Monday, January 30, 2017

January 30th

Përshëndetje familja!

So as I'm sure you know this has been the craziest week of my mission so far! 
I hear the surprise is already ruined, but yes, I am being transferred to Vlorë! I'm super excited to serve there and work there and I've heard that it is so beautiful. There's actually a ward there instead of just a branch which will be nice and I've heard there are a ton of really cool people! However, of course I am very sad to leave Elbasan (and not just because I have to pack), there are so many amazing people here and I've had so many amazing experiences here. I've changed and grown so much here, and really does feel like my second home. And that's where we get to the best part of the week.

So, all three of our baptisms happened!​

There are a ton of pictures and I'm not sure which ones are good so I just sent them all! So that was definitely one of the most special moments on my mission so far! The baptisms all went great, however the water was a gross yellow/brown color, but they said it was clean, just colored weird. Ersi baptized Besjana, Elder Cani baptized Helena, and I baptized Antonio. It was so awesome, and I love them all so much! They bore their testimonies after and it was so special listening to their testimonies which are so strong, and they all thanked us so much, it was so cute. Then Besjana and Helena decided that they also wanted to give a talk in sacrament meeting the day after, when they got confirmed so they did that and they did really well. They talked about things they liked in the scriptures and honestly they were great talks. It was really cool because Antonio wanted me to confirm him too so I got to do that, and it really is special feeling the spirit during that and listening and saying the words that come while doing that. It's amazing. Then President Karanxha confirmed Helena, and Hasan confirmed Besjana. So those are the three newest members of the Elbasan branch, and I think they'll be strong ones too!

So other than that, we also had mission conference in Elbasan this week. That was really cool, and we were in charge of the food. We set up a big dinner and made spots for everyone and stuff, it was pretty good. But a big part of that, as I'm sure you've all heard, was the worldwide missionary broadcast. That was really cool and we learned a lot from it, but two of the biggest things from that is that they're changing the missionary schedule and also our key indicators. Now we're free to change and adjust the times of everything we do so that it will best fit the circumstances of the area. Now we can change the timing of things so that we are out proselyting when there are actually people and we can do the other things at times that are less productive during the day. Which we had already kind of been doing, so it won't change too much for us now. But during the summer this will really let us work a lot more effectively, instead of just having to be out at the hottest parts of the day where no one is out, or when no one is willing to talk. I really like it. Also mission conference was awesome just because President Weidmann is amazing! I'm sure I've said this before but he is one of the kindest, most spiritually attuned person I've ever met. He taught us so much and he's so inspiring! We also had our individual interviews with him after mission conference and that was so cool. He has such a unique ability to make every person feel so valuable and appreciated, it's amazing. However, that took a whole day away. We got to the church at 8:30 in the morning and then went straight home and got back at 9:00 at night. 

Also with that, remember the pictures I sent you of our apartment, we had 6 other Elders staying with us that night. It was crazy!! We had two beds and one extra matress, and then one couch. So if you do the math that doesn't fit 8 people. So we had a few people sleeping on couch cushions, and sharing beds, or just sleeping on the floor. Luckily that only lasted one night, but it was a lot of fun. I love the missionaries in this mission. Here's a picture Elder Bowen took with my camera just for fun.​

​So that's been about it for me. Of course we've had the rest of the normal stuff too, but nothing else too big. I gave a talk yesterday and that went pretty well, but I decided to try and do it without having to write it all down so it was a little scattered, but it definitely could have been worse. I love the people here so much and I'm going to miss them a ton!!! But we do have stake conference coming up at the beginning of March so I'll get to see them soon enough! I also took a picture with Xhuljo Kashari, so I'll put that in here too.​
We actually don't move today. How it works is that, everyone who is moving goes to Tirana tomorrow and then we all meet and go to our new areas. But I do have to pack today. Also I forgot to mention it, but we just got back from going to a Greek restaurant here in Elbasan, and it was SO GOOD! We ate a lot of meat.

Also I forgot to write a few things in the email. I forgot to write about how awesome it has been working with Elder Cani. He's such an amazing missionary and I've learned so much working with him. We've had so much fun and we've gotten along so great! We drank a lot of juice, like really a lot of juice, and we ate a lot of meat. It was fantastic. He's staying here in Elbasan with two other missionaries, Elder Nielsen and Elder Qoka, and they're going to do great!

Also I'm going to be serving with Elder Lords, who mission wise is my half-brother(he was trained by Elder Maurer too). I've heard that he is super cool, and I'm super excited to work with him!

