Monday, May 29, 2017

May 29th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well this week has definitely been an experience. I'm not going to lie it was a little rough, but the worst seems to be passed and got better by the end.
So to start, we had a lesson with the Gjergji family and it was awful. They aren't really progressing any more and even though they still love having us over to talk and make jokes they don't really have a lot of desire to keep commitments. Also Ramazan(the month where Muslims fast from like 5 in the morning til 9 at night) and the dad of the family said that he doesn't want to do more lessons during Ramazan because he wants to be focused on his own religion, which is understandable. So that's been really hard. We'll keep visiting them every once in a while, and hopefully one day they'll all be ready.

Then other than that one of our really strong members passed away this week.
Also third hour in church was super rough. Basically everyone just yelled at each other and argued for the whole hour over parts of the lesson that were completely unimportant.

But other than that we also had a few really good experiences too. One day we had a ton of time and nothing planned to do and we were just feeling awful because of the things I talked about before. So we decided to say a prayer and ask what to do. After that we had a few people come into our minds, so we decided to go visit them. We decided to start by visiting Fation's mom, so we went and stopped by her work. She was really happy to see us and gave us a quick update on Fation. She said that that morning Fation called a lot later than normal so she was really worried, until Fation told her that it was just because Elder Schneider stopped by and talked with him for a while. She told us that she was so grateful for us missionaries and that we were not just good missionaries but great people and the best friends Fation could have. She said that Fation is getting better and continuing to do well but that it's still really hard for her. So we shared Mosiah 24:13-15 and she burst into tears. She said she felt so good and that those scriptures really spoke to her. So we gave her the reference and she said she would go read the whole story later. Then we went to go visit someone else and we ended up running into Fation's dad and having a good conversation with him too. Then on Sunday we had to go to Tirana for choir so we decided to go a little early and stop by the hospital and visit Fation for a little bit. While we were walking from the car to the hospital we joked about how awesome it would be if Fation's family was there too, and then all of the sudden we heard someone call out to us and Fation and his family were standing at the little park/waiting area outside the hospital. So then we ran over and gave Fation a huge hug. It was so great, we talked for a while and he really wants to get baptized. He's so excited to get back and start going to English course again and get baptized as soon as he can. His family also seemed really interested in getting baptized too, especially his mom who said that she herself isn't baptized in any church and really wants to get baptized. So we'll make sure and work with them, I have a lot of hope for them.

We also had a good lesson with Collin, our American missionary friend. He really wants to have the spirit with him all the time, so we testified to him how he can do that by getting baptized by the right authority and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. It's cool because we've become such good friends that we can testify so boldly because he knows how much we care about him and how we want him to know the truth. We also challenged him to read two chapters from the Book of Mormon and from Acts that we would study together every time we meet.

Then we also had a cool lesson with a less active here. He hasn't been to church in a long time because of work and other things, but he loves the church. So last time we talked to him he said that he drinks coffee every once in a while, but that it's no big deal and it doesn't really matter. So this time we went and talked about the word of wisdom. He started out by justifying and saying that he only drinks a tiny bit, that he's not addicted, and that he doesn't drink enough for it to cause any health problems. He definitely didn't understand that the reason we don't drink coffee is because it's a commandment, not just because it's bad for your health. So then Elder Wilson told him that by drinking coffee he was insulting God and willfully being disobedient to him, he said that it was as if he was slapping God in the face every time he drinks coffee. It was cool because as soon as Elder Wilson said that the less active stopped talking, just looked at him stunned, and you could see the understanding come over him as he said that he would never drink coffee again.

Then lastly, I went on an exchange to Tirana for one day last week. I got to serve with Elder Benson who is from my MTC group, and that was a lot of fun. We had some cool lessons, and it was awesome getting to see how he does missionary work, because everyone does it differently. I really enjoyed it and had a learned a lot.
This week we also changed houses. That was a lot of work, and we still aren't completely done, but it will be nice having that done. Our new house is super nice, but it's also super far away. Luckily we have a car or we'd have a lot of walking to do.

Yeah it was a super busy week. And this week should be crazy too. We have President Weidmann's last mission conference tomorrow in Elbasan, and that should take the whole day. Then on Saturday we have Super Saturday for all the seminary students in Albania here in Durres and we're going to help with that. so it should be a pretty full week!

