed a lesson because she's been feeling bad spiritually and needed help. So we met with her and she talked about how she's engaged but her family doesn't accept her fiance and that she knows that God doesn't want her to marry the guy but she's going to do it anyway. So we tried to tell her to follow God's will even if it's hard, but I guess we'll see if that actually worked. All I have to say is thank you so much for being such a normal family.

This week we're going to be super busy. We have meal lessons and or ward activities every day this week and a TON of potential investigators to follow up with. So we definitely have plenty to do to keep us busy.

Yesterday church was super good. Since it was fast Sunday we had testimony meeting and the stake president came, he lives here in Durrës, and basically all the strongest members went and bore their testimonies and it was super powerful, then at the end president Mema bore his testimony and that was super inspiring. He talked about our eternal covenants with God and talked about the talk "the purifying power of Gethsemane" by Bruce R. McConkie which if you haven't heard I would definitely recommend watching.

Then today a few missionaries from Tirana came down here to Durres to visit Klaudia, one of the members here, for her birthday today. So we all went out to lunch and then to the pier and had a fun time. Also I got to give her a blessing this week because she was really sick, and it was a super cool experience. I can normally speak Albanian pretty well but I still have to think about it and sometimes figure out how to say what I want, but in the blessing all the words came so naturally and I could feel the power in the words.

I have not met the new mission president yet. We were in Tirana when he got here but we had a lesson planned in Durres that we had to get back to so we didn't have time to stay and meet him. 

Elder Ellsworth and I get along great! He's super organized and works hard. He's super good at teaching and he's traveled around the whole mission. He was my zone leader when I was in Elbasan and Vlorë so I already knew him and had done exchanges with him. He's already deep cleaned and organized the teaching center, the car, and the house which is pretty awesome. He came into the mission 3 months after Elder Wilson so he has about 4 months left in his mission. He's and awesome missionary and I'm super excited to get to keep working with him. 

I'm a little tired, especially this week. Just because it's been really hot and because we've been out late working every day, but I still love my mission and it's definitely a good tired.
Also it was cool, I got to call Lindis last night and talk with him for a little while. Our mission has a pretty big problem with retention, a lot of people get baptized and then leave, but Lindis is still super strong and he's been trying to help his sisters and other people stay active too. Now he's giving talks in sacrament meeting and giving priesthood blessings and it's super good getting to talk to him every once in a while. Also, he told me that he was going to call me last night to talk to me because he was looking at some pictures of us and other people from the branch, but he didn't have any minutes on his phone, but then right at that moment I called him.

Lastly, we had a lot of missionaries leave last week. A lot of us all went out to lunch before they left and then we all got to say goodbye. It was sad seeing them go because I've become such good friends with them, but I'm sure they'll do amazing things with the rest of their lives. It was especially sad seeing Elder Wilson leave, it was awesome getting to serve with him and I loved getting to know and work with him. Because we're still only 2 missionaries in Durrës now we're in a district with Tirana 2nd ward which means we'll be going to Tirana every week, but also now Elder Schneider and Elder Lords are in our district which is awesome because they're pretty much my best friends in the mission now. 

So I'm really looking forward to the next 9 weeks it's going to be a great time. It's kind of crazy though, I'm almost at my year mark. The time is really flying. But I'm definitely loving it out here, I'm so glad I still have another year.

I love you all! Mirupafshim dhe Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, June 26, 2017

June 26th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well this has definitely been the craziest week of my mission so far. Albanian elections were this week. They happened on Sunday so church attendance took a hard blow, but what do you do. Just as a heads up, I'm writing you from Tirana. President Weidmann got a prompting and we all got temporarily transferred! The three of us all got put into separate trios in Tirana. I've been here in Tirana second ward all week. So even though getting taken out of Durrës stinks I actually got assigned to be with Elder Bowen(who is finishing his mission on Thursday) and Elder Schneider(my MTC companion)! Elder Bowen was in my district in Vlorë and he's super funny, but he only has a couple days left and he's very ready to be done. But serving with Elder Schneider has been so amazing! Elder Schneider is a stud and I loved serving with him in the MTC so this week has been great. We work super well together and it's awesome seeing how much we've improved in our teaching and in the language. Also this week we had two exchanges so I also got to work with Elder Anderson (who is also finishing his mission this week) and Elder Nielsen from my MTC group. It's been a crazy week and it still feels like I'm just on a big exchange, but it's been fun working here. We talked with President Weidmann today and he said that everything is fine and that Elder Ellsworth and I will be going back to Durrës on Wednesday. Unfortunately however, we'll have to do a lot of catching up on the work in Durres, and Elder Wilson didn't really get to say goodbye to any of the members or our investigators before he got sent to Tirana, but he's back in Korça for a day and he seems to be doing fine.

Some cool experiences from this week, we're teaching a 16 year old kid from Syria. His name is Ahmed and he's super cool. We teach him in English, but whenever we read from the Book of Mormon or do prayers he does it in Arabic, which is super cool.
We're also teaching a kid named Elio, he's super smart and he's super nice. We met with him twice last week and had some really good lessons. His uncle and grandma are members and they're really cool. They didn't come on Sunday because the uncle who usually drives them all to church was in Vlorë for the elections.

