Monday, July 31, 2017

July 31st

Përshëndetje familja!

It was kind of a slower week here in Durrës, but a good one nonetheless. 

We have a new investigator! It's been a little while since that happened, but this one is really cool. Her name is Zubide. The sisters found her a long time ago and we've been trying to meet for a while but things kept popping up that kept pushing it back. She's a great person and she's so positive, which is a miracle in her situation. Her husband was hit and killed by a drunk driver right outside her house a few years ago, and 6 years ago her daughter, Nërtila, was hit by another drunk driver and has lost almost all mental function. So now she works and takes care of her daughter all day. She loves the idea of the resurrection(she's probably the first person I've heard that from since I got to Albania) and doesn't blame God for her situation, but has a ton of faith that God will help her in her situation and one day heal her daughter. We had a really good lesson with her about the plan of salvation and she really liked it. She's me with the Jehovah's Witnesses before, but she read the pamphlet we gave her and felt the spirit, so now she said that she knows that we have the truth! So we went back and reviewed the plan of salvation again, and gave her a Book of Mormon and she was super excited to read that. 

We also met with Artur again. We had a good lesson where one of the returned missionaries from the ward helped us teach him about real intent and faith. We talked about how when we do our part to learn and obey the commandments God blesses us in every aspect of our lives. Also he came to church this week! He only stayed for the first hour, but he did seem to like sacrament meeting. 

Also we got some awesome news this week. Our investigator Kristi has been super busy with school recently so we haven't been able to meet in a couple weeks. He told us that he couldn't meet until he finishes his tests because he doesn't want to learn about the gospel half-heartedly, he wants to dedicate all his time to it. He said that his last test would be some time in August, so last week we called him to keep up contact and he said that he finishes his last test on August 1! So we'll be meeting with him again this week, and he should be getting baptized super fast. He's probably one of the smartest people I've ever met, and he's super prepared, so I'm super excited to meet with him again.

Other than that, we've been trying super hard to work with less actives. But so far all the ones we've tried have either not answered the phone all week or are in Italy. I've written down a list of potential people to work with that I'll ask members about, because addresses don't exist in Albania so finding them is almost impossible. 

We've tried working with Fatjon, but apparently he has not been doing super well recently. We tried to talk to his mom at work, but she was pretty busy so we didn't get to talk a lot, but we'll try again this week.

Then we've also had our English Course. We have a lot of awesome people coming to that, and the gospel course that we do afterwards. It's been super cool, a lot of the people get really involved and ask a ton of great questions in our gospel class. We've gone over the Restoration, Plan of Salvation, and Gospel of Jesus Christ now, and a lot of people have been there for all the lessons. So now we just have to set up other lessons with them!

We've also been trying to work with a lot of the members to strengthen them too. We had a lesson with the Dragoti family, they're the one's that sent you the picture on facebook. They're super awesome, and we're trying to work with the dad of the family, who isn't a member, but for now, he just isn't ready. Then we also had a really cool lesson with the Agaliu family too. We decided to share a conference talk with them, so we went to and chose a talk, but then we felt like that wasn't the one we needed to share. So we chose another one, and the same thing happened. So we went back and the talk from M. Russell Ballard from this past conference about goal setting stuck out to us. So we went and talked about that, and they said that they had just decided that they needed to work on goal setting, and that talk was just what they needed. So that was a really cool experience about how the spirit directs us to what other people need.

Then with the rest of our time we've done a ton of street contacting. We've met a lot of cool people, but also had a lot of people not come to lessons that we set up. So hopefully we'll be able to actually meet with more of the people that we meet.

That's about it for me. I'm loving serving here with Elder Ellsworth! He's a great teacher and we get along great! He loves the Lord of the Rings, so we've spent a lot of time talking about analogies and references in the Lord of the Rings about the gospel, it's been fantastic! Also he's super good at ping pong. We didn't have anything planned for p-day today and had a lot of extra time, so we went and played a lot of ping pong, it was a ton of fun. It's been a great transfer so far.

I love you all, have an amazing week! Mirupafshim, Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, July 24, 2017

July 24th

Përshëndetje familja!

We've had kind of a slower week here this week, but it's been good still.

A few highlights from the week; we're teaching a free English Course and that's going super well. We have a one hour class twice a week and then after that we invite people to stay for a small presentation about the gospel. The course has been going for about three weeks and there are a few people that have been coming that seem super interested. On the first day we talked about the restoration and gave copies of the Book of Mormon to whoever wanted one and there's one girl who took a copy and since then has been reading and asking questions about what she read. Last time everyone who came stayed after and we were able to teach and testify about the plan of Salvation, and people seemed really interested. So that's been a really cool experience, and it makes you realize how complicated English is.

