Monday, June 26, 2017

June 26th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well this has definitely been the craziest week of my mission so far. Albanian elections were this week. They happened on Sunday so church attendance took a hard blow, but what do you do. Just as a heads up, I'm writing you from Tirana. President Weidmann got a prompting and we all got temporarily transferred! The three of us all got put into separate trios in Tirana. I've been here in Tirana second ward all week. So even though getting taken out of Durrës stinks I actually got assigned to be with Elder Bowen(who is finishing his mission on Thursday) and Elder Schneider(my MTC companion)! Elder Bowen was in my district in Vlorë and he's super funny, but he only has a couple days left and he's very ready to be done. But serving with Elder Schneider has been so amazing! Elder Schneider is a stud and I loved serving with him in the MTC so this week has been great. We work super well together and it's awesome seeing how much we've improved in our teaching and in the language. Also this week we had two exchanges so I also got to work with Elder Anderson (who is also finishing his mission this week) and Elder Nielsen from my MTC group. It's been a crazy week and it still feels like I'm just on a big exchange, but it's been fun working here. We talked with President Weidmann today and he said that everything is fine and that Elder Ellsworth and I will be going back to Durrës on Wednesday. Unfortunately however, we'll have to do a lot of catching up on the work in Durres, and Elder Wilson didn't really get to say goodbye to any of the members or our investigators before he got sent to Tirana, but he's back in Korça for a day and he seems to be doing fine.

Some cool experiences from this week, we're teaching a 16 year old kid from Syria. His name is Ahmed and he's super cool. We teach him in English, but whenever we read from the Book of Mormon or do prayers he does it in Arabic, which is super cool.
We're also teaching a kid named Elio, he's super smart and he's super nice. We met with him twice last week and had some really good lessons. His uncle and grandma are members and they're really cool. They didn't come on Sunday because the uncle who usually drives them all to church was in Vlorë for the elections.

Also it's been like 100+ degrees this week and the humidity is killer. It's been pretty rough, but we've rearranged our schedule so that we're inside for the hottest parts of the day. We are actually allowed to take an hour nap during the day if we work for an extra hour.
So I'm not sure what else to say, we've done a ton of street contacting. That's been fun, but it's been pretty hard too. 

Well this week has been crazy but I've also had a lot of fun. It's nice having so many missionaries in one city, and we have an amazing district. When we go back to Durrës our district should be Elder Ellsworth and I, and Elder Schneider and Elder Lords and that'll be so fun because they're all like my best friends here.

I love you all, I hope you all have been having a great time!

I love the gospel and I'm so grateful for the opportunity that I have to serve a mission here. I love my Savior and I know that He lives and guides us in our everyday lives. We've had a lot of people try to convince us that the Book of Mormon isn't true, that the church is a lie, that Joseph Smith is a false prophet, but through this and through the power of the Holy Ghost I know that this is the true church, the kingdom of God restored on the earth. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that through it we learn the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that every person who reads it and truly feasts upon it's words can not go astray.

Have a great week!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, June 19, 2017

June 19th

Përshëndetje familja!

So, another week come and gone! It's been a crazy week with a lot of amazing experiences.

To start off with a fun blessing, so talking about the whole lost package thing. Look what ended up at the mission office today! It was a little messed up and looked like it got run over by a truck, but it finally got here. (see picture below)

​​So some other good parts of our week. Our investigator Kristi is super awesome! We were able to meet with him again on Friday, we meet once a week for certain and more if he has time because he's really busy. But he also came to church again on Sunday! He was awesome in church too, a lot of investigators I've had on my mission are a little weird and make off the wall comments in church, or just have no experience with religion and don't know what to do in church. But he's great and actually understands our message! Honestly that is such a blessing, I could probably count on two hands the number of investigators I've had on my mission who have actually understood anything we teach. He's on a baptismal date now for August 12 and I'm super confident that he'll get baptized.

Another amazing experience, Fation is back from the hospital! We've run into him a few times on the road and he's looking so much better. I love that guy so much. He's still not completely better but he's improved a lot, so we'll probably wait before baptizing him but he still really seems to want to get baptized. 