Also it's been like 100+ degrees this week and the humidity is killer. It's been pretty rough, but we've rearranged our schedule so that we're inside for the hottest parts of the day. We are actually allowed to take an hour nap during the day if we work for an extra hour.
So I'm not sure what else to say, we've done a ton of street contacting. That's been fun, but it's been pretty hard too. 

Well this week has been crazy but I've also had a lot of fun. It's nice having so many missionaries in one city, and we have an amazing district. When we go back to Durrës our district should be Elder Ellsworth and I, and Elder Schneider and Elder Lords and that'll be so fun because they're all like my best friends here.

I love you all, I hope you all have been having a great time!

I love the gospel and I'm so grateful for the opportunity that I have to serve a mission here. I love my Savior and I know that He lives and guides us in our everyday lives. We've had a lot of people try to convince us that the Book of Mormon isn't true, that the church is a lie, that Joseph Smith is a false prophet, but through this and through the power of the Holy Ghost I know that this is the true church, the kingdom of God restored on the earth. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that through it we learn the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that every person who reads it and truly feasts upon it's words can not go astray.

Have a great week!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, June 19, 2017

June 19th

Përshëndetje familja!

So, another week come and gone! It's been a crazy week with a lot of amazing experiences.

To start off with a fun blessing, so talking about the whole lost package thing. Look what ended up at the mission office today! It was a little messed up and looked like it got run over by a truck, but it finally got here. (see picture below)

​​So some other good parts of our week. Our investigator Kristi is super awesome! We were able to meet with him again on Friday, we meet once a week for certain and more if he has time because he's really busy. But he also came to church again on Sunday! He was awesome in church too, a lot of investigators I've had on my mission are a little weird and make off the wall comments in church, or just have no experience with religion and don't know what to do in church. But he's great and actually understands our message! Honestly that is such a blessing, I could probably count on two hands the number of investigators I've had on my mission who have actually understood anything we teach. He's on a baptismal date now for August 12 and I'm super confident that he'll get baptized.

Another amazing experience, Fation is back from the hospital! We've run into him a few times on the road and he's looking so much better. I love that guy so much. He's still not completely better but he's improved a lot, so we'll probably wait before baptizing him but he still really seems to want to get baptized. 

Then on Saturday we had a service project in the morning here at the hospital in Durrës. The missionaries from Tirana and Shkodër came down to help, as well as some Americans from the Albanian Faith in Every Footstep Foundation. It was a lot of fun! I worked by painting the trees with some limestone paint thing that keeps bugs off the trees, I don't think that's a thing back at home but they do it a lot here. Then we all worked to pull weeds and paint benches. We had a great time and worked hard. Also Motra Kokol who was one of my teachers from the MTC was there, it was a lot of fun getting to see her.

Then that night we went up to Tirana for the 25 year anniversary celebration of missionaries arriving in Albania. They had Matt Wirthlin, one of the original 4 missionaries sent to Albania who came and gave a talk and helped with the service project. We had to participate in the choir but that turned out all right. There were a lot of amazing talks, including probably the last talk I'll hear from president Weidmann. President Weidmann talked and President Mema(the stake president) translated for him, then president Mema gave a small talk thanking him for his work, it was really sweet. I love president Weidmann, it's been so amazing serving with him. There was also a slideshow showing the progress of the church over the past 25 years. After the program finished we got to go around and talk to some of the members who came, which was a lot of fun, there were a lot of members from my past areas so I loved getting to see them again.

Then Sunday came. Church went pretty well. There were a good amount of people, more than we've been getting in the past few weeks. The lessons went really well. People only got into an argument once, which is a tender mercy, and that was only because Shaul(he's crazy) went off on random stuff. The sisters were transferred out of Durres and so, for now, we will be alone as us three Elders in Durrës until Elder Wilson leaves. But on the bright side now we'll be in a district with the Tirana missionaries which might mean I'll be in the same district as Elder Schneider. 

Today we went up to get our car from the mission office which was good because I also got my package while we were there. Also we went bowling with Elder Bowen and Elder Schneider at the only bowling ally in Albania and that was a blast.

So all in all not a bad week. I'm doing great still. I love my companions, they're super great. This is Elder Wilson's last week here so we're going to make it a good one. We'll probably meet with a lot of members which is always a blast and make sure to work our hardest. I love you all and I hope you're doing great too!

Also because I forgot this earlier, our new mission president will be President Anderson. He's from Saint George Utah. I don't know a lot about him but he seems like he'll be great.

Mirupafshim, Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner

now for all the pictures I haven't sent over the past couple months.
A couple pictures of members in Vlorë.
1. The bishop and his wife
2. Us and Emigert
3. Elder Lords and I with the Zeqiri family

Pictures of the Orthodox Church in Shkodër we went to and then...
1. Elder Lords and I with Luan, Anxhela, and Kristi
2. Two of me and Lindis
3. Elder Wilson and some kid from English course in Elbasan

Monday, June 12, 2017

June 12th

Përshëndetje familja!