Other than that, it was one of the members birthdays this week so we went out to lunch with him. His name is Enea and he's a stud, he's got a super strong testimony and helps us out with lessons and stuff whenever he can. We've become super good friends in the time I've had here in Durrës. So we took a picture and I'll send that to you.

Also this week, Regjina moved back to Elbasan so we gave her the number of the missionaries over there and she said she knows where the church and teaching center are so hopefully she keeps meeting with the missionaries over there. Then the Gjergji family dropped us, so that was a little sad, but for now I guess it just isn't their time. Hopefully some day they'll be ready. 

So we also have a friend who we've been meeting with, his name is Dhimi. He met the missionaries a long time ago and then we ran into him on the street once. He's not really interested in learning about the gospel, but he's really funny. He ended up giving us a paper that he wanted us to translate, so we decided to do that for language study, and it's probably the best letter I've ever seen. It talks about how God came down and directed him to the top of a communist war bunker where he found a special rock in the form of a boat with sails, and now his job is to share it with the world. He wrote letters to Discovery channel, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the queen of England, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the Nobel Prize and made some pretty hefty demands. Unfortunately, he wouldn't ever really sit in for a lesson though.

So that's about it for me, kind of a boring week. We've been trying to work with a ton of investigators and less active members, but no one is answering their phones or willing to meet, so we've done a lot of contacting. We've got a bunch of numbers now and plenty of people to work with, so hopefully this next week is a little more exciting.

I did bring my camera today so I have some pictures to send.

I love you all, and I hope you have a great week!

Mirupafshim, Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner

​​​​Elder Mero and I from our trip to Shkodër.

Our day of ping pong with Elder Cani.

Special American yogurt flavors for the 4th of July.

​​Elder Ellsworth and I with Elder Lesi and the Collins at the best ice-cream place in Albania.

Monday, July 17, 2017

July 17th

Përshëndetje familja!

So this has been a very busy week with a lot of amazing experiences.

To start, our new mission president is super awesome! His name is President Anderson and he's from St. George. He has 6 kids, worked in investing, and served a mission in Taiwan. He is so enthusiastic about the gospel and he loves missionary work. In the years since his mission he's been able to help teach people living in China and loves inviting people to be baptized. On Wednesday we had a meeting where we met him and his wife and got to know them a little bit. One really cool thing about them is that Sister Anderson is Mr. Birrell(one of my favorite teachers of all time)'s sister, so that was a really cool connection. We had a zone conference this week and we received a ton of cool trainings  about how we can bring the work further even faster. President Anderson has given a lot of focus on getting people baptized and giving them then gift of the Holy Ghost while also increasing retention and activation by working with the less actives. I'm really excited for the opportunity that I have to work with him for the next year. 

So as for our work here in Durrës, we have some new investigators with a cool story. So one day we were out street contacting, so a guy and a girl passed and I said hi to them, they kept walking and then stopped and talked to each other for a little bit then came back. Their names are Regjina and Ferdinando, and turns out she used to live in Elbasan and was taught by the missionaries there, has been to church, and wants to learn more and get the Book of Mormon, whereas the guy is her Italian friend that she's translating for, he's cool but he doesn't speak English or Albanian so all communication has to go through Regjina. So we set up to meet them for a lesson the next day. They came, but they didn't have time so they said we'd meet later that week, but they don't have a phone number. So we went but they never showed up. So for they next day I kept praying that we would meet them again. Then later that night we were out on the road and we found them! This time we were able to show them where the teaching center was and give them a Restoration pamphlet. Then they showed up randomly another day at the same time we were at the center and we set up another lesson. So this week while I was on an exchange in Tirana Elder Schneider and Elder Ellsworth had a lesson with them and it went super well. Regjina said she really feels the spirit when she reads the Book of Mormon and they both had read the restoration pamphlet we gave them before the lesson. So I have a lot of hope for them, they're super great!

For other investigators, Kristi is super busy with school right now so we haven't been able to meet recently but he said he's still reading and praying. He should finish up with all his tests at the beginning of August and then he'll get baptized super fast. Fatjon has been super hard to get into contact with. We've called him a ton and he's answered a couple times, but still no lessons so far. We've started teaching the Gjergji family again, the lessons have been ok so far but it's hard to get both of the kids in the lesson at the same time. We also are teaching a guy named Nick and he's super cool. He's from Durrës but he moved to England about 14 years ago and now works with the British Navy. He used to go to our church here and he was really close to getting baptized before he moved, now he just wants to know if it's still something that he wants to do and he wants to establish a stronger relationship with God. He came to church on Sunday and really liked it, he said it was just like when he was a kid.

