Monday, August 28, 2017

August 28th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well this has definitely been the craziest and busiest week of my mission so far, so I'll just get into it.
To start with the biggest news first. We got transfer calls this Saturday! As expected I will be leaving Durrës, and I will be white-wash training in Vlorë! Because of some of the interviews I had had with President Anderson I was pretty sure I was training, but I can honestly say that I was not expecting to go back to Vlorë. I'm super excited for this opportunity though. It's definitely going to be hard, but I'm really looking forward to the challenge. My trainers have had a huge influence on my mission so I just hope that I can carry that on. I've learned a ton on my mission so far and I'm excited for this opportunity to work with a new missionary, we're going to work really hard. I love the members and the people in Vlorë already and was sad that I had to leave so quick, so I'm excited to go back to them. Other transfer news, Elder Ellsworth will stay here in Durrës. He'll be with Elder Jakaj, and two more Elders will be coming, Elder Benson and his trainee. Elder Harris will be going back to Shkodër and he'll be training there. A ton of people from my MTC group will all be training.

Other exciting experiences, Kristi got confirmed yesterday! He actually came early to church! It was a good Sunday and he's continuing to get along great with the members. Now he's on his way to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. It's sad that I have to leave so soon after his baptism, but we have Stake Conference in two weeks here in Durrës, so I'll get to see him soon enough.
We also had a super fun service opportunity this weekend. This Saturday there were two weddings at the church, so we got to go set up, clean up, and talk with all the members and non-member friends and family members that came! It was a super fun experience, but it was crazy seeing how stressed everyone was about it, luckily I still have a while before I have to deal with that! Funny coincidence, the first wedding was a member named Xhoni from Vlorë so a few of the members came up for that and it was a lot of fun seeing them again. I was talking with the bishop from Vlorë about how I had a great time and he asked me when I would come down and visit them all, so I said I'd try to go down for a P-day, but I guess it turns out I'll be seeing them sooner than I thought!

Besides that, we've also been working in Shkodër, Lezhë, and Laç. We've spent over 12 hours driving this week, and had to fill up the car twice. But it's also been super cool working up there. There's a recent convert named Amadeus in Shkodër who was baptized two weeks ago and we've been working with him whenever we went up. He's super smart, loves studying the scriptures, and is really good friends with one of the members. He's basically golden. Also while we were up there we've gone to Lezhë for a family home evening activity. There are only 3 members in Lezhë, and they usually come, but for some reason they didn't show up. So we just got some some consolation ice cream(10 cents a scoop) and went off to have a lesson in Laç. There's only one member in Laç and she's a recent convert. She's the sister of one of the missionaries, Elder Jakaj, the one who is taking my spot in Durrës, and she's super cool. She was away on vacation for about a month, so she hadn't been in church for a little while, but she started the Book of Mormon over and has read all the way through Jarom and understands everything super well.
We also had a really cool experience on Friday. President Anderson was coming back from Germany and on the plane ride he met a member from England who is coming to stay with her friend in Durrës. The friend has gone to church a few times in England but can't always go because she's in work, but she's interested in learning more. So they called us and set up a lesson at their home today, and they came to church yesterday. They also invited President Anderson, so we get to teach a lesson in English with our mission president, it's going to be awesome!

Then in the rest of our time we've had apartment inspections and then had lessons with Kristi and Ergita. We had a lesson with Kristi about pioneers and we watched part of 17 miracles with him. It was a really powerful lesson and now he wants to get all the church movies he can so that when he's bored from all his studying he can still learn and feel the spirit. Then with Ergita we showed the restoration film and then we read the Book of Mormon with her. She gets really into the book and she always has a ton of questions, but it's cool to see that as she reads she finds the answers by herself! She also wants to get her brother to read the Book of Mormon because she knows it would help him so much! 
Durrës is doing really well right now, and I know that with the new missionaries coming that it'll get even better!

That's all from me for now. There will be pictures to come too!
Mirupafshim, ju dua të gjithëve! Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner

Also that's crazy that you met up with Elder Mero! Did he have like a welcome home party or something? That's a great picture though, my mission dad and my real dad in the same picture!

Pictures by the Sea

 Mosque in Durres
 City Center Durres

 Elder Wilson and Elder Ellsworth, the tripanionship!

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21

Përshëndetje familja!

It has been a very busy week here in north Albania.

To start with the biggest event of the week, Kristi got baptized! It was an amazing experience and the baptism was great! He chose me to baptize him, and that was really special. I've sent some pictures from the baptism. We had a good amount of members and even some investigators that showed up too. On the other hand though, he was supposed to get confirmed yesterday. But he was late for church and didn't come in a white shirt and tie, so he'll get confirmed next week.  But he's still doing great, he was a little sad that he couldn't get confirmed then, but he talked to bishop about it and even set up a time for an interview so he can get the priesthood, so all's well that ends well! 