This has been another great week here in Durrës!

First off, I'm loving our trio. We're working together great and it's been so cool seeing how much ground we can cover. It's really weird sometimes because there are things that we can do in a trio that don't work with just a regular companionship. It has been a little weird getting adjusted to teaching with three of us, but for now we haven't really run into too many problems. Elder Ellsworth is a stud and loves having a clean house, so this week we've finished most of our house cleaning/organizing as well as a deep clean/organizing of the teaching center, it's super clean now and things are actually organized, it's great. 
Other than that, we've had to go to Tirana a lot this past week. We had a doctor's visit for Elder Ellsworth, choir, and then today we went and got something with one of the members from here in Durrës. For one of our trips we went to a place called the Stephen's Center which is the only place in the country that has real American food so we got some burgers and shakes, but it's also the only place in Albania that sells Bibles so I finally got myself an Albanian Bible. So then other than that for our trips to Tirana, we had our last choir practice for the activity on Saturday. It's the 25 year anniversary of missionaries in Albania on Saturday so we have to go and sing for some special program, it should be good, but we definitely are not the best choir I've ever seen. 

As for investigators, we've had a pretty good week. We were able to meet with Kristi again and that was great. He still has a ton of desire to learn more and he's understanding really well. We teach him entirely in English which is really weird but luckily he speaks really good English. We talked to him about the Book of Mormon this week, and he said that he would read it more, he said he's going to read it in English though because that's the original and most correct translation. Also he came to church! We had met with him on Friday and he told us that he probably couldn't come this week because he had school but that he would be able to come every week after that. But then on Saturday night he texted us and asked if we could walk to church together on Sunday. Unfortunately he didn't show up to walk with us so we thought he probably wouldn't come, but then a few minutes into sacrament meeting he walked in! He ended up having a good time and he had really good questions in second hour for our investigator class, which doesn't happen a lot. Then other than him we also are teaching a guy named Rrapi, he's the one who was miraculously healed. We've had a few lessons with them since then, and the lessons go really well, but he keeps making excuses for not coming to church so we need to figure out how to help him understand the need for action to show our faith to God. He's had a really hard life and he has a lot of legitimate excuses, but we still just need to help him understand that if we do our part the Lord has already promised to do His.

Then we've also met with Collin twice this week. He's super cool and he already gets along great with Elder Ellsworth. We had a good lesson with him on Thursday and we talked a lot about committing our lives to God and how he blesses us for it. He loves the emphasis that we as a church put on progression and repentance. So many other churches have an idea of do a few simple things and have faith then you're saved, whereas we know that we always have to keep improving and work to unite our with with the Lord's perfectly(for more about that listen to the BYU devotional "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox; it's super good!). Then we talked about what justifies a leap of faith, in that how could he know that he needs to join our church or how could we know that our church isn't true. So we decided that we would all do a special fast together. It was a really cool experience, I was super tired and completely out of energy but at the same time I felt great. Our lessons went really well that day and I felt really happy. Then we all got back together at the end and talked about what would justify that leap of faith and had super good pizza, fanta exotic, and ice cream bars(the best way to end a fast). We challenged him to read the Book of Mormon every day and pray with sincere desire to know the truth and made a list of some of the most important chapters for him to read.

We also went to the house of one of the members yesterday for lunch and that was a lot of fun. His name is Vëllai Muça and he's so funny. He reminds me a lot of Grandpa Ott, he's so kind and loving and also super funny and a little goofy, we really love him. He made us some traditional Albanian milk byrek which was super good.

That was about it for me this week. I have a few pictures to send you, but a lot of them are still on my camera and I forgot the cord in the car. So those will come next week. Sorry again!

I love you all and hope you've all had a great week!
Kalofshi mirë, ju dua shumë. Zoti ju bekoft! Mirupafshim!
Elder Gardiner

A brief explanation of pictures.
1. Vëllai Muça
2. Our district selfie with Vëllai Muça
3. Another picture of our lunch with Vëllai Muça
4. A few of the puppies we found sleeping under our car
5. Us in Tirana at the new city center where Elder Wilson and Elder Ellsworth used to contact every day
6. Elder Ellsworth
7. Vëllai Muça again

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

June 5th

Përhsëndetje familja!

Well this week has been super crazy, and a lot of fun. First order of business, we got transfer calls on Friday night. I will be in a trio here in Durrës with Elder Wilson and Elder Ellsworth. I'm super excited that I get to stay with Elder Wilson, and Elder Ellsworth just got out of being Zone Leader so I've gotten to do some exchanges with him and I'm so happy that I get to serve with him. It's kind of funny because Elder Wilson trained Elder Ellsworth and it's not very common that people get to serve with the same companion twice, but we definitely aren't complaining. A ton of things changed in the mission this transfer because we're losing so many missionaries and getting a new mission president. All the missionaries going home got put into trios, and a few areas got closed.

Elder Ellsworth is from Milwaukee Wisconsin. He's been out for a while, he came into the mission 3 months after Elder Wilson, so he should be finishing this fall. He started with Elder Wilson in Tirana, but then he's also served with Elder Cani. He's moved around a lot, until he got to Fier as ZL where he stayed for 7 and a half months. He's a super funny guy and he has an amazing testimony.

