Monday, March 27, 2017

March 27th

Përshëndetje familja, ju dua shumë!

So it has been another great week here in Durrës. I'm loving it here and I feel like I'm really starting to settle in.

We're teaching a lot of people and we actually had 7 investigators in church yesterday which was awesome! For most of the week Fation was in Lushnje at the doctor's office so we didn't see him for the first part of the week, but then we had a great lesson at the end of the week. The doctor told him that he has to take a break from learning for a little while because it's stressing him out, which is total garbage, so for now we're just praying, singing hymns, and watching Mormon Messages together and that's a lot of fun. He's super awesome and still on track for his baptism. Then other than that we're still teaching Joni, he came for all of sacrament this time. He doesn't seem to be reading the Book of Mormon between lessons though so we need to work on that with him. It's super easy to see the difference when investigators read or not. Then other than that we have a lot of new investigators. We started teaching the uncle, aunt and cousin of one of the members, but as background they are all muslim, so the member did not tell her family she is baptized. So it's been fun using her in the lessons because she pretends not to know about any of it, but if we pretend to teach her something she expounds on it and helps out.

One day we were looking for someone who Elder Wilson had met that said we could come and teach, but we weren't sure where they lived so we went to a few different buildings and asked if they knew the person we were looking for. So after a few buildings we still hadn't found them, but we knocked on a door and said they didn't know the person that we were looking for, but that his neighbor was a member of our church who had just come back from Italy. So we decided to give it a try, usually when things like that happen they aren't actually Mormon, they're Jehova's Witnesses but people don't know the difference, but no one answered the door so we decided to come back and try another day. So we came back one night and rang the doorbell but no one was there. So we decided to tract the building but the lights weren't working on the upper floor so we came back down to leave just as the person was going inside the house we were trying. So turns out he is a member here! He lives half the year in Italy and half the year here, and he's a super strong member who has been to the temple and has a granddaughter on a mission! So that was a really cool experience for us.

On Saturday we had a ward activity to help fund raise for the youth temple trip in April. There were a few spiritual thoughts and the young men taught the Plan of Salvation, it was really good. Then they had all made cookies that they sold and we all bought.

Then we had a lunch lesson with some members yesterday and it was so amazing. It was a younger couple and also the wife's niece, and the husband has served a mission in England. So we started talking to the other girl and she had a few questions about things she had heard that she didn't understand. So we started explaining and got into the Plan of Salvation. It ended up being an amazing lesson and she seemed to really understand what we were talking about. Then at the end she said that the day before at the youth activity when someone was saying the opening prayer she felt the spirit super strong and she felt so amazing. So we asked her how she felt right then, and she said she felt the same way and that she knew all the things we were saying are the truth. So we told her that we would love to keep teaching her if she wants, which of course she agreed to. So that was pretty amazing.

Then this morning we went to Laç, which is a city north of us, and went to the church. There's a Catholic church up in the mountain that's pretty famous so we decided to go check it out. We went with the sisters from Shkoder too because we had to give them something and that was a lot of fun. The church was really cool, but really different from our churches. It was a nice place but it just doesn't have the same spirit that our churches do. I brought my camera but forgot to check if it had battery, and with my luck it didn't. But luckily Sister Collins came with us and took a few picture for us so I'll send you those.

So that's about it for me. It's been a great week here! And happy birthday Jordan!!!! That's crazy that she's already 15!

I love you all and I'm glad to hear you're doing well. Have a great week!
Love, Elder Gardiner

Monday, March 20, 2017

March 20th

Përshëndetje familja!

So after the big surprise of getting transferred to Durrës things are going well, and I'm loving it here. So first with just a things about Durrës, it's the second biggest city in Albania and it feels like a mix between Elbasan and Tirana. There is a lot of good food places and the people here are great! The people are a lot more open and accepting than they were in Vlorë, it's great. It's right by the beach and the weather is great. It's a little less humid than Vlorë which is nice.

We're teaching a few people, but some of the most promising ones are Fation and Joni. Fation is so cool, so apparently one day Elder Schneider was just contacting and he came up and asked if he could talk, so they talked and he asked if they could be friends, which Elder Schneider of course agreed to. So he started explaining about how he's going through a really hard time and that he wants to become a member of our church. So he's met with the missionaries pretty much every day since then. He loves the hymns and we sing a lot with him, we usually sing two opening songs for our lessons and one closing song. He loves meeting with us and we love him so much, he's basically just a big teddy bear, he's awesome. Then Joni is another guy we meet with, this week we taught him the plan of salvation and it was really cool seeing how much he understood it. He's also reading the Book of Mormon and he remembers what he reads super well. He has work so we can't meet as often, but he has a lot of desire to meet and he's super cool too.

