Monday, December 27, 2010

the one about Christmas

I am right now in a trio with the elders in the other area. My companion, Elder Fisher, went home early because his whole group decided to do that so they could catch the next semester of school. So until next Tuesday I'm working with these other guys in their area and staying at their house, which is cool, because it's a nice house and they're awesome. We're having a great time.

On Wednesday we had the branch Christmas party. It was pretty good, but of course the primary was the best. They sang Jingle Bells and Feliz Navidad. We missionaries sang a rendition of The First Noel, and I'm happy to say it didn't sound half bad. Then, on Thursday, the whole district had their Christmas party at the national museum. It was great seeing members from all over Albania, some of them I knew. There were a LOT of musical pieces done by different branches, and then at the end all of the missionaries sang a really cool song called "Peace, Peace" (if you can find it, give it a listen). Then I got kind of worried when they gave everyone on the stand sparklers and lit them and had us all sing "Joy to the World". Luckily the place didn't burn down (because concrete isn't flammable, despite my many attempts to make it such), and the sprinkler system didn't go off. In all, it was a good experience.

My first Christmas in Albania was spent well, thankfully. The first and third branch missionaries were invited to the mission president's house and they fed us breakfast. There was scrambled eggs, sweet rolls, Cinnamon rolls, BACON, orange juice and hot chocolate. Haven't eaten that well in a little while. And then there was a little white elephant gift exchange, and I ended up with a really nice Albania Tirana mission tie pin, with the double-headed Albanian eagle on it.

Also, we visited members. Hermes (hair-mess) here is going to be one of the next branch presidents when he gets older. He's dang smart.

He's only 13 but he knows nearly as much as I do.
And then we went to the Vogli (vogue-lee) family. I got all three of their kids in front of the Christmas tree. From left to right is Sara, Jozef, and Ester.

These kids are super smart. Jozef has memorized all 13 articles of faith, and he's only six.

That's about all. I hope you all had a good Christmas filled with family and memories!

Elder Weaver

Monday, December 20, 2010

the one about unforeseen snow

I guess the streak of good weeks couldn't last forever. None of our investigators could meet this week and there was a lot of just talking to people on the road. It's times like these you just need to remember that everything happens in the Lord's time, and you don't rush the Lord. One good thing that happened was that a man from our English course came to church on Sunday! He's pretty cool. It seems like every English course ends in a discussion of games that we've played. He loves the older Call of Duty games and so we have a few things in common. He's a pretty solid Muslim. He doesn't practice that much (like going to the synagogue or growing the beard), but he really doesn't seem to want to change. He came to church because he likes us, which isn't the best reason to come, but hey, it was still a good experience.

On Tuesday it snowed!

I fully expected not to see snow for two years, but it actually snowed in Tirana. It only happens once every few years, and this year seemed to be one of them. It's been pretty dang cold here. I thought I was tough, but I am ashamed to admit that I had to put on my 3 coats and two pairs of gloves once or twice this week. The air is very humid here, and my facial muscles develop a half-second lag after a few minutes outside. This makes it difficult and slightly humorous to try and talk.

A little bit of snow doesn't stop Unloaded-AK Man!

And today we decided to have one unique experience before my companion goes home: Eating a sheep's head. It was his idea, so we went and got a head they just keep roasting on a spit. It was $4. I only had the cheek meat, which was actually really tasty. He tried the eye and the tongue, both of which had a weird texture but not-that-bad taste.

Warning: These pictures are not for the faint of stomach. Ah what the heck, they're fun.

Poor lamb. I think he had a few cavities.
Baa ram you!
Elder Weaver

Monday, December 13, 2010

the one about signs of christmas

Actually, there aren't many signs of Christmas here in Albania. They don't really celebrate it here. They do have a lot of lights and decorations, but they say it's for new year's. They even have Christmas trees that they call "new year's trees". Most of the members of the church don't know the exact day that Christmas falls on. Oh well. We have a puny little tree in our apartment with a Santa hat on top of it. And the best part of all: I found a body wash that smells like pine. Most people can say they've decorated for the season, but there are few people who can say they smell like Christmas.

The happenings of the week, in order of not-so-funness to good-memoryness.

We met Edmond while street contacting. He seemed to be interested in discussing religion, so we walked a few minutes over to the church. It wasn't until we sat down that we smelled the alcohol on his breath. Before that, I just thought he was quirky. After smelling the pungent odor of inebriation, it all made sense. What he said had very little meaning, and we were trying to figure out what he meant. Eventually, we just parted ways after exchanging numbers. Oh well, it was a positive experience for him, so I count that as a win.

On Monday, we returned from a hard day of work to find that we had no water. We checked our little pump outside the apartment and it had been disconnected. Apparently they do that when you don't pay your bills. This was frustrating, since the office elders pay all the bills online. We called some people, and they said to go to a little place down some obscure alleyway in the morning. We did, and they said we had to go to the water company's main office, so we did. They checked, and it turns out that in fact, the bill had NOT been paid for a stretch of quite a few months a while back. We had to pay for that right then, and wait for a reimbursement later. Then we had to go back to the little place, and they said they'd reconnect the water. They did, after about 3 hours. Finally, we took our refreshing, miraculous showers and never complained again about not having enough pressure. Don't worry, we used hand sanitizer when we didn't have water.