Other exciting things, we had mission conference this week. It was an amazing conference, I learned a ton and really felt the spirit. It's going to be so sad to see President Weidmann leave, he's such an amazing person and the spirit is so strong when he speaks. I've learned and grown so much from the time I've had to be with him. Not long ago the standard missionary schedule was changed and now President Weidmann felt inspired to give us a suggested schedule that will allow us to work even harder, and it is really cool. Normally we leave the house at 10 in the morning and get back at 9 at night, but now we get out of the house at 9:30 and stay out until 10. He did this because Albania get's so hot during the day and everyone just goes in to take a nap or is not willing to stop and talk, so now we have the option to take a 1 hour nap and do our studies and take lunch during the super hot part of the day and work when the weather is nicer. Other than that, it was super fun getting to see everyone at mission conference. Also after mission conference we had a little time so I got to go to the teaching center and meet Lindis again! It was awesome getting to see him and get to talk to him. It was also cool because someone named Antonio who I taught that got baptized after I left was there too and I got to say hi to him as well. I took pictures of me and Lindis, but I forgot my camera at the house. We will probably do a little more emailing later though and I'll send them when we do that. 

Then later this week we also had Super Saturday, which is where seminary students from all around Albania came and had presentations and played games. We got to come help, and it was a ton of fun seeing all the people I knew. A lot of people came from Elbasan and Vlorë, I really enjoyed getting to talk with them all again.

So other than that, we've had some cool experiences this week. I met someone on the road named Kristi, he recognized me as a missionary from the LDS church and said that he had actually met with the missionaries for a while about two years ago, but then he went to Italy and didn't keep meeting with them there. He said that he's really interested in our church and that out beliefs go really well with his because he's a Free Mason. That was the first time I've run into any of those, but he's really cool. He said he's studied our church a lot "from the outside" but now he wants to get baptized and go to the temple. We only had one lesson with him that week, but we taught him basically everything. We went through the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then all the commandment lessons. It was kind of crazy but he said that he's already living them all and is really interested. He wasn't able to come to church on Sunday but we should be meeting him again this week and hopefully he'll be able to come this week.
Then we also met with Collin again. He's so cool and I've loved getting to be friends with him. We all read through 3 Nephi and Acts in preparation for that lesson, and it was really cool because he came and just told us how much he loved 3 Nephi chapter 27. He loved how simple it is and how powerfully it's stated. It's been so cool seeing how open he is to learning more. He would be such an amazing member, and I feel like he's so close. He leaves Albania the week after Elder Wilson and then he'll travel through Italy and Switzerland then go home. He said he would love to meet President Weidmann in Switzerland while he's there, so we'll see what we can do about that. 

Also one of our other investigators, Rrapi, was super sick(like he thought he might die) so we gave him a blessing. Then we came back a day or two later and he was up walking around and was completely healed. He said that after the blessing he went to sleep and then the voice of his older brother who passed away a long time ago came to him and told him to stand up and he was completely fine. So that was a really cool experience and he's become a lot more interested in the gospel recently.

Then other than that we've had a lot of stuff to do with moving houses. We still don't have plates or bowls, but we did finally buy some pots and other necessary items. Our washing machine doesn't work, but we have people coming to fix that tomorrow. Today we moved all three beds into one room, and it's a little packed, but it'll be a party. We still have a few problems with electricity/electric outlets, but step by step out house is getting really nice. We're really bad at getting out of bed and exercising in the morning so we decided to just get up and go for a walk every morning. It's been awesome because we live right on the beach and it's super pretty in the morning, it's a small thing but it's really helped me feel awake in the morning. 

I think that's about it for now. Tonight we're going to go help a member move, and that'll be fun. Also now that we're going to be a trio we talked to one of the priests and he said that he'll come do a split with us 3 hours a day every other day, so basically we're about to get so much work done.

I had a great week this week and I'm doing really well. I'm so excited to work with Elder Ellsworth and with Elder Wilson, it's going to be so fun!

I love you all, have a great week! Mirupafshim!
Elder Gardiner

Well I went and got the sd card from the camera and Elder Wilson let me borrow his SD card reader, but turns out the sd card I have doesn't work with his reader. So turns out I will send you those next week. Sorry!

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 29th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well this week has definitely been an experience. I'm not going to lie it was a little rough, but the worst seems to be passed and got better by the end.
So to start, we had a lesson with the Gjergji family and it was awful. They aren't really progressing any more and even though they still love having us over to talk and make jokes they don't really have a lot of desire to keep commitments. Also Ramazan(the month where Muslims fast from like 5 in the morning til 9 at night) and the dad of the family said that he doesn't want to do more lessons during Ramazan because he wants to be focused on his own religion, which is understandable. So that's been really hard. We'll keep visiting them every once in a while, and hopefully one day they'll all be ready.

Then other than that one of our really strong members passed away this week.
Also third hour in church was super rough. Basically everyone just yelled at each other and argued for the whole hour over parts of the lesson that were completely unimportant.