Well that was definitely the most exciting thing that happened this week, there were still plenty of other great moments. As I kind of mentioned last week, we're now working in Shkodër, Lezhë, Laç, and Durrës. On Wednesday Elder Mero, who was serving in Shkodër, went home so now we picked up his companion Elder Harris. Elder Harris was in my MTC group and he's super awesome. He's actually the one we met at Tucanos on the day I went into the MTC. We're super excited to have him and it's been a blast so far. So on Friday we decided to go to the other cities. We had a lesson planned in Lezhë and then we were going to go to Shkodër for a lesson, then on the way back stop by a recent convert in Laç. But then the traffic turned out to be super bad, so we had to cancel our lessons in Lezhë and Laç. But we'll go back up tomorrow and have a full Shkodër day tomorrow. It's kind of funny though, the sisters that are serving in Shkodër right now are the same ones that were with us here in Durrës, so we got our district back. 

We finished English course this week. Most of the people had stopped coming, but there's one girl named Ergita who seemed really interested to learn more about the gospel. So now we have a lesson set up with her for tonight, she's already had most of the lessons she needs for baptism through English course. We just need her to understand why now, it should be a great lesson. 

We also had Zone Conference this week! We also had interviews after that so we were in Tirana the whole day. Zone Conference was so good though, president has put an emphasis on accelerating the work we're doing and rescuing less active members and it was cool to see that emphasis reflected in the trainings. Our leaders really emphasized the worth of souls and the idea that even if we can only bring back one less active, which may not happen in the time we serve there, that our joy with them will be so great in the last day. President and Sister Anderson are so great, they are so excited to do the work here and they love involving us in everything. I'm excited to see the work keep going forward under their inspired direction.

Other exciting news, transfers are coming up this week! It's so crazy to think that I've been here in Durrës for almost 6 months now, it feels like I just got here yesterday. I'll probably leave, but honestly I have no idea what will happen. The APs were at Zone Conference and they told me that I'll never guess what's happening to me at transfers. So whatever happens it's bound to be exciting. I've loved it here in Durrës though, the members are so amazing and having a chapel is so special. The spirit is so strong there and there are so many great people here, I'll definitely miss it a ton whenever I end up leaving.

Well that's about it for the unusual things. We've had a few other lessons with Zubide and other people, but nothing too interesting. We've been super busy so we haven't had a ton of time for finding, but all in all we've definitely been blessed to have as much work as we do.
And in regards to heat wave lucifer, it's still been super hot but it is cooling down. It rained last night and might rain again today or tomorrow which would be great. And we didn't come up with that name, we were just at lunch one day and the news came on talking about it.
I've been having an amazing time here. I love my companions so much, and we've been having so much fun together. 

That's about it for me today. Next week should be a pretty crazy week too, so be prepared for next Monday!

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

Last time with Elder Mero
 View from apartment in Durres
 Baptismal Font in church at Durres

 Elder Gardiner with Kristi at his baptism

 Elder Ellsworth, Kristi, and Elder Gardiner
 Fatjon at Kristi's baptism

​​This is Eqerem. He's super funny, he's been a member for almost 20 years and loves the members, but I'm his favorite right now because I'm from Utah. He's so great, and he reminds me a lot of grandpa Ott.

Monday, August 14, 2017

August 14th

Përshëndetje familja!

First order of business, Kristi passed his baptismal interview!!!! This week we taught him all the commandment lessons. We started by teaching him the word of wisdom, which he had already learned and was already living, so we decided to read D&C 89 and he said that he felt the spirit testify to him that the word of wisdom is from God and that it really will bless us. I can honestly say that's the first time I've heard an investigator say that. Then later when we taught him about tithing he said that he isn't in work, but that he had 2000 leke with him and wanted to give us 200 right then. Of course we can't do that, but now we showed him how to pay tithing and he's really excited to pay that every month. Then after his interview we played a round of chess and talked about the gospel, he made a super cool analogy about how we're like the pawns in chess. At first look they aren't really that dangerous, but as they get closer and closer to the other side they progress and then when they hit the back they transform into exactly the piece you need and become really powerful. So that's like how we progress in this life, and then if we've done all we need to do one day we will all be resurrected and become like our Father in Heaven. We've invited a ton of people for his baptism on Saturday, and I'm super excited!

Then yesterday we had the scariest phone call of my mission. President Anderson called us while we were in a lesson and we totally thought he was calling to transfer one of us out of Durrës. So we called him back and he said "this is a transfer call" and we were both devastated, but turns out what will actually be happening is that Elder Harris will be transferred into a trio with us. Right now he's serving in Shkodër with Elder Mero, but Elder Mero goes home this week. So he'll come down with us for the next two weeks. Now our area technically covers Durrës, Shkodër, Lezhë, and Laç, which is like a quarter of Albania. It's going to be super fun though, Elder Harris is super awesome and we'll be super busy.