So that's about it for me. Happy birthday to Annaka from me! I love you all and I hope you have a great week!

Elder Gardiner

May 22nd

Pershendetje familja!

So this has been a pretty good week.

This week we haven't really been able to meet with the Gjergji family a lot. We had a lesson with them on Tuesday and it went pretty well. The mom of the family, Mimoza, has been doing a really good job at reading even though it's really hard for her. She doesn't really understand anything she reads, but at least she's putting in the effort to do it. We've been trying to meet with them all, but for one reason or another Suzana and Indrit haven't really been showing up for the lessons, but we have at least been able to talk to them a little bit. And we should be having a lesson with everyone tomorrow. They all promised to come to church yesterday, but none of them showed up, which was a little disappointing. That's definitely going to be their biggest obstacle towards baptism. So far they've only come once, but they all loved it when they came.

They're also pretty much our only investigators for the moment. We also kind of have a guy named Aleksander, we've met with him twice and we had pretty good lessons. We showed him the church and he really liked it. When we got to the part of the tour where we show the baptismal font he said that he wants to get baptized, but we haven't seen him since then. He's a good guy, but he'll have a long road ahead of him for baptism, but luckily this is the true gospel and by faith and the power of God all things are possible.

One amazing experience we had this week came from Fation, our investigator who wasn't allowed to meet us for a while. So for now he's in the mental hospital in Tirana because he's been going through a really hard time with his anxiety and depression. So one day we felt like we should try and find his moms work to go see how he's doing, and she told us what I just told you. So we felt like we needed to share the talk "Like a Broken Vessel" by Jeffrey R. Holland with her(I would recommend all of you to go and read that because it's super amazing). So we showed her where she could find it and then left. Then a few days later we had a little bit of time and we felt like we needed to go visit her again. So we went to her work and she saw us coming and waved us in, then she told us that she had printed off the talk and that she carries it with her at all times and reads it whenever she needs help. So that was so amazing. Also she told us that we could visit him, but since we're here in Durres we can't. So we told Elder Schneider to go visit him(Elder Schneider actually found Fation) and one day we were tracting and we knocked on the door of this one lady who recognized us as the people with the church of the Latter Day Saints, which never happens here, then all of the sudden she started asking us about Fation. So turns out she's his aunt, so we talked about Fation for a few minutes when all of the sudden Fation calls us while we're still talking to her. Apparently Elder Schneider had just visited him and he felt like he needed to call us too and tell us he's doing a lot better. So then he told us to make sure and teach his aunt because she really needs the gospel. So that was a really cool experience, there are definitely no coincidences. He should be getting back this week, and I can't wait to meet with him again and give him a big hug! He's such a big teddy bear.

Other than that, the only other things that have happened is that yesterday it rained super hard. We probably got a years worth of rain for Utah just yesterday. And that gets amplified because Albania doesn't have the the best draining system, so the roads had about a foot and a half of rain/sewage overflow. It was crazy driving home from church. Then yesterday we also had to go to Tirana for a choir practice. We're singing for the 25th anniversary of missionaries in Albania this summer and not a lot of people come to the choir so the told us that we have to come every week. Which choir is fun, and it was awesome getting to see the other missionaries, especially Elder Schneider and Elder Lords, but it's also kind of a big chunk of time out of our day.

Then today Elder Wilson and I went to Shkoder for a p-day trip. I did get some pictures, but we also got back a little late so I don't have time to send them today. So next week you'll be getting a lot; all the ones I still haven't sent from Vlore, the ones from today, and the ones I'll take of our new apartment that we'll be moving into throughout the week. We had a super fun time. We went to an Orthodox church and talked with the priest, hung out with the missionaries for a bit, and then we went up to the big castle on the hill. It was a blast, but it was also super hot.

So all in all I'm still doing great and I still love it here. Thanks for everything, and have an amazing week! I love you all!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 15th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well the highlight of the week was definitely getting to talk to you all yesterday! That was so amazing, I loved getting to see all your faces and hear your voices. I'm so happy to hear that you're all doing well, I love getting to hear about what's going on through email, but getting to skype you all was really special.