But other than that we also had a few really good experiences too. One day we had a ton of time and nothing planned to do and we were just feeling awful because of the things I talked about before. So we decided to say a prayer and ask what to do. After that we had a few people come into our minds, so we decided to go visit them. We decided to start by visiting Fation's mom, so we went and stopped by her work. She was really happy to see us and gave us a quick update on Fation. She said that that morning Fation called a lot later than normal so she was really worried, until Fation told her that it was just because Elder Schneider stopped by and talked with him for a while. She told us that she was so grateful for us missionaries and that we were not just good missionaries but great people and the best friends Fation could have. She said that Fation is getting better and continuing to do well but that it's still really hard for her. So we shared Mosiah 24:13-15 and she burst into tears. She said she felt so good and that those scriptures really spoke to her. So we gave her the reference and she said she would go read the whole story later. Then we went to go visit someone else and we ended up running into Fation's dad and having a good conversation with him too. Then on Sunday we had to go to Tirana for choir so we decided to go a little early and stop by the hospital and visit Fation for a little bit. While we were walking from the car to the hospital we joked about how awesome it would be if Fation's family was there too, and then all of the sudden we heard someone call out to us and Fation and his family were standing at the little park/waiting area outside the hospital. So then we ran over and gave Fation a huge hug. It was so great, we talked for a while and he really wants to get baptized. He's so excited to get back and start going to English course again and get baptized as soon as he can. His family also seemed really interested in getting baptized too, especially his mom who said that she herself isn't baptized in any church and really wants to get baptized. So we'll make sure and work with them, I have a lot of hope for them.

We also had a good lesson with Collin, our American missionary friend. He really wants to have the spirit with him all the time, so we testified to him how he can do that by getting baptized by the right authority and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. It's cool because we've become such good friends that we can testify so boldly because he knows how much we care about him and how we want him to know the truth. We also challenged him to read two chapters from the Book of Mormon and from Acts that we would study together every time we meet.

Then we also had a cool lesson with a less active here. He hasn't been to church in a long time because of work and other things, but he loves the church. So last time we talked to him he said that he drinks coffee every once in a while, but that it's no big deal and it doesn't really matter. So this time we went and talked about the word of wisdom. He started out by justifying and saying that he only drinks a tiny bit, that he's not addicted, and that he doesn't drink enough for it to cause any health problems. He definitely didn't understand that the reason we don't drink coffee is because it's a commandment, not just because it's bad for your health. So then Elder Wilson told him that by drinking coffee he was insulting God and willfully being disobedient to him, he said that it was as if he was slapping God in the face every time he drinks coffee. It was cool because as soon as Elder Wilson said that the less active stopped talking, just looked at him stunned, and you could see the understanding come over him as he said that he would never drink coffee again.

Then lastly, I went on an exchange to Tirana for one day last week. I got to serve with Elder Benson who is from my MTC group, and that was a lot of fun. We had some cool lessons, and it was awesome getting to see how he does missionary work, because everyone does it differently. I really enjoyed it and had a learned a lot.
This week we also changed houses. That was a lot of work, and we still aren't completely done, but it will be nice having that done. Our new house is super nice, but it's also super far away. Luckily we have a car or we'd have a lot of walking to do.

Yeah it was a super busy week. And this week should be crazy too. We have President Weidmann's last mission conference tomorrow in Elbasan, and that should take the whole day. Then on Saturday we have Super Saturday for all the seminary students in Albania here in Durres and we're going to help with that. so it should be a pretty full week!

So that's about it for me. Happy birthday to Annaka from me! I love you all and I hope you have a great week!

Elder Gardiner

May 22nd

Pershendetje familja!

So this has been a pretty good week.

This week we haven't really been able to meet with the Gjergji family a lot. We had a lesson with them on Tuesday and it went pretty well. The mom of the family, Mimoza, has been doing a really good job at reading even though it's really hard for her. She doesn't really understand anything she reads, but at least she's putting in the effort to do it. We've been trying to meet with them all, but for one reason or another Suzana and Indrit haven't really been showing up for the lessons, but we have at least been able to talk to them a little bit. And we should be having a lesson with everyone tomorrow. They all promised to come to church yesterday, but none of them showed up, which was a little disappointing. That's definitely going to be their biggest obstacle towards baptism. So far they've only come once, but they all loved it when they came.

They're also pretty much our only investigators for the moment. We also kind of have a guy named Aleksander, we've met with him twice and we had pretty good lessons. We showed him the church and he really liked it. When we got to the part of the tour where we show the baptismal font he said that he wants to get baptized, but we haven't seen him since then. He's a good guy, but he'll have a long road ahead of him for baptism, but luckily this is the true gospel and by faith and the power of God all things are possible.

