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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April 17th

Përshëndetje familja!

Gëzuar Pashkët! Happy Easter!

I hope you all had a great Easter holiday! It's not a very widely celebrated holiday here(because most people are muslim) but we still had a great time. This week to get into the Easter spirit and to use the special church initiative we've held a daily half-hour devotional at the teaching center based on the last week of the life of Jesus Christ's life. So if you look at the Prince of Peace website there is a part that talks about the Holy Week, and describes what Christ did on each day of the last week of his life. So we decided to connect that with the priciples of peace videos. So we would talk about one day of the last week and we connected it with a principle that we can learn from each of those days. It was super cool because even though it was just a short simple activity we had a good amount of people come and we learned a lot of really cool things. Another cool thing about that is that there is a member who we've been trying to work with and help but we've never been able to set up a lesson with him, and we've never really been able to connect with him. But we ended up inviting him to the activities and other than the missionaries he was the only person who came to every single devotional! Now we're friends with him and he's seemed to become a lot more involved in church and with the rest of the members!

Also yesterday for Easter the Stake President invited us over for an Easter dinner. The Stake President is an Albanian but he's married to an American and they have an amazing family. We had a traditional Jewish passover setter dinner and learned about some of the ancient passover traditions. It was a lot of fun eating with them, and I got to sit with all of them at church too. They have 4 little kids from like 11 to about 1 years old, and it was super funny because I had forgotten about how normal kids act at church back in America. 

So other than that, the difficulties of last week continued to the point where every person we were working with either decided not to keep meeting with us or their families told us to stop. But then our luck took a change. We met two families this week that we're teaching now. 

The first one is the Beqiri family. They're a family of 5, and we met them because we were trying to meet with someone in the same apartment building as them, but he wasn't there. So then we decided to knock on a couple of the doors a few floors down and they let us in. We taught them the Restoration and they said they'd read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. So we came back and went over the Restoration, but they didn't really understand it and hadn't read the Book of Mormon yet. They're great people but they're in a bit of a rough economic situation and they don't really seem to have a lot of real intent, but I guess we'll see!

Now the other family is so amazing! They're the Gjergji family, we met the dad on the bus one day when we were going out to meet another person we knew. We talked with him for a bit and just from the few minutes we were with him we could tell that he was a really respectful and great person. So we got his number and said we would come back another day. So we finally were able to get over there and have a lesson with him, his wife, and his daughter. We taught the restoration and the spirit was so strong. They were super interested and were listening really intently, and they had a lot of really good questions. Also the daughter is one of the only people who have understood the apostasy when we taught it. Then we got to the end of the lesson and were about to say the prayer. So we asked the daughter if she could say the prayer, but she said she didn't know how. So we taught her and then told her in her prayer to ask if Joseph Smith was a prophet. Then she started the prayer and for some reason all the dogs in the neighborhood started to just go crazy, but she kept going. Then she got to the end of the prayer, and it was so cool, she asked "is Joseph Smith a prophet" then she waited a few seconds, then just said "thank you" and finished the prayer. We looked up and she was so excited, she said she felt so happy and peaceful, like there was some swelling excitement that came over her when she asked about Joseph Smith. So then we invited her to be baptized which she excitedly accepted. So then the day after we came back and taught them again, but this time the daughter was at work, but this time her little brother was there. So we taught the restoration again, and had him say the closing prayer. Then the same thing happened to him! So now we're going back to meet them again tonight and the four of them should all be there. 

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Fation's dad called us and said that meeting/talking with us is stressing him out. So we aren't allowed to talk to him until he gets better. That was really sad and hard for us, but I hope he'll get better soon so we can meet again.

Also I still haven't been to Tirana yet, because it's not something we do often. So I haven't gotten the package yet. But it should be there. But we are going to Tirana this week for Zone Conference so I'll update you again next week. Also I don't have any pictures for now, but I should get some on Wednesday at Zone Conference. 

