Monday, February 20, 2017

February 20th and 27th

Përshëndetje familja! 

So as you are about to see there are a lot of pictures in this email, which I'm sure you will enjoy.

This has been kind of a crazy week. The biggest thing that happened this week was that the ward did a youth trip to a place called Llogara and we got to come along! It was so cool, it's super beautiful, the pictures just don't even do it justice. Basically imagine taking a smaller Glacier National Park and putting it right next to the ocean, and that's what this was. I am 100% convinced that Albania could easily be the most beautiful place in the world if it was just a little more taken care of. So that's what most of my picture are of. It was cool because we were all the way up in the clouds. We played a lot of games, and it was cool because there were actually a lot of investigators there too! Then we even went on a hike with some of the youth, which was so amazing. I haven't done that in way too long!

So other than that the big news of the week is that Aulon, our investigator, just moved to Tirana for work and is probably not coming back. So that really sucks. So right now we don't really have any investigators. But now we're really working on finding. We've done a lot of street contacting and tracting, which has still not really been good but it has seemed to improve a little bit. Street contacting pretty much just doesn't work here at all, but we've been able to talk with a few people tracting which was good.

We've been working a ton with the members here and that's been super good. There are a lot of people who have either left because they got offended or because they came for the wrong reasons, but at the same time there are a lot of amazing members here too. There are some members where after the lessons with them I just wish that every member could be that strong. It really strengthens my testimony listening to all of their stories and their testimonies.

Another fun thing from this week, we were at home at night one day just getting ready to go to bed when we heard what sounded like meowing outside, which was weird because we live on the fifth floor of an apartment, so we went to the door and sure enough there was a cat in the hall. So we sat there just looking at it for a few seconds, and then in came in our house. So we gave it a bowl of milk and then sent it back out. So not that crazy of a story, but it was kind of fun. And that is the reason I have pictures of a cat in my email.

Other than that it's been a pretty normal week. Elder Lords and I are doing great together, we work together well and we're having a lot of fun. Our district is so amazing and we have a ton of fun together. The other Elders are so funny! And we do a ton of stuff together, which is a lot of fun. 

Hopefully we'll go somewhere fun for P-Day next week, we've heard of a few cool places but we still just need to figure out how to get there. So I'll definitely let you know. 
One thing that I've really learned here on my mission is how special the temple is. I can not even describe how lucky we are to have so many temples in Utah. I really wish I had gone more before my mission. Most of the people here get to go to the temple like once or maybe twice in their lives(that should change when the Rome, Italy temple gets finished though) and meanwhile there's a temple like 10 minutes from home. So that's definitely something I'll do better about when I get home. But luckily, the stake is doing a temple trip for the youth who are in seminary, so that will be so cool getting to hear their stories about that, and they are so excited to go!

So that's about it for this week, I love you all so much!
Mirupafshim, ju dua shumë!
Also if you could send me some family pictures through email I would really appreciate it! And maybe a small, wallet sized family picture in the next package, thanks!​

In the last two pictures it's a mini golf course with deer, which I thought Mason would like. Especially since the front one has super weird antlers.

Also do you remember on that tv show that we watched about Albania how it talked about those weird communist shelter things, they're literally everywhere! I took a few pictures of them, but we see them all the time

For Senor Smith:  (I told Austin that I added him to the email list)  That's awesome! I love Sr. Smith! He was definitely one of my favorite teachers from junior high. Honestly, taking Spanish has helped me a ton with learning Albanian. Even though the languages are completely different, just knowing the process of learning a language and being able to hear it has helped a ton! I hope he's doing well, tell him hi for me!

February 27th (Must have skipped this one originally, adding it now)

So, sorry I'm emailing so late. We just got back from a doctor's appointment in Tirana for Elder Lords so we have no time to email. I'm doing well and not dead. We still aren't teaching anyone, but we've done a lot of work this week. I'm starting to hate tracting less which is nice. We had a good talk with some of the really strong members about what we can do to have more success and I feel like we got a lot of good ideas. We're still moving apartments but it won't be for a while and we aren't sure where. We have 4 missionaries in Vlorë, all of us are Elders. Elder Lords is super awesome. I love serving with him and we're having a fantastic time. He's been having some health issues recently but he has not been letting that slow him down.

For an Easter package, make sure that some of the pictures you send are smaller, about wallet sized, so I can just have one on me whenever people ask. Also just candy and tie clips, I need more tie clips because they are super useful. 

I'm still loving it in Vlorë and having a great time. We're still not having a ton of success but I feel like we really have the desire to work hard and have success so I feel like it will come eventually, all in the Lord's time which is fine with me. We have Stake Conference this week and I'm so excited, a ton of members from here and Elbasan are coming. 

I love you all so much, have a great week!