One amazing experience we had this week came from Fation, our investigator who wasn't allowed to meet us for a while. So for now he's in the mental hospital in Tirana because he's been going through a really hard time with his anxiety and depression. So one day we felt like we should try and find his moms work to go see how he's doing, and she told us what I just told you. So we felt like we needed to share the talk "Like a Broken Vessel" by Jeffrey R. Holland with her(I would recommend all of you to go and read that because it's super amazing). So we showed her where she could find it and then left. Then a few days later we had a little bit of time and we felt like we needed to go visit her again. So we went to her work and she saw us coming and waved us in, then she told us that she had printed off the talk and that she carries it with her at all times and reads it whenever she needs help. So that was so amazing. Also she told us that we could visit him, but since we're here in Durres we can't. So we told Elder Schneider to go visit him(Elder Schneider actually found Fation) and one day we were tracting and we knocked on the door of this one lady who recognized us as the people with the church of the Latter Day Saints, which never happens here, then all of the sudden she started asking us about Fation. So turns out she's his aunt, so we talked about Fation for a few minutes when all of the sudden Fation calls us while we're still talking to her. Apparently Elder Schneider had just visited him and he felt like he needed to call us too and tell us he's doing a lot better. So then he told us to make sure and teach his aunt because she really needs the gospel. So that was a really cool experience, there are definitely no coincidences. He should be getting back this week, and I can't wait to meet with him again and give him a big hug! He's such a big teddy bear.

Other than that, the only other things that have happened is that yesterday it rained super hard. We probably got a years worth of rain for Utah just yesterday. And that gets amplified because Albania doesn't have the the best draining system, so the roads had about a foot and a half of rain/sewage overflow. It was crazy driving home from church. Then yesterday we also had to go to Tirana for a choir practice. We're singing for the 25th anniversary of missionaries in Albania this summer and not a lot of people come to the choir so the told us that we have to come every week. Which choir is fun, and it was awesome getting to see the other missionaries, especially Elder Schneider and Elder Lords, but it's also kind of a big chunk of time out of our day.

Then today Elder Wilson and I went to Shkoder for a p-day trip. I did get some pictures, but we also got back a little late so I don't have time to send them today. So next week you'll be getting a lot; all the ones I still haven't sent from Vlore, the ones from today, and the ones I'll take of our new apartment that we'll be moving into throughout the week. We had a super fun time. We went to an Orthodox church and talked with the priest, hung out with the missionaries for a bit, and then we went up to the big castle on the hill. It was a blast, but it was also super hot.

So all in all I'm still doing great and I still love it here. Thanks for everything, and have an amazing week! I love you all!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 15th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well the highlight of the week was definitely getting to talk to you all yesterday! That was so amazing, I loved getting to see all your faces and hear your voices. I'm so happy to hear that you're all doing well, I love getting to hear about what's going on through email, but getting to skype you all was really special.

So now for the rest of the week. We're still teaching the Gjergji family and they're doing pretty well. We were only able to meet with them twice this week, and the first lesson ended up turning into an argument about how we can't worship saint Mary(because Ina is super catholic and that's something they do) so that was pretty rough. Then after that they've all been kind of sick. A lot of them had pretty bad migraines so we just did a really short lesson on Friday. So after that we weren't feeling too good about them, it looked like they were kind of losing interest. But then yesterday they called us and said they all were super sick so they couldn't come to church, but that they wanted us to come and give them a blessing, which of course we did. So we went over there and were able to talk for a while and give them a blessing. And it was awesome because we called them again this morning to set up another lesson today and they said they're all doing way better today! I'm definitely glad we have the priesthood, which actually got restored 188 years ago today! Now it looks like the only hard thing is that Suzana, the daughter who is the most interested, has work every Saturday and Sunday which makes it really hard for her to go to church, and if she doesn't go it's hard for the rest to go. But I'm sure that it'll all turn out fine.

Then we met a guy named Konstantino this week and he's super cool. I met him street contacting and he said he really wanted to meet. So we called him the next day and said he was sorry that he said he was sorry that he didn't call us to meet the day before but that he really wanted to meet. So we had a lesson with him and it was such a cool lesson. He lived in Greece for about 11 years so he's baptized orthodox, and he's in law school to become a lawyer. He has a ton of faith in Christ and he loves the idea of justice and mercy with Christ as a mediator to pay our debts of sin. It was cool because he had so many good questions and we were able to answer them all in a way that he really felt the spirit and completely agreed. We basically ended up teaching the restoration and the plan of salvation in the same lesson which doesn't normally happen and he was so interested and wanted to learn so much.

We also met with Collin again this week(our missionary friend from Oklahoma). We had a fun lesson and invited him to church. He said he really wants to come, but that his preacher from his church might not let him, so hopefully he'll be able to come. We also told him that our names aren't actually Gardiner and Wilson and surprised him pretty hard. He's a super cool guy, and we asked him if he got an answer that the Book of Mormon if he would become a Mormon, which he said that he would but that it's something that would probably take a while for him to get an answer for. He also told us that his perception of Mormons has completely changed from meeting with us. He basically thought we were a cult of super weird people that didn't believe in Christ, but now we're super good friends and that's changed a bit.

So other than that we've basically just done a lot of street contacting. We've spent a ton of time doing that this week. It's been cool seeing how much I've improved in the language from the beginning of my mission. I remember standing out on the road trying to talk to people and not being able to understand a single word but now even though I don't understand everything I can understand most of what they're saying and even respond pretty well. So that's been a very welcome change.