My companion, Elder Wilson is super awesome. He's a runner and he works super hard. He has a super strong testimony and he loves to share it and teach. He's an amazing teacher and I've learned a lot from him. He loves Imagine Dragons, and we like a lot of the same music. We're getting along really well, and we work well together.

That's about all for me this week. I love you all, have a great week!

Re Zone Conference:  So that "Adriatic South Zone" should have just been South Zone or Adriatic South Mission, South Zone. And that's the zone I've been in until this transfer. Now I'm in the Tirana Zone. I'm not sure how it is in other missions, but in ours we just have 3 zones. We have South, Tirana, and North. South zone is huge and includes most of the cities in Albania plus part of Macedonia; except Tirana, Durres, and Shkoder. Then North zone is Kosovo and Skopje. 

Re Easter:  Easter is very different here. First off, most people don't really celebrate it. But those that do mostly just dye eggs red. Then they keep those eggs in their house for a year until the next Easter(as a reminder of Jesus' blood from the cross and the garden of Gethsemane) and then they throw them into the sea. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

April 10th

Përshëndetje familja!

So this week has been a really weird week. We've had a lot of really cool experiences and a lot of really hard ones too.

To start with a fun story, last week after we finished emailing we felt like we needed to go visit a family that we had met a while ago that lives pretty far away. So we went over and talked with them for a bit but they had work to do so they couldn't meet with us. So we decided to keep going in that area and felt like we needed to go in a certain direction. So we walked for a minute or two and noticed that there were people behind us talking, then all of the sudden we realized they were speaking English. So we decided to turn around and talk to them, and turns out they were missionaries too! They are with an organization called the YWAM, which coincidentally we actually already knew the leader of the YWAM here in Albania. So turns out there are about 800 missionaries here in Durrës from all over the world. So we ended up going to the leaders house and we just talked about religion, faith, and Christ for the rest of the night. It was awesome! They were such cool people and they have so much faith, it was amazing. It was so cool just seeing how many people have so much desire to just give their lives to Christ and try and serve people and teach them. We talked about the restoration too and it was cool because we got to share a little bit about what we believe, and they were very respectful.

It was also funny, this week we also ran into the peace corps too. And then we also ran into another American too, but he's a little different. His name is Trevor. He met the missionaries in Tirana but then came to Durrës so the missionaries told us to meet with him and help him out. So we met him, and it was interesting to say the least. He's on a journey, he started as some kind of missionary in France(not with our church), but then "washed their blood from his hands"(direct quote). So since then he's been making his way south. He's convinced our church can't be true because of the verse in Luke 13:33 that says a prophet can not die outside of Jerusalem, therefore Joseph Smith couldn't be a true prophet. And just to make things short, he's trying to get to Jerusalem to preach... So yeah. So we did our best to help him, but there's not a ton we could do.

This week we've faced a lot of adversity in the work. To start with the family we found last week. We came back another day this week to see how they were doing and if they had read, and well it turns out that the father of the family was not very happy. Apparently he got mad and will not let the rest of the family learn more or come to church. So that was really hard. Then basically the same thing happened with Xhuli and her family. Then we tried visiting another investigator and he said that if he keeps meeting with us he'll get fired from work. So that all was pretty disappointing.

But at least right now we still have Fation! Fation is so awesome and he's doing great. We still aren't allowed to teach him big lessons, but we went over the baptismal interview questions and he is totally ready.

Other than that, we've been doing a ton of contacting. We're really just trying to find some new people. We've had a little success with that, but no new crazy stories.

So that's about it for me, I'm still doing great and working hard. I've grown a lot so far this transfer and I'm becoming a much better missionary.

Now to answer some of your questions: There is no senior couple here so they don't come here ever, other than for apartment checks and interviews with president. I haven't been to Tirana still this week, but we might go soon because we should be getting a car this week or next. 

So that's about it for me. This week will probably be a little crazy, we have a lot of things planned for Easter.