We met with Zubide again. We read the Book of Mormon with her and helped her understand the basic story of it with her. She loves meeting with us and has a ton of faith, but it's going to be really hard to get her to come to church. But we'll keep working with her and just try our best. 

This week we also had a lesson with the bishop and his family. They're super strong members and they're an awesome family. We talked about being a light for the world and how we can share the gospel in a ll times and places. They're super funny and really good at testifying to other people and sharing the gospel through service.

Then we also met with Vëllai Paja this week. He's such an amazing member. He was baptized in Italy and has a super cool conversion story, then he decided to come to Albania to help grow the church here. He was doing super well in Italy, he had a great job and didn't have to worry about money, but he had a prompting that he needed to come back to Albania even though it would be harder because the church needs him. Now he's trying to get his sons ready to serve a mission and trying to be a good example for them. They're a great family and it's awesome having such strong members that just really understand the gospel. 

I got my dental work done. They did a good job, and it was probably one of the nicest buildings I've been in on my mission. It felt like an actual American dentist office. Also, the new car looks super nice. And the package came this week, it was super good, I really liked it! I really like the new tie!

It's been so hot here in Albania. We're in the middle of a heatwave called heatwave lucifer. Here in Durres it got up to 110 degrees and in Tirana it was even hotter. But then it rained yesterday! So now things are a little better

Well that's about it for me, it's been a great week and it went by super fast.
Love you all! Have a great week!
Mirupafshim, Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner

PS One cool thing about Kristi, he was taught by missionaries about 2 years ago but he wasn't ready and ended up going to Italy. One of them was named Elder Stewart, so it would be really cool if we can find him and let him know about Kristi. 

Also, I've started getting really good about taking care of my teeth. I brush twice a day, every day, floss every night, and have even started using mouthwash. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

August 7th

Përshëndetje familja!

Well, it's been another great week here in Durrës. 

To get right into it, Kristi's back! We were able to meet with him last Friday and we had an amazing lesson. We had Vëllai Cani(ex Elder Cani) help us in the lesson and the two of them got along great. It had been a while since we had met so we decided to go over the plan of salvation again and he understood super well. In the lesson Cani asked him why he keeps meeting with us, and he immediately responded that it was because he knows that our church is the only true church and the only one he could even consider joining. So that was really cool, I really felt the spirit when he said that. So now we have a baptismal date set for him for the 19th of August, and he'll totally be ready. He also came to church on Sunday and really participated and enjoyed church. He made a super good impression on all the members and is starting to have friends at church, which is so important. He's basically the perfect example of a golden investigator.

Then we've also had a couple lessons with Zubide this week. We went back on Tuesday and she was super excited to have us back over. Her daughter has had a big scab on her head ever since she got in the accident 6 years ago, but this time when we went over it was completely healed. Also she rents out part of her house to people visiting for vacation every year, but this year no one had come, then this Saturday we came back over and 3 families had come and were renting from her. So that was really cool to see that as she took the initiative to learn about the restored gospel that God has blessed her in all aspects of her life. When we went over on Saturday we brought Klaudia and Motra Agaliu to help her have friends from the church so she feels more welcome. They did a great job and they also really helped us teach, their testimonies are so strong and they're able to relate to the people so well.

We also were able to start teaching a family this week. We've been meeting with a guy named Selim for a little bit and then this week we asked if we could teach him in his home and teach his family with him. He said we could come and we had a good lesson with them. They've had some cool religious experiences in their lives but they don't really practice any religion, like most Albanians, so we decided to talk about prayer and the Book of Mormon. They all accepted a Book of Mormon and said they'd read it. We should be going back some time this week, so hopefully they've actually read.

We met with Artur again last night and talked about the church's self reliance program. He's a really nice guy, but he just has no hope in his life and for the moment he doesn't really want to look for it. He's had a really hard life so I understand that it's hard for him to believe that there really is hope, but it's still so sad when we give people the one thing that can truly change their lives and they just choose not to accept it. So hopefully one day his heart will be ready to accept the gospel.

Normally we play soccer once a week as a finding/ward bonding activity, but recently no one has been coming so we decided to play ping pong and card games instead. And this week we had Kristi, Artur, and one of the members, Norikson, all come. It was a lot of fun and now Kristi and Norikson are friends, so that was awesome. It's great how even simple activities that aren't necessarily spiritual can be used to share the gospel. 
It's been super hot here in Albania. Durres isn't quite as bad, but it's still been about 100 degrees every day. It's pretty funny, the first year of my mission has been both the coldest winter and hottest summer Albania's had in over 30 years. I guess the Utah weather must just be following me.

But other than that everything's been great. Normally in the summer there is very little success in missionary work because people just don't want to go outside, but we've actually been keeping pretty busy. We have some great investigators, and we've even finally had a little success working with less actives.

That's about it for me this week, love you all!
Mirupafshim, Zoti ju bekoftë!
Elder Gardiner