We had a good lesson with Fatjon. A member was there to help teach, and that is always good. It seems the only thing holding Fatjon back from baptism is that he feels his testimony of the Book of Mormon is not strong enough. So, every morning at 7AM we call him and ask if he's read. It's an interesting system, but it works. If he keeps going like this, he'll be baptized soon.

And on Saturday we had one of the best meals in a long time. One of the humanitarian couples, the Wilsons, invited us to their house (on the top floor of the mission home) for lunch. Now, it takes a special type of couple to invite 6 missionaries into your home and feed their huge appetites. We had meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, yellow beans, and some of the best carrots ever prepared by a human hand. They had brown sugar in them, making them taste like candy. And for dessert, there was actual ginger bread cake with applesauce, lemon sauce and whipped cream. That's going on the list of top 5 meals I've had in-country.

But one other thing happened: I got some Taco seasoning in a package! That stuff is absolutely unfindable here. So, we celebrated by making some taco-seasoned ground beef and putting it with noodles and cream and arrabiata flavored tomato sauce. That was one satisfying meal.

I hope you all are doing well and good.

Elder Weaver

Monday, December 6, 2010

the one about unexpected returns

As they say on the internets, "Woot!" This has been a darn good week. Things that happened in list of excitement:

We street contacted a man named Kastriot, and right then and there took him to the church and had a good meeting. He might become another investigator.

Something not actually good but still exciting, is that the other elders are currently housing another companionship from Shkodër. Apparently it's flooded pretty badly up there and they don't know when they'll be able to go back. But for the moment they're having a good time working in our branch.

On Saturday, the owner of the other house in this branch (the house I lived in when I first came into the country) invited six of us elders out to lunch. We went to a pretty nice restaurant almost up in the mountains. When they brought out the first plate of delicious pork chops, I thought, "Ok, so three of us will share this. Cool." Then they brought out 4 more plates, and each of us got one of these:

There was about a pound of meat there. Man, that was good!

I'm really grateful for members who open up their hearts and their wallets to us when they really don't have to. I know they'll be blessed for that.

Yesterday, we attended the baptism of an 8-year old girl in the branch. It was the first baptism I've seen where the person was 8 and also baptized by her father. It was great. Sadly, I didn't get any pictures...

We had a good meeting with Fatjon (faw-tee-own), and it seems like he'll still get baptized someday, which I am hugely grateful for. And I finally got a pic with him:


We were coming home from a meeting with some members, and right as we went outside we ran into the other elders' investigator, Romeo (row-mayo). He then walked with us to the church and had a lesson with the other elders, and it looks like he'll start meeting with them again. I think God is trying to send him a message. This is the 4th "chance" meeting I've had with this guy. The first was when we decided to go on a walk, but to take a different route than usual and ran into him. The second was when I had a strange, sudden craving for grilled corn and he was there getting corn, too. Third was when we tracted into his house. And now this one. We left the house at just the right time to meet him. I don't think these are random chance meetings.

And finally, to make it a great week, the other elders met and talked to Olgert (ol-gehrt)! This is the guy who had a baptismal date but then disappeared about 3 months ago. Turns out he's been in Sarandë for a funeral. Man, I am so excited he's back! His desire and willingness to learn is the strongest and most sincere I've ever seen.

Hope this week goes as well!

Elder Weaver

Monday, November 29, 2010

the one about first prayers

This week was definitely better than last week! And I'd like to share some advice I got last week from a returned missionary member. He said that it's times like these, when you have few or no investigators, that you really get closer to God and these are the times that you remember the most. And I absolutely agree.

We got in tracting the other day. It was these two mid-20's guys living together to save money for college. They were Muslim (but not very practicing, as is the case here usually). It was the first time we'd gotten in the door in about a month, so I count it as a success. They seemed to be motivated by a mild curiosity, though, and lost interest near the end of our discussion. Oh well, we gave them a positive experience, which always helps.

English course, I believe, is probably the best proselyting tool we have. The people usually aren't very interested at first, but over a period of time they get more comfortable with us and seem much more open to learning about the gospel. We had two girls this week try out their first prayer. Have I mentioned that's one of my favorite parts of missionary work? Just listening to someone honestly express their thoughts to a loving Father in Heaven gives me much, much joy. And one of those girls came to church, and so did the rest of her family! They seemed to have a good time and the mom even came later on in the week to a Relief Society activity. Good things are happening with that family!

Fatjon came to a baptism we had on Saturday. It was a good experience for him, because he's had some doubts and questions about baptism for a while now, and I hope that eased some of his fears. So at least he's not off the map and disappeared!

On Tuesday we got permission to go to the opera. It was my first opera experience, and I wasn't disgusted. It was an opera adaption of Othello. They sang really loud. And in Italian, so I didn't really get what was going on. But the orchestra was sweet! In all, I'd say it was a good experience. But why does everyone have to die all the time in operas and plays? Why can't they just settle their differences with a good, honest round of Counter-Strike? Everything would make so much more sense.

On Thursday, we got to go to the mission home for Thanksgiving, and man, I loved it! They got two 33-pound turkeys, which even all of us couldn't finish off. They also had mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, stuffing, and pretty much everything else you could want to eat. Then, we watched Toy Story 3. Man, I've not laughed so hard at a movie in years. It was a great Thanksgiving away from home.

And then I have some miscellaneous pictures.

We eat these at least once a week, and they are delicious. Pork meat with mayonnaise, sour-cream-type-sauce, french fries, cucumbers, sweet red peppers, ketchup. Heaven on pita bread

It's probably not loaded. That makes me sad.

Until next week,

Elder Weaver

Monday, November 22, 2010

the one about enduring to the end

...Wow. I didn't really expect missionary work to be this slow. But hey, I didn't come here for fast and exciting times, I came here to help lay the foundation of the church. The two are not necessarily welded together. Fatjon couldn't meet with us, but we hold out hope that he's still reading and praying. We've probably done about 15 hours of street contacting with moderate success (a promising phone number). I need to keep up my motivation, because we found out the other night I'm going to be here for another 6 weeks with my companion. I guess we'll just put our shoulders to the wheel and see how far we get.

We've been doing a lot of "turbo visits" to the members of the branch. Even though these people are fully active, it's good to talk with them and share a message, and they love having us over. A recent statistic from the missionary department said that one good referral from a member is equivalent to knocking on 1,000-2,000 doors while tracting, so we're giving it all we've got to get referrals. And it's fun talking to the members. A lot of them have led interesting lives. On Saturday we visited 3 very strong youth. It just so happened that they all were in the same house at the same time. One served a mission to Italy, another to England, and one to Russia. It's great to see such commitment and faith in these people.

Last Monday we took a district trip to City Park. A free bus takes you about 10 miles outside the city to this huge shopping mall complex. They have some very expensive stores, but we went there for the ice skating. It was fun; I didn't fall down once! Then we ate at the food court at AFC. Yes, that's Albania Fried Chicken. It's a good thing there aren't copyright or trademark laws here, or else this place would get the living daylights sued out of them. Their logo is almost the same as KFC, just with an "a" instead of a "k", and their "commercial" is a KFC commercial that they've zoomed in just enough so that you can't see the text on the bottom of the screen. We got a mini bucket with chicken strips, original recipe and hot wings (which weren't actually that hot). It was surprisingly the best chicken I've had in the country.

I'll keep pushing the handcart and report next week.

Elder Weaver

Monday, November 15, 2010

the one about funny muslims

A mixed week, this was. Tuesday we met with our only investigator, Fatjon. He seems to be coming around quite well. He asked a lot of questions clarifying stuff he didn't know. I guess he didn't understand some of what we taught him. Which is weird, because we asked him a lot of questions to see if he did understand, and it seemed like he did. At least he's asking now and not going forward with mistaken ideas.

Thursday and Friday we had 6-hour trainings at the mission home. It was just the inside zone, so half the mission was in there (24 missionaries). I have to tell you, the way we teach now is light-years ahead of the old ways. We learned and practiced a simplified doctrine outline. There is so much more reliance on having the Holy Ghost in the lessons, and not just repeating memorized discussions. We practiced with "stumbling blocks" that people we teach might have. The most frustrating ones were "But I'm Muslim/Catholic, I can't change", "I'll read your book for culture", "I don't have time", "Everything we need to know is in the Bible/Koran" and the most pathetic one of all, "I can't see/read". All of these are excuses you can't go a day without hearing, and in the practices, we learned the best approach to help people with these are to: ask questions that create a conflict/question inside them that really makes them want to find the answer, to testify frequently, and to know when to say, "Well, looks like you won't come out and say it, but you don't even care. Have a nice day!". The things we learned will definitely help us out in the field.

And a funny thing happened to me today. It was right in the middle of morning studies, and a knock was laid on the door. Our peephole is kind of maimed, so I opened up. Some man I've never seen before says, in broken English, "I really have respect for members of your church, and I've been thinking a lot. I've written my ideas down on paper and maybe you could share them with the members of your church. Ok, thank you, bye!" The papers he gave me are pretty entertaining. He went on and on about how there was a coming energy crisis and that only people who own agricultural land or belong to a powerful organization will have food on their table. He mentioned in there something about wanting two hectacres of land. He also expressed that he's worried about his life and is willing to collaborate with anyone. I didn't know who this was, but my companion sure did. I guess he's talked with other missionaries in other cities. Most of the conversations go like this:

Crazy Muslim Kid: "Anyone who is not Muslim is going to Hell"
Missionary: "Oh. Even if you save a Muslim's life?"
CMK "You will still go to Hell"
M "What if you save a whole city of Muslims?"
CMK "You will go to Hell if you are not Muslim"
M *holding back laughter* "What if you save Mohammed?"
CMK *slight pause*  "It does not matter. You will still go to Hell if you are not Muslim"

This guy seems pretty harmless. He's never threatened anyone, and he seems like an otherwise nice guy. It's a bit discomforting that he knows where we live now. But then again, he gives me a good chuckle when I read the last two lines of the letter:

"If you can help me I would be grateful forever... Even if you are a Jew."

Elder Weaver

Monday, November 8, 2010

another one about patience

Another slow week here in Albania-land. But that's all right. Sometimes no news is good news. Actually, wait. Not in missionary work.

A few points of interest: A woman randomly walked up to us the other night and started talking to us. At first I thought, "Oh no, another nutter". But I soon felt bad for thinking that. She shared with us that her son had recently passed away... because of a gang... in a very horrific manner. All this time she kept her composure, but she almost started crying near the end. Holy cow. I can never feel what it's like to be a mother who's lost a child, but even my inaccurate attemps of sympathy cripple my heart. She asked us where he was right now and if she would be able to see him again. We got to share a lot of the plan of salvation, and I could tell that made her feel a little better. We're trying to meet with her, but she lives way out of town and it's hard to set up a meeting time. I pray that the Lord will comfort her in her time of need.

Yesterday in church a brother ordained his son to the Aaronic Priesthood. This father was kind of shy and quiet, but he did a great job and gave a solid blessing. I definitely got the warm fuzzies.

Fatjon still doesn't have a baptismal date, but he still wants to meet with us, and I count that as a success. He could take 59 years to get baptized, but as long as he doesn't disappear, I won't be disappointed.

In more light-hearted news, we found this piece of art near the stadium, and I just couldn't miss the opportunity.

The kids here are definitely cultured
Well, that's all for this week. Everyone, have a great life! It's all up to you whether it's happy or not.

Elder Weaver

Monday, November 1, 2010

the one about slowing down

Ah, the temperature finally seems to have changed for good. I so much enjoy these cooler days with gray skies rather than the scalding hot days that make you feel like you're a grape on it's way to becoming a raisin. It seems to have a slowing down effect on people. They're less frantic and more willing to slow down and talk to you. I like it.

Speaking of slowing down, we realized Fatjon isn't going to rocket to baptism like we'd hoped. I was afraid of it, but we won't be able to baptize him on the original date. He's been having some problems that make it hard for him to read the Book of Mormon every day. We're trying our hardest to help him out in that aspect. I guess when you only have a few investigators it's easy to expect too much out of them. We just have to take it at his speed.

Also about changes, we had a member of the branch pass away Saturday night. Sister Çeli (chel-ee) had been battling cancer for some time, and my companion and I had given her two blessings. It's sometimes surprising how fast things change. Less than a week after we had given the second blessing, she left this mortal sphere to go on to better things. We had a small service in church on Sunday, where people were open to share their memories about Sister Çeli. The one common thread that tied everyone's words together was their testimony that Jesus lives, and that He opened the way to eternal life. The spirit was definitely there to comfort all who attended. We made the sacrament programs before we heard the news, and I find it appropriate we chose as the closing hymn, "God be with you 'till we meet again" It was a bittersweet thing to experience.

Speaking of bittersweet experiences, today we were going to take a free bus to this shopping-mall place to go ice skating, but we missed the bus twice and the landlord was going to come with a plumber later on to replace our water heater (it had been leaking slowly) so we decided to just go bowling. It was fun... but I didn't even break 100 on either game. It's times like these that I take solace in the fact that we aren't judged before God by our bowling scores.

Speaking of... dang, I give up. I can't tie this into bowling. Anyway, I decided to make some cookies. Just plain cookies; we didn't have any chocolate chips. Then I discovered that I get frustrated when I'm trying to make equal sized cookies without a scooper with a scrape-off action handle. Cookie batter just sticks really well to spoons and measuring cups. So I made one cookie. Then when I cut it in half to split it between us, I discovered another very important fact: our oven is lame. Apparently it doesn't get as hot as it says it does. The sides were cooked fine, but the center was pretty soft.

Kind of looks like I just commenced surgery on a shaved bear, huh.

We decided to eat it anyways. It was pretty good, but it kind of burned as it went down. Maybe we used one pinch too many of pure vanilla crystals.

Or maybe it was the root beer extract.

Elder Weaver

Monday, October 25, 2010

the one about patience

All right, cool. Important news first: Our investigator, Fatjon, now has a baptismal date for the 6th of November! Yay! We had two lessons with him this week, and they were both with an awesome member named Besmir Dishnica. He recently returned from a mission to Russia, so he knows how to teach pretty well. Lessons with a member are ALWAYS better, because they can explain things better than we can, and the investigator is much, much more apt to open up and ask more questions. I just hope we can continue to do that.

Less important news is that we went back to the eye place at the hospital and got my eye checked on again. They said it's healing and that I didn't need to come back again, but they still want me to do "not too much effort" for another two weeks. That means no soccer for two more weeks. I'm kind of tired of all this crippledness, not being able to even exercise. It's hard not to get impatient. But then President Neil came to the branch yesterday and gave a short talk encouraging the members to be patient and endure. He said he remembers back when he was a missionary in Italy in 1967. There were less than 100 members in the whole country and he only baptized one little old lady his whole mission. He thought, "How can the church ever grow here?" But then look at it today: thousands of members and a temple soon to be built (and he said President Monson broke ground for the temple on Saturday! Woot!). President Neil emphasized that all things will come to pass, but in the Lord's time. I guess I needed a reminder of that.

Cool, talk to you all later.

Elder Weaver

Monday, October 18, 2010

the one about eyes

This week's post'll be a short one. Not much to talk about. The best thing that's happened is that we got in contact with the investigator who had been missing for over a month. We had a good meeting with him and it turns out he's been in the hospital with an injured shoulder. His desire to learn is still strong, and he came to church yesterday. It's a very good outlook for Fatjon.

A member who has some friends in some places got some ballet tickets and wanted to invite the mission president and his wife and a senior couple to go along with them. For some reason, we were the middlemen for the message. None of them could go, but for a perplexing reason, president said we could go ourselves. So we did. It was my first ballet experience ever, and I have to say it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. The ballet was one by Chopin, the albanian name was "Dhimbje dhe Dashuri", I don't know the name in English, it wasn't a straight translation. I didn't really know what to expect, but there was a lot of piano music and jumping people. I liked the music well enough, and most of the dancers were pretty talented. An enjoyable evening altogether.

We went to the hospital on Wednesday and got my eye checked out. They looked with the standard scope thingy and then laid me down and smeared goo on my eye. Then they grabbed a big black stick and rubbed it all over the goo. It took me a while until I realized they were doing an ultrasound-type scan on my eye. That was a relief. Then they knew where to look and put me in another room and took pictures of my retina with a camera-machine which I'm pretty sure would be loads of fun to mess around with. But anyways, they said I had some small hemorrhages on the retina. They said it wasn't too serious, but serious enough to have me come back in 10 days, so I'm going back on Saturday. Until then, I have to take it easy. Use the elevator, not lift heavy objects, stuff like that. I'm just grateful I can still eat. Don't worry, I'll keep an... eye... on it. (oh man, I've been waiting six days to make that joke. I was about to explode with anticipation just then. I love it.)

Elder Weaver

Monday, October 11, 2010

the one about sudden returns

Ah... It's kind of hard sometimes to get really excited about people's conversions when they vanish after showing great promise. Elvis, the super-psychologist who promised God that he would be ready for his baptismal date, has totally disappeared, as well as all of our other investigators. Sometimes it's really hard to put forth the personal effort to teach people and really care about them when most of them will just dog you the next week...

But you know who's saying that? Satan, that's who. And what do you say to Satan when he's trying to get you down? You say, "Get thee the heck hence, Satan!" and you care about the people anyway. Sometimes they're just temporarily gone, too. One of our very promising guys, Fatjon (formerly spelled "Fation"), ran into the other elders and gave them his new number. We're pretty dang happy that he's back. And the other day we went to try and give a less-active lesson to a less-active member, but she wasn't at home and we ended up talking to her non-member husband. We did the usual small-talk, then got into religion, and he did the usual light bashing of religion in general. We asked the usual "why?" questions and we got to explain our beliefs in more detail, and he was surprised and we ended up with more in common that we thought we had. That usually happens. When people are informed about exactly what we believe, they're surprised at how logical and normal our beliefs are. We invited him to read the Book of Mormon, and he said he would. We also left a talk we had printed off ("Safety for the Soul" by Jeffrey R Holland, Oct. 2009 General Conference) that we were originally going to leave with his wife, but he said he'd read that, too. So yeah, there's some hope there, too.

Other noteworthy events: We were walking through a park that has a nice restaurant with outdoor tables, and we heard our names called. We looked over and it was a pair of Elders from 4th branch sitting at a table with many other people. We went over and a man insisted on buying us lunch. I got pork chops. They were delicious. Turns out that John Hansen here is from Salt Lake City. His company goes around to many different places in the world training the local police forces how to use forensic computer tools. He has a son on a mission in New Mexico, and he himself served in the Manhattan mission. A very nice man, indeed.

The other morning, we were playing soccer and the ball got kicked very hard. Normally, that happens. But what doesn't usually happen is that someone's eye is in the path of the kicked ball. That eye was my left one. I was blinded for a few seconds, but then I was fine. I still have a slight blind spot in the bottom of my peripheral vision. I might get it looked at. At least I didn't lose my contact!

We were going to visit someone we had found while tracting. Now, a lot of names here are also nouns, like Ilir (freedom) and gëzim (joy). This man's name was Festim, which means, "party". The lights were out in the stairwell and we went to what we thought was the right door. When we knocked, a woman in a bathrobe with wet hair answered the door. She, not knowing a man named Festim, heard this from us: "Good day! Is party here?" She looked confused and said, "Uhh.... no." Then we asked, "Oh. When will it come back?" Thoroughly creeped out by now, she said there was no party here and closed the door. We, realizing our mistake, first felt sheepish, then laughed. Hard.

Remember to shirk Satan, and have a good week!

Elder Weaver

Monday, October 4, 2010

the one where things pick up

This week has definitely been good. First, we were walking down the street and a guy comes up and wants to talk to us. He's been investigating the church for four years over the internet, and wanted to meet with us. His name is Elvis, and he's as cool as his name implies (actually, there are a lot of Elvises here in Albania). This man is only 22, but he is a psychologist working for an organization that helps people quit addictions. He's met with over 2000 people; 1000 or so of them have just stopped meeting with him, 700 of them he's helped recover, and 300 have died from their habits (smoking, drinking). He's really, really cool. On our first meeting with him, he accepted an October 30th baptismal date, and when he said the closing prayer, he asked God to help him work towards that date and he promised God that he'd be ready. I'm looking forward to working with this man.

We were tracting the other day and a man let us in. He claimed he wouldn't be converted; that he only wants to learn about what we believe like he's done with lots of other religions. But he was very eager to read the Book of Mormon, and that book alone might convert him. It's exciting to wonder what changes will happen in his life.

We got to go to the mission home on Saturday and Sunday at 6:00 pm to watch the 10:00 am sessions of general conference. It truly is a miracle that we, who were 6000 miles away, got to see and hear the prophet and the apostles. You know when they welcome those who are joining them through TV, radio, internet, satellite and stuff? I never thought I'd apply to that "satellite" category. It was a great experience; I loved all of the talks (especially Elder Holland's talk thanking everyone. You could feel that it was extremely heartfelt). I'm glad we'll be able to read all the talks in a few weeks in the Liahona, too.

Well, the only other exciting thing that happened was that we went to the local McDonald's ripoff called Kolonat for lunch (pronounced "colon-ought", as in, "your colon ought to be made of steel before you try this"). It actually wasn't that bad. The fries tasted kind of like McDonald's fries and the burger was decent, even though the meat tasted more like a sausage than beef.

I'm grateful things are picking up, and I'm looking forward to cooler temperatures.

Elder Weaver

Monday, September 27, 2010

the one about caves

Well, about the most exciting thing that's happened lately was Sunday's lunch/dinner. We cooked a half kilo of beans in the pressure cooker then added tomato sauce, corn and hot dogs. My idea. It was pretty tasty, and quite filling.

This last week has been very slow, but with one additional baptismal date! This man (Adrian) has been an investigator for a while, and was close to baptism a few months ago, but then he found out he can't go back to the states where his wife and three kids are (long story). He took that pretty hard (who wouldn't?) and the baptism was postponed. We've set another date with him and are really helping him along as much as we can; hopefully he'll do all he can, too.

Oh yeah, and today we took our district trip a few miles out of town to a little village where there were cows and donkeys and chickens!. We went a little past the village then got out and hiked for about a mile and a half. I took some pictures along the way. Then we got to our destination of a cave. The cave had bats. Bats do not use indoor plumbing. The floor was their plumbing (but it just smells like dirt). We slowly made our way through, slipping and sliding along the way, taking pictures and admiring the bats. It was a great hike, and the caves were dang cool. I even got to check something off of my bucket list  -- slip and hit your head on a rock in a cave full of bats.

I hope next week is more exciting (in terms of missionary work, that is). Nevertheless, I didn't come on a mission just for the busy times; I came for the whole experience.

Elder Weaver

Yeah, I'm wearing sunglasses in a cave. What of it?

Monday, September 20, 2010

the one about invisible angels

Wow, it's still pretty warm these days, for being in the middle of September. I really hope it starts to cool down permanently soon. This week has been... interesting.

We were tracting a building, not having much success, when on the last door we knocked, we found the other elders' disappearing investigator! That's the third very unlikely meeting I've had with him. The chances of knocking on his door out of the thousands of other doors in our area is pretty small. I'm sure the Lord is trying to give him a heads up that he needs to meet with us more often, heh.

I think I'm beginning to feel a little bit like the prophets of old. They preached and taught with all their hearts, and yet the people would not listen. We had another meeting with Mirela, the not-filled-with-gratitude lady. She was a little bit better than last time; she didn't want to give up on life and die. That's a good thing, so we're going to keep meeting with her. If we don't die because of frustration in the process, that is. Every time we talk with her, we try and let her see how reading the scriptures and praying to God will start her on the path to true happiness. The thing of it is, she has some pretty conflicting ideas: She believes in the bible, of course! She believes the words of Christ, no problem! But she doesn't believe in life after death. Well, let's see, if you believe in Christ, and He said there was definitely a life after death... then you would believe there is a life after death, right? Not in her view. She's going to take a lot of praying and studying.

We had an interesting experience the other day. We had a meeting with Olgert, our awesome baptismal date. He brought a friend. This friend is a very special person. "I sees angels! In fact, there's an angel in that corner over there!" (what are you supposed to say to that? "How many fingers is it holding up?"?)This friend's pupils also would not dilate, but I don't think that was related to it ;) This special friend was a bit disruptive, but when told to shut up by Olgert he happily quieted down. We still managed to have a good lesson and we haven't seen that special friend since.

Until next time,

Elder Weaver

Monday, September 13, 2010

the one about turning tables

This has been a week full of surprises. Well, ok, only two surprises, but they're both pretty dang cool.

First surprising night: We went on a 2.5 day exchange with the other elders so they could attend a leadership training meeting. It was me and another elder who only has two months in the country. We were street contacting, and I tried to talk to a mother and daughter, but they just kind of blew us off. I don't take anything personal, but I was getting tired of it, so I suggested we walk to a different location. The other elder agreed, but suggested we take a slightly different route. Lo and behold, we ran into one of their lost investigators! He seemed happy to see us and said his phone ran out of money and that's why the other elders couldn't contact him. We set up a meeting for 7pm that night and we were super stoked about it. Sadly, the time of the appointment came and went, and he didn't show. We did some more finding, then right before we went in for the night, I realized we needed more ketchup for my breakfast. On the way back from the store, I decided I wanted some grilled corn from one of the numerous corn people around the city. We went to one and it took us a while to realize it, but the guy who ditched us was right there getting some corn, too! We talked to him and he said he had work, but would come to church for sure. That was a fun night.