So now for the rest of the week. We're still teaching the Gjergji family and they're doing pretty well. We were only able to meet with them twice this week, and the first lesson ended up turning into an argument about how we can't worship saint Mary(because Ina is super catholic and that's something they do) so that was pretty rough. Then after that they've all been kind of sick. A lot of them had pretty bad migraines so we just did a really short lesson on Friday. So after that we weren't feeling too good about them, it looked like they were kind of losing interest. But then yesterday they called us and said they all were super sick so they couldn't come to church, but that they wanted us to come and give them a blessing, which of course we did. So we went over there and were able to talk for a while and give them a blessing. And it was awesome because we called them again this morning to set up another lesson today and they said they're all doing way better today! I'm definitely glad we have the priesthood, which actually got restored 188 years ago today! Now it looks like the only hard thing is that Suzana, the daughter who is the most interested, has work every Saturday and Sunday which makes it really hard for her to go to church, and if she doesn't go it's hard for the rest to go. But I'm sure that it'll all turn out fine.

Then we met a guy named Konstantino this week and he's super cool. I met him street contacting and he said he really wanted to meet. So we called him the next day and said he was sorry that he said he was sorry that he didn't call us to meet the day before but that he really wanted to meet. So we had a lesson with him and it was such a cool lesson. He lived in Greece for about 11 years so he's baptized orthodox, and he's in law school to become a lawyer. He has a ton of faith in Christ and he loves the idea of justice and mercy with Christ as a mediator to pay our debts of sin. It was cool because he had so many good questions and we were able to answer them all in a way that he really felt the spirit and completely agreed. We basically ended up teaching the restoration and the plan of salvation in the same lesson which doesn't normally happen and he was so interested and wanted to learn so much.

We also met with Collin again this week(our missionary friend from Oklahoma). We had a fun lesson and invited him to church. He said he really wants to come, but that his preacher from his church might not let him, so hopefully he'll be able to come. We also told him that our names aren't actually Gardiner and Wilson and surprised him pretty hard. He's a super cool guy, and we asked him if he got an answer that the Book of Mormon if he would become a Mormon, which he said that he would but that it's something that would probably take a while for him to get an answer for. He also told us that his perception of Mormons has completely changed from meeting with us. He basically thought we were a cult of super weird people that didn't believe in Christ, but now we're super good friends and that's changed a bit.

So other than that we've basically just done a lot of street contacting. We've spent a ton of time doing that this week. It's been cool seeing how much I've improved in the language from the beginning of my mission. I remember standing out on the road trying to talk to people and not being able to understand a single word but now even though I don't understand everything I can understand most of what they're saying and even respond pretty well. So that's been a very welcome change.

In regards to pictures. I have the ones I took in Vlorë, that I still haven't sent(even though that was more than two months ago) that I might be able to send today. And then next week we should be going somewhere for a P-Day trip, maybe Skëndërbeu's castle, and I'll make sure to take pictures for you while we're there.

That's about it for me this week. I love you so much! We're going to do some family history work today so I should be on again later if you have any questions. Have a great week!

Elder Gardiner

Also, a while ago you said that Thomas could get me some more Mormon Tabernacle Choir music. If that offer is still valid I would really appreciate it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

May 8th

Përshëndetje familja!

So it's been another good week here in Durrës. The weather's been great and the people are awesome.

To start with the Gjergji family. They're so amazing! So it's grown even more than last week, now we also have the neighbor Ina's daughter that has joined the lessons, and there are even more people who have been invited to our lesson tonight. Also last week I mentioned Indrit's friend, Tani. Last week we met his older sister, and hopefully this week we'll meet his mom. She was going to come to church, but she ended up being in Montenegro over the weekend. So they're doing really well. Last Monday we ended up having a lesson at Ina's house with her and her kids which was awesome because even though she'd been in a lot of the lessons she hadn't ever been taught the Restoration, and also because we hadn't met her daughter before that. That ended up being an amazing lesson. They're from a place called Mirëdita which is super Catholic, and they didn't understand that we aren't Catholic until then. But they felt the spirit and understood the apostasy/restoration which was great. 

Also we had one big lesson with most of the people and now Mimoza, Suzana, Indrit, Ina, Bardha, Kristal, and Tani all accepted a baptismal date for June 3! They're so amazing and I feel like they really will get baptized. For now the two things that seem like might hold them back are the word of wisdom and church attendance. Ina drinks a lot of coffee but has committed to start dropping it, and the rest aren't too bad, Suzana mostly just drinks it so people can tell her her fortune, which is something people do here in Albania. And they live really far from the church, luckily there is a bus that stops right by the church though, so the challenge is just that they have to have enough money to take the bus. But they're awesome and I know they can do it if they just set their mind to it, and I'm sure that God will support them as they do.