Monday, January 23, 2017

January 23rd

Përshëndetje familja!

So this has been an amazing crazy week here in Elbasan!

So I'm good now health wise, no more worries there.  So transfers aren't this week. We'll probably get the calls on Saturday and then change next week, if any of us change. These are only mini transfers so it could all stay the same.

So now other than that, things are going fantastic. We had a lesson with Ana and Helena, Lindis' sisters, and Helena said that she did not want to get baptized on February 4 because it's too close to her birthday which is February 3. So after a while of talking and testifying and figuring everything out Ana, Helena, and Antonio are now getting baptized on January 28, this Saturday! So this week we've been working super hard and meeting every day with the three of them getting them ready for baptism.

On Saturday we had a baptism here in Elbasan where people came up from Korça and had the baptism here. That was really cool to see and it was super cool listening to the woman's testimony after her baptism. Also it was cool because Ana, Helena, and Antonio all came! Also this baptism went a lot better, as in no problems with the water or heating system which was good because if that happened again I think it would scare Helena off from getting baptized. 

One of the big highlights of the week was yesterday at church. So sacrament meeting started and we had about 40 or 50 people which is a lot for here, but then I noticed that the sister missionaries weren't there. So then right after the sacrament was passed the sisters came in from the foyer, with like 20 people with them. Then later another 10 or 15 people came in! We ended up having 82 people in church which is the highest number of people we've had in years! It was so cool! And a lot of them stayed for second and third hour too!
Then, also yesterday we went and ate dinner at Lindis' house! We brought food and Elder Cani made pastiçe which is a traditional Albanian pasta dish, and it was so good! They ended up inviting the sisters too and we had a lot of fun. The sisters didn't stay the whole time because they had to go work (and because we were there for almost 4 hours) but it was really fun having us all talking with their family. I love Lindis' family so much, I know I've said this before but they really just feel like my second family. They remind me so much of you, and I just feel like I'm at home with them. It was awesome because I got to talk a lot with Lindis and just see how he's doing, and he never fails to amaze me. He has one of the strongest testimonies I've ever felt, and he doesn't just live the gospel because he has to, he truly has a desire to follow Christ and become more Christlike. He's so amazing, and it's been awesome having him in the lessons with Ana and Helena, just listening to him explain and testify to them, it truly is indescribable. Then at the end of the dinner we had a lesson with the family, except Lindis' dad, and we really just testified of baptism and how important it is, and it was so powerful. The spirit was so strong, and it was so cool having Elder Cani, Lindis, and I just take turns testifying. We were mostly focused on Lindis' brother with that and it was so cool seeing how much Lindis cares about his brother and how much he wants him to get baptized. I feel like he almost accepted too, but there seems to just be something holding him back. Also along the same topic, we did a lesson with Ana, Helena, and Lindis about missionary work and I talked about how Lindis is sharing the gospel with people and now it turns out Lindis wants to serve a mission! He says it will be really hard because his family doesn't have a lot of money, but we talked about how he could serve a mini mission for free, and we'll keep talking to him about serving a mission, but I think he will do it. Also Ana and Helena are already basically missionaries. It turns out they've been talking with their friends about church, and we gave them flyers for our English course and they were running around giving them to people on the street for us! They're so awesome, and I think they'll serve missions too when they're older! I put some pictures in from our dinner with them too.

So that's about it for them. We've also been teaching Antonio every day this week which has been awesome. He's super good with magic tricks and he loves showing them. Also him and I have played a lot of fusball together and ping pong too. Him and I have become super good friends and he's so cool. He's also getting baptized this Saturday and he's so excited!

It was also Xhuljo Trebishta's birthday this week and we had a party at the center for that. He's super amazing and he's definitely one of my best friends here. He's super funny and he's super amazing at soccer, whenever we play soccer he's basically his own team. Also he's helped us in a lot of lessons and he's an amazing teacher, he has a super strong testimony and he's so sincere, you can really feel it when he talks about how much the gospel has changed his life. It's amazing.

So that's about it for here. The weather has been a lot better this week, which has been nice. Sounds like the same is not quite true back in Utah though, so have fun with that.
This week we have a mission conference here in Elbasan which is going to be so cool. All the missionaries are coming from all over the mission and President Weidmann and a member of the 70 are going to talk to us and give us a training. I'm super excited for that!

Have a great week back at home! Hopefully everyone has better health, and success in everything else!
Mirupafshim! Ju dua!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, January 16, 2017

January 16th

Përshëndetje familja!