In regards to pictures. I have the ones I took in Vlorë, that I still haven't sent(even though that was more than two months ago) that I might be able to send today. And then next week we should be going somewhere for a P-Day trip, maybe Skëndërbeu's castle, and I'll make sure to take pictures for you while we're there.

That's about it for me this week. I love you so much! We're going to do some family history work today so I should be on again later if you have any questions. Have a great week!

Elder Gardiner

Also, a while ago you said that Thomas could get me some more Mormon Tabernacle Choir music. If that offer is still valid I would really appreciate it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

May 8th

Përshëndetje familja!

So it's been another good week here in Durrës. The weather's been great and the people are awesome.

To start with the Gjergji family. They're so amazing! So it's grown even more than last week, now we also have the neighbor Ina's daughter that has joined the lessons, and there are even more people who have been invited to our lesson tonight. Also last week I mentioned Indrit's friend, Tani. Last week we met his older sister, and hopefully this week we'll meet his mom. She was going to come to church, but she ended up being in Montenegro over the weekend. So they're doing really well. Last Monday we ended up having a lesson at Ina's house with her and her kids which was awesome because even though she'd been in a lot of the lessons she hadn't ever been taught the Restoration, and also because we hadn't met her daughter before that. That ended up being an amazing lesson. They're from a place called Mirëdita which is super Catholic, and they didn't understand that we aren't Catholic until then. But they felt the spirit and understood the apostasy/restoration which was great. 

Also we had one big lesson with most of the people and now Mimoza, Suzana, Indrit, Ina, Bardha, Kristal, and Tani all accepted a baptismal date for June 3! They're so amazing and I feel like they really will get baptized. For now the two things that seem like might hold them back are the word of wisdom and church attendance. Ina drinks a lot of coffee but has committed to start dropping it, and the rest aren't too bad, Suzana mostly just drinks it so people can tell her her fortune, which is something people do here in Albania. And they live really far from the church, luckily there is a bus that stops right by the church though, so the challenge is just that they have to have enough money to take the bus. But they're awesome and I know they can do it if they just set their mind to it, and I'm sure that God will support them as they do.

So they're awesome, but they're basically our only investigators. Mustafa, our Muslim friend, still comes to church and loves it, but we met with him again this week and he still just does not understand anything we teach him. He loves meeting with us and he's super funny, but he just doesn't seem to really want to learn. So we'll keep inviting him to church and hopefully one day he'll figure it out, and when that day comes we'll be ready. Then we also have a guy named Lefter. He's an old Chemistry professor and he's super cool. The lessons with him are really weird though, what happens is that we usually just do an hour long role play where he teaches us how to teach him, but he also studies the pamphlets between lessons and applies them in his life. He also doesn't understand the apostasy(like most Albanians) so he hasn't accepted a baptismal date yet. But he's awesome, and even though the lessons are really weird he has promise, he just needs to start going to church!
We've done a lot of street contacting, and even a little bus contacting, and we've gotten a few potential investigators, but nothing too definite yet. We did meet with one guy named Aleksandër though, and he was cool. He was in a really bad car accident a few years ago and ended up in a coma for 3 months but survived, he feels like God saved him for a reason, but he's not quite sure what it is yet. So we gave him a restoration pamphlet and should meet with him this week. 

We had a ton of people in church this week though, and that was awesome. A big part of it was because we had 6 Americans, 3 of which were returned missionaries, in church with us. Also basically every week in Elders quorum we talk about home teaching, and it definitely makes me wish I was better about that back at home. Also, recently we received the new Albanian hymn books, the ones that look like regular hymn books. But most of the members don't know the new hymns so we've started learning one new song every week after church, and that's been a lot of fun.

Elder Wilson's still awesome, and we're still getting along great. We're trying to really use every second we have to be working so he can finish strong, and it's been great, but it's hard work.

I love you all, and if you have any other questions just let me know. Have a great week!
Elder Gardiner

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May 1st

Përshendetje familja!

So we've had a pretty good week here in Durres. The Gjergji family is doing great. They are super good at missionary work. We met with them almost every day last week, and in almost every lesson there was a new person. At first we were just teaching Ilmi, Mimoza, and Suzana. But after that we've started teaching the rest of the kids; Indrit, Arber, and Hamza, and also we're teaching their neighbor Ina, and her kid, and a different one of Indrit's friends Tani. So they've been most of our work this week. We've taught them a lot and they seem to understand really well still. The lessons get really crazy sometimes, and sometimes it's a little hard to keep them on track because there are just so many people who all want to talk, but it's still going really well. This week on Sunday we even had Suzana, Indrit, Tani, Mimoza, Ina, and Kristal all in church, it was awesome! 

Also this week we met with Mustafa again. He's super funny and he tried to convince his orthodox friend to come to a lesson with us because our church is true and theirs isn't, which was super funny. He's basically the classic example of an Albanian xhaxhi, and basically the whole lesson was us trying to talk about the Book of Mormon and getting sidetracked to us talking about the Koran and prophets. So I don't know if we'll keep meeting with him, but he ended up coming to church again and really liked it, so I guess we'll see.