So they're awesome, but they're basically our only investigators. Mustafa, our Muslim friend, still comes to church and loves it, but we met with him again this week and he still just does not understand anything we teach him. He loves meeting with us and he's super funny, but he just doesn't seem to really want to learn. So we'll keep inviting him to church and hopefully one day he'll figure it out, and when that day comes we'll be ready. Then we also have a guy named Lefter. He's an old Chemistry professor and he's super cool. The lessons with him are really weird though, what happens is that we usually just do an hour long role play where he teaches us how to teach him, but he also studies the pamphlets between lessons and applies them in his life. He also doesn't understand the apostasy(like most Albanians) so he hasn't accepted a baptismal date yet. But he's awesome, and even though the lessons are really weird he has promise, he just needs to start going to church!
We've done a lot of street contacting, and even a little bus contacting, and we've gotten a few potential investigators, but nothing too definite yet. We did meet with one guy named Aleksandër though, and he was cool. He was in a really bad car accident a few years ago and ended up in a coma for 3 months but survived, he feels like God saved him for a reason, but he's not quite sure what it is yet. So we gave him a restoration pamphlet and should meet with him this week. 

We had a ton of people in church this week though, and that was awesome. A big part of it was because we had 6 Americans, 3 of which were returned missionaries, in church with us. Also basically every week in Elders quorum we talk about home teaching, and it definitely makes me wish I was better about that back at home. Also, recently we received the new Albanian hymn books, the ones that look like regular hymn books. But most of the members don't know the new hymns so we've started learning one new song every week after church, and that's been a lot of fun.

Elder Wilson's still awesome, and we're still getting along great. We're trying to really use every second we have to be working so he can finish strong, and it's been great, but it's hard work.

I love you all, and if you have any other questions just let me know. Have a great week!
Elder Gardiner

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May 1st

Përshendetje familja!

So we've had a pretty good week here in Durres. The Gjergji family is doing great. They are super good at missionary work. We met with them almost every day last week, and in almost every lesson there was a new person. At first we were just teaching Ilmi, Mimoza, and Suzana. But after that we've started teaching the rest of the kids; Indrit, Arber, and Hamza, and also we're teaching their neighbor Ina, and her kid, and a different one of Indrit's friends Tani. So they've been most of our work this week. We've taught them a lot and they seem to understand really well still. The lessons get really crazy sometimes, and sometimes it's a little hard to keep them on track because there are just so many people who all want to talk, but it's still going really well. This week on Sunday we even had Suzana, Indrit, Tani, Mimoza, Ina, and Kristal all in church, it was awesome! 

Also this week we met with Mustafa again. He's super funny and he tried to convince his orthodox friend to come to a lesson with us because our church is true and theirs isn't, which was super funny. He's basically the classic example of an Albanian xhaxhi, and basically the whole lesson was us trying to talk about the Book of Mormon and getting sidetracked to us talking about the Koran and prophets. So I don't know if we'll keep meeting with him, but he ended up coming to church again and really liked it, so I guess we'll see.

We also met a young couple that we went and taught. But the husband is going to Greece for work today or tomorrow so we had a transfer lesson where we gave them to the sisters. They were really nice and have a lot of faith, but I'm not sure they really want to act on our message.

Then other than that, today we went to Lushnje to play soccer with a bunch of the south zone missionaries and with some members. We had a great time and played pretty hard, and it was a ton of fun seeing everyone again. I met two of the new missionaries today and they're super cool. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures, but it was still a great time!
I think that's about it for what happened this week though. We've done a lot of finding but nothing too crazy has happened.

Also, that's super awesome about Ian's mission call, he'll do great. That's going to be super cool. And to respond to your question, Albanian is not similar to Slovak at all. In Kosovo they use a few words that are close to Serbian words, but I think that's about as close as it gets. Macedonian might be similar, but I don't speak that so I don't know. And also, I actually have a friend in that mission speaking Slovak, so Ian will probably meet him.

Have fun on your trip to Arizona, and have a great week! I love you all!
Mirupafshim, Elder Gardiner