Also next week I will not be emailing on Monday, we are having a mission conference(in Elbasan which is awesome!) on Monday so P-Day is getting moved to Wednesday.

Monday, February 13, 2017

February 13th

Përshëndetje familja!

So this has been a pretty crazy week, but at the same time nothing too interesting happened. 

To start, Valentine's day is a holiday here but the members said they don't do too much to celebrate. Also happy birthday mom! U befsh një qind!(something they say here in Albania). I hope it was a great one!

We just got back from playing soccer in Lushnje with the rest of the south zone, and that was a ton of fun. It was really cool, we had to be back a little early for a meeting and we were just sitting by the side of the road waiting for a furgon to come and pick us up, and then we got bored because we were waiting for a while so we just started waving down other cars to see if anyone else wanted to give us a ride, mainly just as a joke. But then some guy actually pulled over and told us he was heading to Vlorë too, and that he had actually seen us contacting before so he took us exactly where we needed to be! Definitely a blessing from the Lord.

Also we just found out that Elder Lords and I are moving apartments, which is going to be a pain. We live in a super nice apartment by the church right now so it will be sad to leave. But the one we're moving into is awesome. It's on the top floor and has a great view of the sea, it's pretty sweet.

Also this week we had to drop Besnik and Fatjon. They're such amazing people and I had a lot of hope for them. We met with them on Friday and challenged them to go a full day without smoking and alcohol, and they said they were doing it when we talked with them on Saturday. But unfortunately they didn't show up to church. So maybe someday in the future they'll be ready. 

However, this week hasn't been all bad. We were able to have a couple lessons with a guy named Aulon, and he's so cool! He's a lawyer or something like that, and he's super smart. Basically in every lesson he teaches himself. He also has been reading on his own and says he loves meeting with us. He's pretty busy so we can't meet as often as we would like, but he seems to be doing great. He accepts super well everything we teach him and he's promised us to come to church every Sunday until his baptism, which is awesome! He came to church yesterday and he seemed to really like it too!

So other than that, we've been doing a lot of tracting and a lot of street contacting, and that's been going pretty well. We've done a lot with the members and been really trying to work with them. We had a family home evening at the bishop's house last Monday, and that was a ton of fun. 

I think that's about it for me. Working hard and doing well.
DSC02132.jpegNow for your questions. I think Mason really should take AP Human Geography, it is an amazing class, and I've learned a ton from it. Especially being on a mission, I've used a ton of the things I learned in that class in my everyday life. Mrs Wright is an amazing teacher, and the class isn't super hard. Even if he doesn't take the AP test I think it would definitely be a good class for him.

Sorry that this is a little short, we don't have a lot of time today, and I'm super tired. If there's anything I might have forgotten, or that you want to know, feel free to ask. I should be on for about another hour and a half.

Mirupafshim, ju dua shumë!
Elder Gardiner

Amber-I'm going to pretend that you talking so casually about hitching a ride from a stranger is no big deal...because to me, that is a BIG DEAL!!!

Why are you so tired?  You feeling ok?

Austin-Honestly that's no big deal, we've done it a few times. That's just how Albania is. I'm sorry if you don't like it but that's just how it works. Most people don't have cars so it's a pretty common thing to do. And he was a super cool dude! His job is disabling bombs in the ocean, btw which is super cool.
Also i'm just tired because I ran super hard at soccer today, and I'm way out of shape. 

Amber-I believe's just so foreign to me.  And you know, I have an active imagination and assume only serial killers pick up hitchhikers.  And saying he works with bombs isn't as calming as it should be.  Although, now I'm curious about why there are so many bombs in the ocean.
Austin-There are a lot of bombs from like world war 2 and stuff. And yeah, normal people here pick up hitchhikers. That's how people travel. The main form of transportation is furgon which is just a big van that drives from city to city and picks people up on the way.
We have to exercise every day still. I usually just do like jumping jacks, push ups and sit ups. But I'm still not in the best shape.
Elder Lords is super cool. It's funny because he also served with Elder Maurer so we had a lot of the same experiences with that. Also we have a ton of things in common. We have a very similar taste in music and he played video games before his mission too. 

February 6th

Përshëndetje familja!

So this has been a super crazy week! Right now it is pouring rain out, like I can't even describe how much it's raining. But luckily now we're inside the internet lokal which is mostly dry(and also playing Imagine Dragons music, so bonus!) 