Then on Saturday we had a service project in the morning here at the hospital in Durrës. The missionaries from Tirana and Shkodër came down to help, as well as some Americans from the Albanian Faith in Every Footstep Foundation. It was a lot of fun! I worked by painting the trees with some limestone paint thing that keeps bugs off the trees, I don't think that's a thing back at home but they do it a lot here. Then we all worked to pull weeds and paint benches. We had a great time and worked hard. Also Motra Kokol who was one of my teachers from the MTC was there, it was a lot of fun getting to see her.

Then that night we went up to Tirana for the 25 year anniversary celebration of missionaries arriving in Albania. They had Matt Wirthlin, one of the original 4 missionaries sent to Albania who came and gave a talk and helped with the service project. We had to participate in the choir but that turned out all right. There were a lot of amazing talks, including probably the last talk I'll hear from president Weidmann. President Weidmann talked and President Mema(the stake president) translated for him, then president Mema gave a small talk thanking him for his work, it was really sweet. I love president Weidmann, it's been so amazing serving with him. There was also a slideshow showing the progress of the church over the past 25 years. After the program finished we got to go around and talk to some of the members who came, which was a lot of fun, there were a lot of members from my past areas so I loved getting to see them again.

Then Sunday came. Church went pretty well. There were a good amount of people, more than we've been getting in the past few weeks. The lessons went really well. People only got into an argument once, which is a tender mercy, and that was only because Shaul(he's crazy) went off on random stuff. The sisters were transferred out of Durres and so, for now, we will be alone as us three Elders in Durrës until Elder Wilson leaves. But on the bright side now we'll be in a district with the Tirana missionaries which might mean I'll be in the same district as Elder Schneider. 

Today we went up to get our car from the mission office which was good because I also got my package while we were there. Also we went bowling with Elder Bowen and Elder Schneider at the only bowling ally in Albania and that was a blast.

So all in all not a bad week. I'm doing great still. I love my companions, they're super great. This is Elder Wilson's last week here so we're going to make it a good one. We'll probably meet with a lot of members which is always a blast and make sure to work our hardest. I love you all and I hope you're doing great too!

Also because I forgot this earlier, our new mission president will be President Anderson. He's from Saint George Utah. I don't know a lot about him but he seems like he'll be great.

Mirupafshim, Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner

now for all the pictures I haven't sent over the past couple months.
A couple pictures of members in Vlorë.
1. The bishop and his wife
2. Us and Emigert
3. Elder Lords and I with the Zeqiri family

Pictures of the Orthodox Church in Shkodër we went to and then...
1. Elder Lords and I with Luan, Anxhela, and Kristi
2. Two of me and Lindis
3. Elder Wilson and some kid from English course in Elbasan

Monday, June 12, 2017

June 12th

Përshëndetje familja!

This has been another great week here in Durrës!

First off, I'm loving our trio. We're working together great and it's been so cool seeing how much ground we can cover. It's really weird sometimes because there are things that we can do in a trio that don't work with just a regular companionship. It has been a little weird getting adjusted to teaching with three of us, but for now we haven't really run into too many problems. Elder Ellsworth is a stud and loves having a clean house, so this week we've finished most of our house cleaning/organizing as well as a deep clean/organizing of the teaching center, it's super clean now and things are actually organized, it's great. 
Other than that, we've had to go to Tirana a lot this past week. We had a doctor's visit for Elder Ellsworth, choir, and then today we went and got something with one of the members from here in Durrës. For one of our trips we went to a place called the Stephen's Center which is the only place in the country that has real American food so we got some burgers and shakes, but it's also the only place in Albania that sells Bibles so I finally got myself an Albanian Bible. So then other than that for our trips to Tirana, we had our last choir practice for the activity on Saturday. It's the 25 year anniversary of missionaries in Albania on Saturday so we have to go and sing for some special program, it should be good, but we definitely are not the best choir I've ever seen. 

