Monday, February 13, 2017

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

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