My companion is awesome, we get along super well! He's almost at the end of his mission so he's super good at teaching and he works super hard. We've been doing a lot of our work differently than I have before and we're trying a lot of new things and so far things seem to be going great!

Yesterday in church I got to share a quick testimony because I'm new here, and I got to meet a lot of members. Once cool thing about the church here, other than the fact that I'm in a real church building again, is that there are a ton of families here. In a lot of other places there are a bunch of youth or some older people, but here there a lot of young families it's super awesome. Then also at church Elder Cani gave a talk about his mission, and it was amazing. The spirit was so strong and you could really feel the strength of his testimony in it. He talked a lot about the challenges he's faced on his mission but how through the Atonement he was strengthened and he grew closer to the Savior. It was amazing, and it was so powerful.

Also just because you asked, Durrës is pronounced d-oo-rr(rolled like in Spanish)-es
So far I'm loving it here! There are a ton of great members and other great people too. So I think this will be a great transfer.

Mirupafshim familja, ju dua shumë!
-Elder Gardiner

So my companion is from Idaho. So far I have served with every missionary in the mission from Idaho. All my companions have either been foreign or from Idaho. Also I've still never had a companion longer than 6 weeks.

Also, we were walking to our house one day and we ran into this old lady carrying a big bag of dandelions. So we asked her if we could help her carry it so she let us. Then this morning we ran into her again and helped her again. It was super funny how happy she was, she was super happy with us. So she told us to say to you all for her. So Keni të fala nga nëna. 

I forgot my camera so I can't send any of my pictures, but here are some that another missionary sent me from back in Vlorë that I thought you would like.
1. Our district with the bishop and his wife
2. Us at a Ward activity at the beach
3. The Vlorë sunset

Notes:  In the picture at the bishop's house I'm wearing Shapka(Albanian sandals). In Albania people don't have carpet or great heaters, so when people have guests they give them shapka to use so they don't get cold.

And yes, the beach is beatiful, there is a lot of trash there unfortunately. They don't keep it very clean, but it is so beautiful out there.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

March 13th

Përshëndetje familja!

So another crazy week here in Vlorë! So, this weekend we had transfer calls and a lot more changed than I expected. Elder Lords, Elder Riepel and I are all leaving Vlorë! I really did not expect that to happen because that means our area is getting white-washed, but it will probably be a good thing. I'm going to Durrës now, and I'm so excited! Durrës is another city on the coast and it is a pretty big city. That's actually where Elder Cani is from which means I get to work with him more, which I'm really looking forward to!  My new companion will be Elder Wilson. He was serving in Korça while I was in Elbasan so I know him really well and I'm super pumped to serve with him.

So other than that, an old missionary named Sister Wilding who served here a while ago came and donated stuff to an orphanage here. So while she was here she showed us around the city and took us to the houses of a bunch of members and people she worked with while she was here in Vlorë. So that doesn't do much to me anymore, but it should be a big help for the ward.

Also this Sunday one of the members we have been working with for a while came to church! His name is Amarildo and he's so cool. He's younger than Mason but he works full time in a factory to support his family because his parents don't really work. So for a while he hasn't been able to come just because he has work every day, but this week he said he felt like he really needed to come to church and get the sacrament. So he said a prayer and asked for a way to come to church, then later his boss called him and said that they didn't have a ton of work to do this week so he could have Sunday off! So he was able to come to church, it was awesome!

Then Kristi is still doing great. We taught the word of wisdom and it was really cool, as we talked about it she was saying how her parents had already taught her about all these things and how they are bad for her. So she said she has never smoked, that she doesn't drink alcohol, has no problems with illegal drugs, and then bad teas don't really exist here. She said she drinks macchiato a lot, but that she can get over it though. She's continuing to be super excited about baptism and she came to church on Sunday again! I feel pretty confident that she'll get baptized, but it's kind of sad I won't be here for it.

Thanks for the news about Lindis, that's super cool! That's so crazy that he already has the Melkizedek priesthood, it honestly feels like yesterday that he got baptzied! (Amber side note:  I told Austin that on the facebook page, it suggested that he had a big day and we are just guessing).   And yes, I gave him that tie when I left Elbasan. I still have a good amount of ties, but if you want to send me more I wouldn't complain.