As for investigators, we've had a pretty good week. We were able to meet with Kristi again and that was great. He still has a ton of desire to learn more and he's understanding really well. We teach him entirely in English which is really weird but luckily he speaks really good English. We talked to him about the Book of Mormon this week, and he said that he would read it more, he said he's going to read it in English though because that's the original and most correct translation. Also he came to church! We had met with him on Friday and he told us that he probably couldn't come this week because he had school but that he would be able to come every week after that. But then on Saturday night he texted us and asked if we could walk to church together on Sunday. Unfortunately he didn't show up to walk with us so we thought he probably wouldn't come, but then a few minutes into sacrament meeting he walked in! He ended up having a good time and he had really good questions in second hour for our investigator class, which doesn't happen a lot. Then other than him we also are teaching a guy named Rrapi, he's the one who was miraculously healed. We've had a few lessons with them since then, and the lessons go really well, but he keeps making excuses for not coming to church so we need to figure out how to help him understand the need for action to show our faith to God. He's had a really hard life and he has a lot of legitimate excuses, but we still just need to help him understand that if we do our part the Lord has already promised to do His.

Then we've also met with Collin twice this week. He's super cool and he already gets along great with Elder Ellsworth. We had a good lesson with him on Thursday and we talked a lot about committing our lives to God and how he blesses us for it. He loves the emphasis that we as a church put on progression and repentance. So many other churches have an idea of do a few simple things and have faith then you're saved, whereas we know that we always have to keep improving and work to unite our with with the Lord's perfectly(for more about that listen to the BYU devotional "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox; it's super good!). Then we talked about what justifies a leap of faith, in that how could he know that he needs to join our church or how could we know that our church isn't true. So we decided that we would all do a special fast together. It was a really cool experience, I was super tired and completely out of energy but at the same time I felt great. Our lessons went really well that day and I felt really happy. Then we all got back together at the end and talked about what would justify that leap of faith and had super good pizza, fanta exotic, and ice cream bars(the best way to end a fast). We challenged him to read the Book of Mormon every day and pray with sincere desire to know the truth and made a list of some of the most important chapters for him to read.

We also went to the house of one of the members yesterday for lunch and that was a lot of fun. His name is Vëllai Muça and he's so funny. He reminds me a lot of Grandpa Ott, he's so kind and loving and also super funny and a little goofy, we really love him. He made us some traditional Albanian milk byrek which was super good.

That was about it for me this week. I have a few pictures to send you, but a lot of them are still on my camera and I forgot the cord in the car. So those will come next week. Sorry again!

I love you all and hope you've all had a great week!
Kalofshi mirë, ju dua shumë. Zoti ju bekoft! Mirupafshim!
Elder Gardiner

A brief explanation of pictures.
1. Vëllai Muça
2. Our district selfie with Vëllai Muça
3. Another picture of our lunch with Vëllai Muça
4. A few of the puppies we found sleeping under our car
5. Us in Tirana at the new city center where Elder Wilson and Elder Ellsworth used to contact every day
6. Elder Ellsworth
7. Vëllai Muça again

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

June 5th

Përhsëndetje familja!

Well this week has been super crazy, and a lot of fun. First order of business, we got transfer calls on Friday night. I will be in a trio here in Durrës with Elder Wilson and Elder Ellsworth. I'm super excited that I get to stay with Elder Wilson, and Elder Ellsworth just got out of being Zone Leader so I've gotten to do some exchanges with him and I'm so happy that I get to serve with him. It's kind of funny because Elder Wilson trained Elder Ellsworth and it's not very common that people get to serve with the same companion twice, but we definitely aren't complaining. A ton of things changed in the mission this transfer because we're losing so many missionaries and getting a new mission president. All the missionaries going home got put into trios, and a few areas got closed.

Elder Ellsworth is from Milwaukee Wisconsin. He's been out for a while, he came into the mission 3 months after Elder Wilson, so he should be finishing this fall. He started with Elder Wilson in Tirana, but then he's also served with Elder Cani. He's moved around a lot, until he got to Fier as ZL where he stayed for 7 and a half months. He's a super funny guy and he has an amazing testimony.