I love you all! Have a great week!

Monday, April 3, 2017

April 3rd

Përshëndetje familja!

Well it's been another great week here in Dures. We've had a lot of change and a lot of great experiences.

First off, the new Easter initiative is out! The video is called the Prince of Peace, or Princ i Paqes in Albanian. It's such an amazing powerful video and I really like it. There's also a website that goes along with it that talks about how we can get more peace through the Savior. I love it so much because it applies so much to everyone. People here constantly complain about Albania and the problems that it has, but I love that everyone can find peace if the turn to the Lord and allow him to give us his peace. So I would definitely reccomend you all to go and watch that if you haven't yet, and also to share it on Facebook or however else you can because you really do have the ability to make an impact through small acts of faith like that!

So then other than that we had interviews with President Weidmann again this week and that was great. Then on Thursday we were having a lesson with Collin, he's a missionary with the Church of Christ of Durres who we've been meeting with, and the lesson was going super well. He's super awesome and has so much faith and desire to follow Christ and he's willing to read the Book of Mormon and sincerely pray about it. And then right in the middle of the lesson the door of the center opened and President Weidmann came in and helped us teach the rest of the lesson. That was a crazy experience, but the spirit was so strong there as that happened. That was our second lesson with him and we feel like he really has promise and that he will sincerely ask if the Book of Mormon is true. At the end of the lesson he said he would pray about the Book of Mormon with real intent to act if the book is true, but he also made us do the same which of course we agreed to.

Also, we got to watch about half an hour of conference on Saturday. Usually how it has worked is that they translate it and show it a week later, but this time they tried to do it live, but because of technical difficulties it did not work well enough, so we will do that next week. We saw part of President Eyering's talk on Saturday morning and what we saw was awesome! So I have downloaded the English sessions and we'll listen to those throughout the week and then see it in Albanian on Saturday and Sunday!

So for the people we're teaching, we're still teaching Fation. We don't teach him a ton and we're doing pretty easy lessons because of the doctor but he is continuing to do great and wants to be baptized super bad! He's awesome and still loves to meet with us and we're trying really hard to teach his family too. Then we were also teaching someone named Xhuli this week. We were teaching her whole family but none of them want to progress so now we just teach her. She loves the Book of Mormon and reads a ton, but now we'll have to give her to the sisters. But then yesterday we had an amazing experience. We went to have a lesson with Xhuli but then felt like we shouldn't go, so we decided that since we were in the area we would look for a guy we had met who lived by them. Usually it's hard to find people like this because Albania has no address system. So we asked someone if they knew him and he showed us the direction of where he lived, then we ran into his cousin who showed us more exactly where he lived and then said he was willing to meet with us another day. So we went over where he said and called out for someone to see if we were in the right area, and then a lady came out and showed us his house, then we started talking with her and she started asking us basically all the questions Joseph Smith had when he was young. She talked about how she had gone to a bunch of different churches and read the Bible to find out which church is true(something that I have never heard of in Albania where people think all churches are true or all are false) but that she couldn't find the answer. So we went in and taught her and her family the Restoration and the Spirit was so powerful. She was so interested in the idea of the apostasy and is super willing to read and pray to see for herself if it's true. So we gave them some Book of Mormons and invited them to conference next week and said we'd call them to see if they had gotten an answer yet. So that was such an amazing experience, I hope they all read and pray because I know if they do they'll get an answer!

Then in other fun news, Kristi, the girl Elder Lords and I were teaching in Vlorë, got baptized this weekend! Apparently she's doing great and is actually going to be called as a relief society teacher, so that's awesome! Elder Bowen sent me pictures from that so I'll send those on to you too.

Today was awesome too, Elder Wilson and I worked together and did some family history. I feel like I'm finally understanding it now and when you actually get started on it it gets so exciting so all of you should try that out too!

So that's about it for us. We're having a great time here and I still love serving with Elder Wilson, he's a great missionary and a ton of fun!

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