Other than that, Elder Cani is back! He's been living in Italy for the past few months but now he'll be back in Durrës for a while. Elder Ellsworth has also served with him so we went today and hung out with him for a while, that was a ton of fun. Also we had transfer calls on Saturday night, Elder Ellsworth and I will be staying together here in Durrës! So I'm really excited to stay here, I'm loving it so far and really enjoying being serving with Elder Ellsworth. Also Elder Schneider and Elder Lords will be staying in Tirana so our district probably won't change either, which is great because this is the best district ever.

I have a few pictures to send, but I forgot my camera cord at the house so I'll probably send those next week. But if you remember about Alex from my last email, he took a picture of me in the church so I'll send that to you.

Thanks for being so awesome, it's great hearing from all of you!

Ju dua shumë, Zoti ju bekoftë! Mirupafshim!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, July 10, 2017

July 10th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well I don't have a lot of time to email this week, but it's been a great week here in Durrës.
So for a quick update on our investigators. Kristi is doing great. He's understanding everything we teach so well and he applies everything to something that he had already learned before. He's so smart and he's studied a ton of different religions. It's cool because for a lot of things we teach him it's something that exists in a different religion, but we're the only one that has the whole truth. We had a lesson about Joseph Smith where we watched the movie about his life, then at the end we were able to testify about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and the Spirit was there so strong, then after that he said that he feels like he has received enough of a spiritual witness that he could testify about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon too now. He also wants to teach people in Italy about these things now too.

Fatjon is in Tirana for now just visiting his cousin, so we haven't been able to meet. But he did call us and talk for a little bit so at least we were able to keep contact.

We've met with a ton of members this week, it was great. The members here make great food, and they give us soo much, I've eaten way too much this week! With us being gone for a week all the members decided that they needed to have us over, so that's been great because that's helped Elder Ellsworth to get to know them a little better and they've given us a lot of advice for what we can do to improve the work, and we've had some powerful lessons with them too. Now we have even more appointments for this week.

We also were able to meet with Andre again this week. He's here with his wife and baby daughter as refugees from Crimea. We had a cool experience with him too, right now he's applying to renew his permit to stay in Albania but he was having a lot of problems with it. For some reason they just kept delaying and not accepting parts of his application. So we met with him and said a prayer together to help him, then the next day he called us and said that the first step of his residency permit just got approved! Now he has to go to Greece to go to the embassy to work on it more, and he was so happy that he invited us to go with him, which we unfortunately had to decline, for obvious reasons. But that was a really cool testimony for the power of prayer.

Another cool experience, we were at this one pasta place that we go to a lot and pretty much every time we go we run into other foreigners. So this time we went and at the table next to us there was a guy with super long black hair who didn't speak Albanian. So we got talking to him and turns out he's here as a freelance photographer, he's living in Australia, his parents are French and Iranian and he's grown up in a bunch of different countries throughout the middle east. So he's a super interesting guy and he ended up asking if we have a church here, so we told him where the church is and he said he would love to come. Then Sunday came and sure enough he came, we had someone translate for him and he stayed for all three hours.

Then today we went up to Shkodër and played some ping pong and pool with Elder Collins, Elder Mero, and Elder Harris. We had a ton of fun and it was great getting to hang out with Elder Mero for a bit. Then we went out to lunch with all the Shkodër missionaries. It was a super fun P-day trip but it took a long time to get there and back. I took a couple pictures with me and Elder Mero, but I don't have time to send those this week. 

So all in all we've had a great week here. I love you all and hope you have a fantastic week!
Elder Gardiner

Monday, July 3, 2017

July 3rd

Përshëndetje familja!

Well I'm finally back in Durrës! It's been another crazy week but things are going great!
So to start, my last few days in Tirana were really good. We met with a lot of really cool members. One of the ones we met was Vëllai Gjylameti, he's one of the stake high counselors and he's so cool. He met the missionaries when they were helping with relief for the Kosovo war, which if you know about Balkans history that was a horrible event, he talked about how there were a lot of people and religions who came to help but that our church did more than the others. So that was his first contact with the church, then later he started meeting with the missionaries and was an investigator for the next 10 years. It took him a long time to get over smoking and alcohol and to decide that he needed to be a member of this church, but then ever since he's been super strong.

Then we got back to Durrës on Wednesday evening. I enjoyed my time in Tirana but honestly it feels so good to be back. It's still super hot but here in Durrës we have the sea which gives us a nice breeze. Also it's so awesome seeing all the people again. We had a pretty nice welcome back, on Thursday we had a baptism! A girl who was taught in Tirana but lives in Durrës on the weekends got baptized here. On Thursday it was super hot and humid, and well it was so hot that the AC at the church lit on fire. So that all got fixed up but we didn't have AC for the baptism so it was super hot but it all ended up working out fine. President Weidmann came down and baptized her, Sister Weidmann gave one of the talks and then Motra Xheka gave the other, then at the end President Weidmann bore his testimony so that was a super powerful spiritual experience. 