We also met a young couple that we went and taught. But the husband is going to Greece for work today or tomorrow so we had a transfer lesson where we gave them to the sisters. They were really nice and have a lot of faith, but I'm not sure they really want to act on our message.

Then other than that, today we went to Lushnje to play soccer with a bunch of the south zone missionaries and with some members. We had a great time and played pretty hard, and it was a ton of fun seeing everyone again. I met two of the new missionaries today and they're super cool. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures, but it was still a great time!
I think that's about it for what happened this week though. We've done a lot of finding but nothing too crazy has happened.

Also, that's super awesome about Ian's mission call, he'll do great. That's going to be super cool. And to respond to your question, Albanian is not similar to Slovak at all. In Kosovo they use a few words that are close to Serbian words, but I think that's about as close as it gets. Macedonian might be similar, but I don't speak that so I don't know. And also, I actually have a friend in that mission speaking Slovak, so Ian will probably meet him.

Have fun on your trip to Arizona, and have a great week! I love you all!
Mirupafshim, Elder Gardiner

Monday, April 24, 2017

April 24th

Përshëndetje familja!

So this has been a pretty good week. To start off, this week was the week of transfers, and for the first time ever I'm not changing companions! Elder Wilson is a stud and I'm super excited to serve with him for the next 9 weeks, which happen to be the last 9 weeks of his mission. 

So other than that, this week we had zone conference, and that was so amazing. It started out with a talk from the Stake President, President Mema. He talked to us about the spirit of Elijah, something usually mentioned for family history work, and talked about how that also applies to the people here. It's super unique here because almost all the members are baptized as individuals. President Mema said that there are about 2,700 members in Albania and 2,000 of them belong to different families. So he challenged us to work with the families of these members to find new people and to bring strong members that will last. He also challenged us and all the members to work better to bring people into the gospel. Then we had a few other trainings about giving/following up on commitments, learning about the life of Christ and applying his example in our work, and about sacrifice and how it brings blessings. It was an amazing meeting and I went away very inspired and ready to work hard. Also it was super fun seeing some friends, like Elder Schneider and Elder Benson.

Then, the day after I went on an exchange to Tirana and got to serve with Elder Samuel for a day. That was cool, we met with a lot of people did almost all our work in English which was kind of weird. While I was gone, Elder Wilson and Elder Benson had a lesson with the Beqiri family and ended up putting them all on a baptismal date. But, later this week we talked to them and they said they can't afford the rent for their house so they have to move back to Lushnje. They said they'll try and come back some day later, but for now they don't really have a choice.

Then, we've also met with the Gjergji family this week. They didn't end up coming to church unfortunately, but they have started reading the Book of Mormon now. And they're also super good about doing missionary work. So far we've already met with the mothers brother and his wife, their catholic neighbor, and also the daughter is talking to her coworkers about it when she's at work. They're super awesome and understand what we teach super well, the only hard thing is getting them to come to church because they work on Sunday. 

Also, this Sunday President Weidmann came to church here in Durres. Sacrament meeting was super good, President and Sister Weidmann both gave talks and they were great. Then second hour was good too, we talked about the organization of the priesthood, which is something that very few people have a good understanding of here. So it was a good lesson. Also it was cool because we had one of our investigators named Mustafa at church, and he's a Hoxh(I'm not sure what the direct translation of that is, but it's the person who is the leader of a mosque and does the prayer call) and he said he liked our church better than worshiping in the mosque. Then in third hour we talked about tithing, and that was a big mess. It ended up turning into this huge argument where everyone was yelling at each other about whether tithing gets paid on net income or gross income. In the end one of the members just had President Weidmann give a final call on it all and then it went fine from there. Also this week at church, two members from Elbasan, Ersi and Jueda, came to church here in Durres because they're going with the youth on their temple trip to Switzerland. So that was super fun to see them. And Vëllai Cani(Elder Cani) got back from visiting his family in Italy and it was awesome seeing him again.

This week we also got a car! That's been super helpful because for some reason all our investigators live forever away, but we had to get that registered today and that was a huge mess.

We also met with a guy named Agim. He's a guy that we met a while ago and then finally met this week. He came in for a lesson with us and he was just talking about how work is going really hard for him, then he got really sad and started crying because of some things going on in his life. So we showed him the Prince of Peace video, and he looked a lot better. So then we talked a lot about how Christ can give us peace, and we showed him the church self reliance program, and recently we've been going through that with him. It was super cool because they day after our first lesson we talked with him and he was so grateful to us because of the video and that he felt like he was spiritually healed after that. So he's really cool and we've become really good friends with him, and now he even accepted to take a Book of Mormon and read that!

We might be moving houses soon, so that'll be a hassle. It's been cold here this week too. Definitely not as cold as home, but with it feeling like summer recently it was a big change. Also I still haven't gotten the package. It wasn't there at the mission office last week, but they may have just not gotten the mail yet that week. Hopefully that comes soon.

So in general I've been doing great. I'm still loving it here and the people here are great. 
Mirupafshim, ju dua shumë!
Elder Gardiner