So this has been another crazy week. So I'm happy to say that I am almost completely better. I still have a little bit of a cough but my voice is back. I have been taking medicine, but it probably isn't the strongest thing, but I'm still getting better.

Other than that, things have been a little stressful with the whole police clearance letter expiring thing. That was not the funnest call to get, but thank you so much for being so quick to respond and get that done. Hopefully it all works out. It is kind of funny though because that's what happened with Elder Mero and the reason he got sent to Kosovo. Luckily though I shouldn't get banished or anything.  So I talked with them today, and I think there might also be something wrong with the contract for the apartment here in Elbasan, so that might hold me up too. But we're working on it, and they said they're going to try and figure it out for me in Tirana and that they'll keep me updated. 

So this week we've been teaching our awesome investigators a lot. We've been meeting with Antonio, the kid from church, every day and he's doing so well. He was super stubborn at first and wouldn't pray or read, but now him and I are super good friends and now he prays in every lesson! However, he actually doesn't know how to read. So now we're actually teaching him how to read, which he didn't want to do until I told him we could learn to do it together because that's something I'm still working on. So for now we gave him one of the "stories of the Book of Mormon" books with the pictures and told him to look at that. Also he does magic tricks with cards and it is so crazy. He's just taught himself how to do all of them and he's super good. He can switch and flip cards faster than I can blink, it's insane. Also he learns super fast. We taught him how to play ping pong, and then learning the lessons he understands really fast. He's super awesome and he really wants to get baptized. It's awesome because all his friends, the other kids that live by the church, all are against the church and make fun of him for wanting to get baptized but he just stands strong and tells them that it's something that he wants to do and that it's the right thing to do. And he also came to the baptism we had on Saturday! So he's super awesome! 

Then we've also been teaching Ana and Helena, Lindis' sisters. They are so amazing and so cute. It's so funny because we had a lesson with them and they kept talking about their baptism and that they wanted to change the date to be earlier and they wanted to show how much they remembered and what they had read, it was awesome. We also gave them Stories of the Book of Mormon books and they loved it. So we ended up finalizing the date for them for February 4, and we set the same for Antonio. Unfortunately they were at their grandparents house for the weekend and couldn't come to church. But it was awesome because Lindis was also out of town at his other grandparent's house and so he said he probably couldn't come to church, but then he did! So far he hasn't missed a Sunday at church since he started meeting with the missionaries back in September! He's so amazing and he's such an awesome friend. I'm so glad that I was given the opportunity to serve here with him. His testimony and loyalty to the gospel is so amazing, I learn so much from him.

So other than that we haven't taught a ton of people. We had another lesson with Lino, who is someone we had been teaching a while ago but then dissapeared. So he randomly just showed up at the center again one day so we had a lesson with him and put him back on a baptismal date. But we haven't seen him again since then. We keep trying to have a lesson with the other Antonio but he's been really sick and he doesn't want us coming to his house so we haven't been able to do that unfortunately. But his culinary course starts again this week and so does English Course so we should be able to meet with him this week. Then Ergys has been nowhere to be seen and has changed his phone number. So hopefully we meet with him again, but for now that doesn't seem too likely.

Then yesterday we went and had a lesson with the Kashari family which was so amazing. They're one of the only families where they are all members and they got baptized a long time ago. They're so awesome and for the lesson we just had a testimony meeting, and it was so amazing hearing their testimonies and how much this gospel has blessed them. It really made me grateful for my family and that we also are all members and that I'm blessed enough to have grown up in this gospel.

But as you may know, we had a baptism here in Elbasan over the weekend! Nora is one of the sister's friends and she's super cool. She has a super strong testimony and she loves the gospel, which is good because the baptism was a little rough. So things were definitely fighting against us trying to not let us have that baptism. First off, because it's cold the pipe for the baptismal font broke and a ton of dirt got into the water, so it had to be drained and refilled. Then the water didn't work at all so we were only able to fill it to about mid-calf height. Then we were able to get more water but it was freezing cold, and both the water heater and the heater for the church building weren't working so it was already cold outside. So we were only able to get the water to a little over knee height. So they did the baptism kneeling down in the freezing cold water. But since there was so little water it took 7 tries to get it right. I felt so bad, and she looked like she was absolutely freezing. But then she bore her testimony and she told us it was definitely worth it, that she felt so happy, and that she knew it was the right thing to do. Then she got confirmed yesterday, so now she's a member!

Then today we went to Tirana for a P-day trip which was a lot of fun. Elder Cani bought a suit and then we went to the mission office and I talked to the office couple about my Visa stuff. Then we went to President Weidmann's house and talked with him which was awesome! Then we went to the big mall between Elbasan and Tirana and got some KFC which was so good!

So that's been our week. It was a little crazy but over all it was really good!
I love you all and I really hope you're having a good time! Thank you so much for everything! Have a great week!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, January 9, 2017

January 9th

Përshëndetje familja!

So to start with the one thing I'm sure you're all wondering. I am still a tiny bit sick but I am feeling a lot better. I still have a little bit of a cough and my voice is still coming back, but I honestly feel a lot better. New Years is the worst time to get sick here because all the pharmacies were closed until Wednesday. But I think I should be completely better tomorrow or the day after.

So other than that it's been a crazy week! I sent a few pictures with this email so I hope you like them. I also sent a video of the fireworks on New Years, it's not the greatest filming but I hope it gives some sort of idea of how crazy they get. Even though I know it doesn't do it justice.

So this week it snowed in Elbasan! That hasn't happened in 4 years so everyone was freaking out! It's super cold here so a lot of people aren't super willing to talk to us, and we didn't have a lot of people in church yesterday because it was too cold for them all. Because it's so cold, and because everyone is sick, the schools here are all extending winter break another week because they don't have any sort of heaters in the schools. But since we're missionaries we haven't let it slow us down, we have been wearing all our warm clothes though. Speaking of which, mom make sure and save that spider jacket for me for when I get home, I don't really need it here because we don't wear normal clothes very often but that would definitely be nice to have at home.

So this week we've really seen the Lord's promise that we will find his elect, either by us finding them or them finding us. So first we have Lindis' family! We were finally able to set up a lesson with them and it was so awesome! His family reminds me so much of our own, it's crazy! To explain, Lindis acts just like I did before my mission, and is super awesome. Then his little brother Fation is just like Mason, he loves music and doesn't like school. Then his little sisters, the older one is Annaka's age and they might as well be twins, she acts just like Annaka, it's crazy. Then the youngest one Helena reminds me a lot of Jordan. So I love their family and they're so cool. We had a really good lesson with them, and then when we were about to leave they made us dinner and said we had to stay. So we ended up being there for a long time again, but it was all worth it. We invited them all to baptism, Besiana accepted immediately and said that she actually already wanted to and that she wanted to get baptized in October, but she decided when we invited them that she would be ready in February. And Helena also accepted but she took a little more convincing because she's afraid of the water. Then the rest of the family said they would all think about it. So the girls should be getting baptized on February 11!

Next we have Ergys. On Christmas we went tabling where we all went contacting together with the members and that was a lot of fun and we got a few numbers but nothing else really seemed to happen. But then this week someone called us and asked us if we could meet right then at the center. So we went to the center and started talking to him and found out he was a guy named Ergys who Ersi and I talked to on Christmas. He then told us that when he saw us on Christmas he was so impressed that he felt like he wanted to become a member of our church. So of course we were super excited and then we went on to explain what he has to do to become a member. He's super awesome and seems like even though he already wants to become a member he also wants to find for himself if this is true. He also asked us what he has to do to become a missionary, and now he really wants to do that! So we invited him to be baptized on January 28 which is really soon, but hopefully we can do it!

Then we have another guy named Antonio, but it's not the same Antonio as last week. This Antonio is one of the little kids that come to church every week, but unlike the other ones he's super reverent, and polite, and respectful. So we've been trying to become friends with him and asked if he wants to do the lessons. So he went and talked to his parents and then this week he told us that he can meet with us and that he asked his parents if he can get baptized and they said yes! That was awesome because he decided for himself before he even met with us. So for him we just had to set a baptismal date and now we're teaching him. Today we taught about the Restoration and he seems to accept it all. But unfortunately he says that he doesn't really know how to read which makes it a little harder to read the Book of Mormon. So we're working with him on that and it seems to still be going well. He accepted to be baptized on February 11 with Lindis' sisters which is awesome! Now this week we're just going to make sure and meet with his parents too. But I'm not too concerned with that because he's actually cousins with some of the other members here.

Then as you already know, we had zone training this week. That was really cool and I learned a lot. It was also a lot of fun because this was the first zone training since exchanges so it was cool seeing where everyone is now and talking with all of them. 

Also this week was Elder Cani's birthday! He turned 25 and we threw a huge party with all the members and anyone else who wanted to come. That was super fun and really crazy. We did traditional Albanian dancing which is basically rhythmically sprinting in a circle, and is super hard. I looked like a complete fool but it was a lot of fun and we had a lot of members come and bring friends which was cool. We had a lesson with one of the members friends named Klejdion and he's super cool. He is a singer and he was super good at dancing, and we had a cool lesson with him about the will of God.

So it's been a crazy week. I haven't been able to talk like all week but it's been cool seeing Elder Cani teach and listening to how he does it and I feel like I've learned a lot. I've definitely seen the hand of the Lord in our work here and I know that he's always with us.

I'm sorry for any worry I've caused, I honestly am fine. I've been pretty sick but I'm getting better and I'm doing my best to take care of myself.
I love you so much and I'll see you next week!
Ju dua shumë! Mirupafshim!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, January 2, 2017

January 2nd

Përshëndetje familja ju dua shumë!

Gëzuar vitin e ri! So a few things happened this week but I'll start with the most important ones.

As you all know new years was this week end! It was so crazy here! On the morning of New Year's eve pretty much everyone in the entire city was outside walking around, but unfortunately no one really wanted to talk. So we tried talking to people and having some lessons but nothing really happened with that. But then that night was awesome! So we had do be in by 4:00 and then we got to watch movies and fireworks in our apartment until 12:30. So we watched Madascar, Star Wars VII, Frozen, The Saratov Approach, and Tangled! And that was so much fun, also the Saratov Approach is super good, I'm not sure why I hadn't seen that before. Also the fireworks here are crazy! I took a video of them but I forgot my camera back at the apartment so I will send that next week. So basically everyone here has aerials and they just shoot them out of their windows or off their balconies, it's insane. The reason we have to be inside so early is because the fireworks get so crazy that people have died here from them, but we're all safe so nothing to worry about there. Also it was crazy because on new years day there was no one outside. Normally the streets are full when we go to church but there was nobody, and everything was closed.

So I decided to start the new year in the best way possible... by getting strep throat. So that really sucks, and my voice has been completely gone for about the past 3 days, but hopefully I'll get better soon! 

So this week was a pretty good week, but we did lose a lot of time with New Year's and with me being sick, I ended up having to just rest yesterday because I felt awful. (Addition from further email of panic from Amber to Austin...I talked with the mission nurse and I'm trying to take it easy for the moment to recover. We're going to go get an antibiotic from the pharmacy today or tomorrow but with it being New Year's most of the places are still closed, but we're trying our best!)

So some cool things that have happened this week were District Leader training and our new investigator Antonio. So we had district leader training on Thursday last week up in Tirana and that was so cool! All of my old companions were there and that was a lot of fun seeing them. Also President Weidmann is so amazing. He is so inspired and he has the spirit with him so strongly when he speaks. I learned a ton there and I feel really excited to get back to full strength and get back to work. 

Then we have Antonio, he's Lindis' friend from culinary course who was being taught by the sisters because they were also teaching his mom. But now his mom isn't really progressing and doesn't seem like she is going to progress so they gave him to us. He's super awesome and he learns super fast and has such a huge desire to learn. We had a lesson with him this week but it was while I was in Tirana so Elder Cani and Elder Holding taught that while Elder Wilson and I were gone.

Then we still have Lino. He's doing well, he was sick for a little bit last week and then couldn't meet with us during new years so we were only able to have one lesson with him. We taught the word of wisdom and that was really cool. Elder Cani was able to teach that in a really cool way that made it really easy to understand and to accept which was really cool.
Another cool thing that's happening now is that President Weidmann challenged us all to read the Book of Mormon cover to cover in the month of January. We're supposed to study how to teach repentance and the power of the atonement as we read and I'm really excited to do that. I'm a little behind at the moment but this is definitely something that I want to do. 

Now I also want to challenge you to do the same. It's a hard thing but I know that the blessings that come from doing that will be far worth the sacrifice.

Other than that there's not really anything else new. I'm still loving it here in Elbasan and Elder Cani is so cool. I've learned a ton serving with him and I've had a great time. My Albanian has improved drastically serving with him too, turns out I had learned a bunch of things wrong but now I feel like I'm starting to really get it, or at least I will be when I can talk again.

Also that's awesome that Devin and Carly had their farewells yesterday! They'll be such amazing missionaries! Also I didn't know that Carly was going on a mission, where is she going? (I told him)

I hope everything's going well back at home, I love you all so much! So until next week, or unless you have any other questions.
Ju dua, Mirupafshim!
Elder Gardiner