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

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