Other than that we've done a lot of street contacting and met with a ton of members. We had a lesson with the Paja family and they're super awesome. He told us his convesrsion story and that was super cool too, he talked about how he was so prepared for the gospel and that he was always looking for the truth. Then one day while he was living in Italy he met the missionaries who were his next door neighbors and he had so many questions and all of them get answered perfectly by the gospel. Then a little while later he felt like he needed to go back to Albania to help establish the church here. He's an amazing member and it's so cool seeing how converted he is.

Fatjon (turns out I've been spelling his name wrong) showed up to the baptism on Thursday and he loved it. It was great seeing him there. We've set up other lessons and invited him to church but he's been asleep every time that we were supposed to meet, but hopefully we can meet some time this week. 

We also met with Kristi again. He's doing well, he read a little from the Book of Mormon, but didn't come to church. But after our last lesson with him he promised he would read more from the Book of Mormon because it teaches us the truth. He's the one who is a free mason and he accepts everything super well and loves learning, we just can't meet super often because he's really busy busy with school. 

Then yesterday we had one of the craziest lessons I've had on my mission. We met with a 15 year old member who said that she needed a lesson because she's been feeling bad spiritually and needed help. So we met with her and she talked about how she's engaged but her family doesn't accept her fiance and that she knows that God doesn't want her to marry the guy but she's going to do it anyway. So we tried to tell her to follow God's will even if it's hard, but I guess we'll see if that actually worked. All I have to say is thank you so much for being such a normal family.

This week we're going to be super busy. We have meal lessons and or ward activities every day this week and a TON of potential investigators to follow up with. So we definitely have plenty to do to keep us busy.

Yesterday church was super good. Since it was fast Sunday we had testimony meeting and the stake president came, he lives here in Durrës, and basically all the strongest members went and bore their testimonies and it was super powerful, then at the end president Mema bore his testimony and that was super inspiring. He talked about our eternal covenants with God and talked about the talk "the purifying power of Gethsemane" by Bruce R. McConkie which if you haven't heard I would definitely recommend watching.

Then today a few missionaries from Tirana came down here to Durres to visit Klaudia, one of the members here, for her birthday today. So we all went out to lunch and then to the pier and had a fun time. Also I got to give her a blessing this week because she was really sick, and it was a super cool experience. I can normally speak Albanian pretty well but I still have to think about it and sometimes figure out how to say what I want, but in the blessing all the words came so naturally and I could feel the power in the words.

I have not met the new mission president yet. We were in Tirana when he got here but we had a lesson planned in Durres that we had to get back to so we didn't have time to stay and meet him. 

Elder Ellsworth and I get along great! He's super organized and works hard. He's super good at teaching and he's traveled around the whole mission. He was my zone leader when I was in Elbasan and Vlorë so I already knew him and had done exchanges with him. He's already deep cleaned and organized the teaching center, the car, and the house which is pretty awesome. He came into the mission 3 months after Elder Wilson so he has about 4 months left in his mission. He's and awesome missionary and I'm super excited to get to keep working with him. 

I'm a little tired, especially this week. Just because it's been really hot and because we've been out late working every day, but I still love my mission and it's definitely a good tired.
Also it was cool, I got to call Lindis last night and talk with him for a little while. Our mission has a pretty big problem with retention, a lot of people get baptized and then leave, but Lindis is still super strong and he's been trying to help his sisters and other people stay active too. Now he's giving talks in sacrament meeting and giving priesthood blessings and it's super good getting to talk to him every once in a while. Also, he told me that he was going to call me last night to talk to me because he was looking at some pictures of us and other people from the branch, but he didn't have any minutes on his phone, but then right at that moment I called him.

Lastly, we had a lot of missionaries leave last week. A lot of us all went out to lunch before they left and then we all got to say goodbye. It was sad seeing them go because I've become such good friends with them, but I'm sure they'll do amazing things with the rest of their lives. It was especially sad seeing Elder Wilson leave, it was awesome getting to serve with him and I loved getting to know and work with him. Because we're still only 2 missionaries in Durrës now we're in a district with Tirana 2nd ward which means we'll be going to Tirana every week, but also now Elder Schneider and Elder Lords are in our district which is awesome because they're pretty much my best friends in the mission now. 

So I'm really looking forward to the next 9 weeks it's going to be a great time. It's kind of crazy though, I'm almost at my year mark. The time is really flying. But I'm definitely loving it out here, I'm so glad I still have another year.

I love you all! Mirupafshim dhe Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner