Sunday, April 29, 2018

March 26

Përshëndetje familja

This has been another fun week. Lots of fun experiences. But to start it all out, transfer news. Nothing is changing for us. I'll be staying here in Shkodër/Lezhë with Elder Isufaj, and I'm looking forward to it. This is going to be a great transfer.

To start out with some of our travels. Like usual we were in Tirana for district meeting this week and that went super well. I gave a training on the new European Easter Initiative (apparently we have a different one from all of you in America) and it was really cool seeing the spirit direct all of us in our discussion and I left with a lot of good ideas to implement in my work. After that President Anderson called us in to have interviews with him and it was just what I needed. Elder Isufaj and I hadn't been getting along at all recently and so I was kind of going through a hard time. But just talking to him I really felt the spirit confirm that this man is called of God to care for me and my spiritual well-being. He gave us some things to work on and committed us to make our companionship a positive experience for both of us and recently things have been going super well. Now we're working super well together and getting along really well. So hopefully that keeps up!

In our area we were able to meet with Pali and Danjel twice this week and had some good lessons. They're reading, but they don't understand super well. But when we explain things they seem to understand really well. They love meeting with us and even came to church an hour early this week! We invited them to be baptized and they both accepted. They have a ton of potential.

The biggest surprise probably happened this Sunday when we had Branch Conference. The Stake Presidency came and directed the meeting and it was so good. President Sherbert(the senior couple here) gave an amazing talk about how much his family is blessed because of their choice to join the church, and the stake president gave a super powerful talk about families and difficulty. At the beginning of the meeting though the first counselor in the stake got up and released the branch presidency, which I really didn't see coming. So now we have a local member, Vëllai Zefi, as the new branch president instead of a missionary. He's one of the most amazing people I've ever met so I'm sure he'll do a great job.

Other news. Redi almost got baptized again on Thursday. I had gotten permission to go, but in the end he once again didn't feel ready and backed out. But it actually ended up being a really amazing experience for me because the night before he called me multiple times asking me what he should do. It was amazing feeling the trust he has in me because of how much I've loved and served him and because of that I was able to testify with all my strength about the power of the gospel and the atonement and Christ and prayer. It was one of those moments where I was able to feel the strength of my own testimony. These weren't just memorized answers or a list of scriptures. I was able to say that I know that if we have the required faith and humility that God is able to change us, our hearts, our desires, and therefore our futures. I know that the gospel is the truth and that through the ordinances of baptism and confirmation when performed by proper authority we can become pure in God's eyes. So even though his fear overcame his faith it helped me strengthen mine.

We had a special devotional fireside last night where we talked about "gjithnjë pranë" (always there) which is the new Easter Initiative here in Albania. Not many people came, but it was a great meeting. We sang hymns, Elder Isufaj performed a special song(he's a really talented singer), and we all shared testimonies about how Christ has stood by us always. It was a powerful experience as I sat thinking throughout the week about all the experiences in my life where Christ has been there for me. Even when I haven't seen Him in the moment as I sat and reflected it was so easy to see that he's here in everything in every moment.

Then some fun things. Shkoder can't seem to make up it's mind and every time it gets a little bit warmer the next day it snows and rains. So it's snowed all week, which is crazy because it's the end of March. But other than that, I went on an exchange with Elder Hodson in Tirana 1st ward and it was an awesome exchange. He's a great missionary from Pleasant Grove, Utah who just finished his first 6 weeks here in country. And as a fun surprise, he's the exact same age as Mason. Born August 31, 1999. So that was kind of weird seeing that he's out here in the mission field, it's crazy thinking that Mason is really that age where he could be on a mission right now.

But that's about it for me. I love you all, I'm doing great. The mission is the best.
Elder Gardiner

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