Other exciting things, we had mission conference this week. It was an amazing conference, I learned a ton and really felt the spirit. It's going to be so sad to see President Weidmann leave, he's such an amazing person and the spirit is so strong when he speaks. I've learned and grown so much from the time I've had to be with him. Not long ago the standard missionary schedule was changed and now President Weidmann felt inspired to give us a suggested schedule that will allow us to work even harder, and it is really cool. Normally we leave the house at 10 in the morning and get back at 9 at night, but now we get out of the house at 9:30 and stay out until 10. He did this because Albania get's so hot during the day and everyone just goes in to take a nap or is not willing to stop and talk, so now we have the option to take a 1 hour nap and do our studies and take lunch during the super hot part of the day and work when the weather is nicer. Other than that, it was super fun getting to see everyone at mission conference. Also after mission conference we had a little time so I got to go to the teaching center and meet Lindis again! It was awesome getting to see him and get to talk to him. It was also cool because someone named Antonio who I taught that got baptized after I left was there too and I got to say hi to him as well. I took pictures of me and Lindis, but I forgot my camera at the house. We will probably do a little more emailing later though and I'll send them when we do that. 

Then later this week we also had Super Saturday, which is where seminary students from all around Albania came and had presentations and played games. We got to come help, and it was a ton of fun seeing all the people I knew. A lot of people came from Elbasan and Vlorë, I really enjoyed getting to talk with them all again.

So other than that, we've had some cool experiences this week. I met someone on the road named Kristi, he recognized me as a missionary from the LDS church and said that he had actually met with the missionaries for a while about two years ago, but then he went to Italy and didn't keep meeting with them there. He said that he's really interested in our church and that out beliefs go really well with his because he's a Free Mason. That was the first time I've run into any of those, but he's really cool. He said he's studied our church a lot "from the outside" but now he wants to get baptized and go to the temple. We only had one lesson with him that week, but we taught him basically everything. We went through the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then all the commandment lessons. It was kind of crazy but he said that he's already living them all and is really interested. He wasn't able to come to church on Sunday but we should be meeting him again this week and hopefully he'll be able to come this week.
Then we also met with Collin again. He's so cool and I've loved getting to be friends with him. We all read through 3 Nephi and Acts in preparation for that lesson, and it was really cool because he came and just told us how much he loved 3 Nephi chapter 27. He loved how simple it is and how powerfully it's stated. It's been so cool seeing how open he is to learning more. He would be such an amazing member, and I feel like he's so close. He leaves Albania the week after Elder Wilson and then he'll travel through Italy and Switzerland then go home. He said he would love to meet President Weidmann in Switzerland while he's there, so we'll see what we can do about that. 

Also one of our other investigators, Rrapi, was super sick(like he thought he might die) so we gave him a blessing. Then we came back a day or two later and he was up walking around and was completely healed. He said that after the blessing he went to sleep and then the voice of his older brother who passed away a long time ago came to him and told him to stand up and he was completely fine. So that was a really cool experience and he's become a lot more interested in the gospel recently.

Then other than that we've had a lot of stuff to do with moving houses. We still don't have plates or bowls, but we did finally buy some pots and other necessary items. Our washing machine doesn't work, but we have people coming to fix that tomorrow. Today we moved all three beds into one room, and it's a little packed, but it'll be a party. We still have a few problems with electricity/electric outlets, but step by step out house is getting really nice. We're really bad at getting out of bed and exercising in the morning so we decided to just get up and go for a walk every morning. It's been awesome because we live right on the beach and it's super pretty in the morning, it's a small thing but it's really helped me feel awake in the morning. 

I think that's about it for now. Tonight we're going to go help a member move, and that'll be fun. Also now that we're going to be a trio we talked to one of the priests and he said that he'll come do a split with us 3 hours a day every other day, so basically we're about to get so much work done.

I had a great week this week and I'm doing really well. I'm so excited to work with Elder Ellsworth and with Elder Wilson, it's going to be so fun!

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

Well I went and got the sd card from the camera and Elder Wilson let me borrow his SD card reader, but turns out the sd card I have doesn't work with his reader. So turns out I will send you those next week. Sorry!