First off, Vlorë is beautiful! It's still Albania so it's pretty underdeveloped and everything is under construction but it's still beautiful. The people here seem to be a little less open than the people in Elbasan but we've still met some really cool people. So we have two investigators here, Besnik and Fatjon. Besnik is probably about 10 years older than you and dad and he's awesome. He has so much faith in Christ and he seems like he really wants to change his life. That being said, he has a long road ahead of him. He has a bit of a drinking problem, and a big smoking problem, and he's been married 7 times and still has a problem with the law of chastity. However, he has said that on the 13th of February he will stop it all. So we've been meeting with him and trying to help him and praying for him a lot! Hopefully he can do it, but it's definitely going to be hard. Then Fatjon is his son in law and they live together. Right now he's working on getting papers for him and his son so they can go to Italy to live with his wife(Besnik's daughter) and their daughter. He's also super cool, he smokes but he said that it's mostly just because he's worried about his wife and daughter and that when he gets to Italy that he'll stop it all. He also has a lot of faith and he's really good at helping explain things to Besnik in a way that he can understand which is good. They said that their wife has kept reading the Book of Mormon (they started getting taught before she moved) and that she's actually found the missionaries over there. So hopefully that's true and they'll all get baptized either here or there!

So other than that we've done a lot of finding. We've done a ton of tracting, which I hate tracting. But we're trying to just work our hardest and follow the spirit. We also did some street contacting which was a lot better than tracting but still not super successful. So we've found that working with members is definitely the way to go here. There are a lot of super cool members here! Some of the ones who I've met the most are Juli, Anxhela, Luan, and Kida. Juli owns a bakery here and is so awesome! He gets a ton of referrals for the other Elders and he talks with basically everyone he meets about the gospel. Also he has a picture of the Rome temple that he keeps in his bakery, which is awesome. Then Anxhela teaches the gospel principles class in church (the investigator class) and she has a ton of desire to share the gospel and serve a mission. Also she speaks super fast, but also people in Vlorë speak really clearly and use super good grammar so they're usually pretty easy to understand. Then Luan is a  guy who's about my age and he comes to a lot of the activities and helps us in lessons, and he's super funny and cool! Then Kida is the bishops daughter and she got back from her mission in England not too long ago, so we get to speak English with her which is nice. But she also made us sing for ward family home evening, which was a very bad idea. I love my district, but we are awful at singing.

On Saturday we had ward family home evening which was awesome. A ton of the youth came so I got to meet all of them, and we talked about the temple. Also president Mema (the stake president for all of Albania) came and taught us, and that was so cool. He's an amazing teacher and I learned so much from that. Then we also had church on Sunday. Church here is at 9:00 instead of 10:00 like Elbasan but it wasn't too bad because it takes us like 3 minutes to get to church here instead of like 45 in Elbasan. Church here is different from in Elbasan, but it was really cool. The church is this big building that used to be a club, and it's super cool. Here in Vlorë there are a ton of strong families and older people unlike Elbasan which is made almost completely of youth, so that was really cool. Also we had a lot more people in priesthood meeting than we had in Elbasan which was great.

So now for the other part of the email, my district. My companion is Elder Lords and he's awesome! He's from Idaho Falls and he actually knew Elder Schneider before the mission which is cool. We get along great and we laugh a lot, we have a ton of fun. Then we also have two other Elders in Vlorë, Elder Bowen and Elder Riepel. Elder Bowen is Russian and has spent a year of his mission in Macedonia, now he's just finishing the rest in Albania. It's super funny because things here are way different from Macedonia, for example in Macedonia you can't tract, and the adjusting has been a little hard for him. But he's super funny and he jokes around a ton! Then Elder Riepel has also been out for a long time but he spent the first year of his mission serving up in Kosovo, then he got sent here to Vlorë. So that's pretty funny because Vlorë is the cleanest Albanian but Kosovo has basically no grammar and is super mumbly, so that would be a really hard change. But he's also super funny and super cool. I love my district so much, we have a ton of fun together and joke around a lot together. I can already tell this will be a super fun transfer.

Also this week, I got to go on an exchange with the Zone Leaders because Elder Lords is the District Leader. That was really fun, but it was also kind of weird because I was only in Vlorë for like one day before I got sent up to Fier. While I was in Fier I got to meet the Branch President of Fier, President Gjika and his wife which was so cool. The church has had a hard time in Fier because a lot of people have just come for money and then left when they didn't get it, but President Gjika works so hard. He lost his arm years ago in a work accident, but he doesn't let that slow him down and has become a marathon runner and distance biker. He's super awesome. Then him and his wife are both super funny. I also got to meet a few other members there, including a kid named Kristo who memorizes the first, middle, and last names of all the missionaries that serve in Fier. We worked on his duty to God book with him, and that was really cool. Also I got to serve with Elder Ellsworth for that exchange which was awesome, him and I are really good friends.

So that's about all I can think of for now. I'm loving it here in Vlorë, and things are going great! I love this work and the opportunity that I have to do this! Have a great week back at home!

Mirupafshim, ju dua shumë!
Elder Gardiner