A few nights later we actually got a hold of the investigator who had a baptismal date but who'd been missing for about two weeks. We set up an appointment and waited about 15 minutes after he was supposed to show, but he didn't. Right as we were leaving he showed up! I'm glad we waited as long as we did; the Lord was keeping us there a little longer for a reason. Turns out he's been reading the Book of Mormon pretty consistently, and he's been praying a lot. One cool thing is that he said he got an answer when he prayed that he should stick with this church and these missionaries, which is awesome, because before, he sometimes got confused as to which church was ours and which ones weren't. We've moved his baptismal date back, but it looks like it's still happening.

I love this work, and I know the Lord is helping it along all the time.

Elder Weaver

Monday, September 6, 2010

the one about free private english course

This area isn't exactly bursting with investigators, but that's OK. We're doing everything in our power to teach the people we do have and strengthen the branch.

We had our super-cool investigator come to church again yesterday, and he stayed for all three hours, which is sweet.

Well, that's the only investigator-related story this week. We meet with a lot of less-actives when they have time. We have been doing a ton more contacting, and we've found something we think works pretty well. We have a big white board we carry around that says "Free private English course!" (in Albanian, duh). We go to hotspots of people and set it up on a tripod. Even just carrying it around between stops we get lots of people coming up and asking about it. We explain that we'll meet them when they want, where they want, and as Americans we'll teach them all the English they want to know. All we ask in return is that they also listen to a short lesson for religion after we teach them English. We had more people talk to us than had ever talked to us before in one night. Some of those people we are currently teaching, some never answered their phone. But then again, that was just the first time we used it. We expect to use it many, many more times and gets tons of contacts. We have high hopes for this little board!

Wow, this has been a dang short email. Hopefully next week will be longer.

Elder Weaver

Elders Fisher and Weaver

Monday, August 30, 2010

the one about contrasts

Woot, new area! Actually, old-new area, since I walked all around this area daily my first transfer in the country. It's pretty cool seeing all the old branch members. It's fun talking to them when they say, "Wow, you're much better at talking!” My new companion, Elder Fisher, is awesome too. We're both huge gamers. We have similar senses of humor. He's from Idaho, and we like to talk about what our LAN rooms are going to be like in our future houses. We're basically all-around dorks, or "geeks", if you will.

I forgot to say last week, but two weeks ago back in the old area, I was on exchanges with another Elder and we were contacting people in the park. A lady came up to us and asked if we spoke French. No... Italian? No... German? The other Elder pointed at me and I gave my usual spiel about how I can't remember much German, but she went off and I understood the words "religion" and "Jesus". Then the other Elder asked if she was an Albanian (in Albanian) and she said yes, and we finally had a little conversation. Then later on in the night, we were talking to another guy and he mentioned he had lived in Austria. I asked him if he learned German and then HE went off for a full minute and I only caught about half of it. Funny how many languages some of these people know.

I'm pretty happy; we had two investigators in church yesterday. One guy's name is Olgert, and he has a great desire to get baptized. We have a baptismal date for him on the 18th of September. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he really wants to stop smoking and drinking and he wants to stay on the good road. The other guy is named Fatione. We met him my first day in the area, when we had a "free private English course" board displayed on the street. He asked about it and we explained that we will teach him English for free when he wants, where he wants, as long as he also lets us teach him about the Gospel. He said he wasn't interested in religion but that he would take us up on our offer. When we met with him, he didn't even mention English; he just wanted to know about our faith. He knows the bible surprisingly well, and he was very interested in all we had to say in answer to his questions. When he was in church, he was reading scriptures out loud and participating in Sunday School, and afterwards he was socializing and making friends all around. He's going to be a great member, I can feel it.

And finally, last Wednesday we had a most peculiar experience. We went to see a woman in her house/workshop. Mirela here is the top clothing designer/maker in Albania. She works very hard and it looks like she's pretty financially secure. We got to talking, and she thinks that God has abandoned her. We inquire why. She says her prayers are not being answered, that she has no blessings whatsoever in her life, and that she wouldn't mind if she died. We ask what she wants, what she's been praying for. She says she doesn't pray for money, she just wants to be the best in the world in her work. Whenever we try to help her see how God has blessed her, with a steady and good-paying job, health, and a good family, she refuses to consider that evidence of God's love for her. We spent over two hours talking to her, but she just would not soften her heart and consider that God loved her. It was one of the most frustrating talks I've had in this country. We were walking home venting our frustration and trying to see how we could help her. We stopped to get milk on the way home and talked to the storekeeper, asking the usual "How are you?" and "How's work?” She said "Work's not great, but I thank God every day. I thank God I have my family and that I'm alive. I just thank God." We were both speechless. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but I think that experience was to make our day better.

Be grateful and be careful!

Elder Weaver

Zone Conference, August 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

the one about manual labor

Ah, what a fun week!

Early on I went on an exchange with an Elder in the other district. We did some street contacting at a big park, and there was an Indian band doing their pan-flute and bongo thing, and the music was dang catchy. I think they were like, South American indians or something, but they were sweet. We talked to them and the one that spoke English said they traveled all around playing their music, and he said he's seen missionaries like us in Russia.