So that's about all for this week, we have a super busy P-day today so I'll probably send pictures next week.
Ju dua shumë! Mirupafshim!
Elder Gardiner

Also one thing I forgot in the big email, we went to an orphanage and donated clothes with sister Wilding when she was here. That was super cool, there were a bunch of little kids and they were so fun. The had so much energy and were running around everywhere. So we gave them a bunch of shoes and coats. It was awesome.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March 8th

Përshëndetje familja!

So this has been an absolutely insane week!

First off, we have an investigator!!! So, her name is Krsiti and she is friends with one of the members here. She's been coming to church for a while now, but for various reasons we've never had an opportunity to talk to her(for a while we actually thought she was a member). So one day we asked Anxhela, her friend, about her and she said she would set up a lesson with her for us. So we met with her and it was so amazing! She had a ton of questions and was super interested in learning. Also it was cool because a lot of her questions are answered perfectly in the scriptures, like she had the question "what would have happened if Adam and Eve didn't eat the forbidden fruit" so we read 2 Nephi 2:22-25 which answers that exactly! Also she said that Anxhela had given her a book of Mormon so she decided to read it and had already read like 30 pages or something. In the lesson she said that when she reads the Book of Mormon she feels super peaceful, and that she reads it right before she goes to bed so that she sleeps better. So we taught her about Moroni's promise in Moroni 10 and told her to pray about it when she reads, which she was super excited to do. She also super excitedly accepted to be baptized on April 1! So that was super awesome!

But so other than that, we had Stake Conference on Sunday and that was so amazing. I got to see a ton of members from Elbasan, and the talks were great. Also super exciting news, Lindis is getting the Melkezidek priesthood! I got to sit with him at Stake Conference and he said that he just got out of the interview for it, so at the beginning of the meeting it got announced and we all got to sustain it! Sister Weidman took a picture of us, but I didn't see it yet. But basically he's the best! Also, his sisters, Ana and Helena, came to Stake Conference too! They're doing really good too and that was a ton of fun seeing them. Then there were a ton of great talks there. President Mema, Sister Weidmann, President Weidmann, and Elder Moreira all gave talks and it was really good. President Mema talked about a lot of things that they are going to do to strengthen the stake and gave all the members a challenge to strengthen themselves and others around them. President Weidmann talked about missionary work and challenged all the members to pray for us, to pray for investigators and to pray for their less active friends.

Then we also had Mission Conference on Monday in Elbasan. I can not describe how good it felt going back there, I love that place! It started with a quick training from President Weidmann, which was super good. He taught us how to better get investigators to come back to church and how to set up lessons with non-members who show up to church(because of us in Vlorë). Then Elder Moreira taught us for the rest of the time. That was super awesome, he's so funny. He gave us a ton of advice for how to study and how to plan, which was really good because it's something that I'm bad at and trying to improve on. Also he told a lot of amazing stories. He was a mission president in Brazil and he told us the story of one of his missionaries who got hit by a bus and was not expected to live, but through a series of prayers, inspired decisions, and blessings he survived and now lives a normal life! That was really cool because he said that for 3 weeks he wasn't able to do anything to lead the mission because he was spending his time caring for this Elder, so he told the missionaries that and told them that they were in charge of the mission. He said that during that time the missionaries were more obedient than ever and the number of baptisms went up ten-fold as they all prayed and worked for this Elder. It was an amazing story. We also talked about the power of silence, and how to better help investigators think and learn for themselves through inspired questions. That was so cool, and I'm really going to work on that for myself.

Then yesterday, and this morning we were in Tirana going back to the doctor. That all went well, and it was fun getting to stay with Elder Johnson(from my MTC group) and Elder Ingram. We did an exchange for a couple hours and I got to work with Elder Johnson, which was awesome. He's a really good missionary and he's really good at talking to people, so that was great.

So that's about it, it's been a long week and a half, but it feels great to finally be back in Vlorë again. 

Also that's so amazing about Alyssa Pauga coming to this mission! She's going to love it, it's the best one in the world! If she ever has any questions I'm happy to answer them! I'm assuming she's speaking Albanian, right? Either way that's awesome!

All in all, I'm doing great and still loving it here! I love you all so much and I hope you all have a great week.

Mirupafshim, ju dua shumë!