In the evening, we went and visited the Kokonas, an awesome family. They've been memebers for a little over a decade. They're an elderly couple, very strong in the church. Their son was actually the first person baptized in Albania, and then he went and served a mission in San Diego. Then they showed us pictures of where they've been, and they've been to temples all around europe and a few in America. It turned out that Brother Saim Kokona was a pretty prolific filmmaker. He showed us a book that someone had done on his life and career. It was pretty cool seeing how he grew up in 30's/40's Albania, where I'm sure things were much different. There were also pictures on the sets of his films. He made something like 20 art films and 20 nature films. I guess he's well-respected in the art film world, because every year he's invited to and goes to Prague to a convention or recognition event of some sort. Interesting to know he's so close to us.

On Saturday, we went and hiked up a hill to help a member move some dirt. He lives in kind of a new apartment complex way, way up in the hills where they have private villas with armed security guards. We shoveled dirt from a pile into a wheelbarrow, then moved it about 30 feet over and spread it out on the ground. It was hard labor, and it felt good. On our way home I fell to temptation and bought an ice cream bar called a Magnum Gold. I don't think I got sick from lack of quality control, because these things are premium. It was a buck fifty for this thing, butterscotch flavor, and they come in a nice thick wrapper, so you'd think they'd be fine. But maybe I'm allergic to something in it, because about 10 minutes after we got home, it literally felt like there were ninja stars in my stomach. I don't know what the heck happened, but whatever it was, it hurt bad. It eventually passed, but I was weak for a few mintues.

Then we got our transfer call. I'm going back to third branch! Yay! I'm going to the area I wasn't in the first time, to serve with an Elder Fisher. I'm kind of sad to leave this place. We've had a lot of work and the branch is amazing, but I guess special circumstances over there necessitated (heh, I used a big word) my switching with another Elder. Well, farewell second branch, you've been cool.

Until next week,

Elder Weaver

Monday, August 16, 2010

the one about "you speak-a the English?"

Well, I've been sick with a cold/almost flu-type sickness; had to stay in two days this week, but I'm on the recovery, so that's good. A lot of staying in the house makes for not-so-many stories, but here goes.

We met again with a lady named Vali, who we ran into a few weeks ago. She was wanting a Bible, and we told her we don't sell them, but if she could meet with us and talk about scripture and all. She did meet with us and we had a pretty good discussion. It's fun doing these little getting-to-know-you talks because people are usually reserved and hold back at first, but once they find out more about us and that we're not too weird, they open up a lot more. She has a pretty strong belief in God, and she prays a lot, which is always a good sign. But she's also read a lot of these dumb books that float around the country. See, Albania is still a little closed-off from the world, and you get a few of these "philosophers" who write books about how religion is wrong, and they usually write a little about the major religions. Most of these books say that Mormons still practice polygamy, and it makes me laugh that these writers still have over 100 years of catching up to do. But we answered all her questions and such and she's looking forward to learning more.

We came in contact with another guy who we'd contacted weeks before. He just said to us "You speak-a the English?" and we found out he wanted to learn English, and we do that, as long as they're willing to learn about the gospel, too. It's kind of funny how we met again. We took the bus to Kombinat, a suburb of Tirana about 10 minutes out. We were going to visit a family we visit every week, but when we got there, they called us and said they wouldn't be able to meet. We were waiting at the bus stop to go back, feeling kind of bummed, but God had a plan. The same guy who we talked to on the road weeks before got off the bus and came up and greeted us! So we went to a cafe and sat down and had a good 'ol talk. He has some good potential.

That's all!

Elder Weaver

Monday, August 9, 2010

the one about meeting folks

Let's see, what to say...? It's been pretty dang slow. But, I do have one cool story I can tell!

We decided on Saturday to go set up a table near a park. I guess everyone else had the same idea, because we ended up with six missionaries around the table talking to people. Sometimes people are a little put off by large groups of CIA-looking chaps, but that time people were actually stopping more than if it were just two missionaries. We just stick out our hand and say "Greetings!" and if the person is interested, they'll stop and shake our hand and listen. We had good conversations with people and we got three numbers we're going to call soon.

One guy we talked to agreed to meet us at noon to talk more. We waited until about 20 minutes past noon, and decided he wasn't showing, so we started to head back home for lunch, but just as we were walking through the park, I spotted his black and purple striped shirt from about 75 yards away, and we went and got him. We took him to the church and had a good "zero" lesson. In a zero lesson, we do a bit of an overview of what we're all about, and mention that we are here to baptize people. We also taught him to pray. I love it when people pray for the first time. Usually they're a little nervous or reluctant, but we teach them how simple it is, and we usually help them along during the prayer. It's just fun seeing someone really pray hard from the heart for the first time. That's one of the main ways we feel the spirit in lessons.

That's about it. Stay safe, and stuff.

Elder Weaver

(Views from our apartment balcony)

Monday, August 2, 2010

the one about street contacting

Alrighty then, what happened this week? Well, one pearl in the oyster is that the guy named Agron whom I taught in third branch got baptized yesterday! He's really come a long way, quitting smoking, drinking and he's found work, and I must say, he looks like a changed man. Another cool thing about it is that Elder Allen, who went home in April for some really bad headaches, was able to come back out in time to baptize him. That was sweet. 

On our end of the scope, pretty much everyone we meet with is on vacation until around September, so we're doing a lot more finding activities to refill our teaching pool. Street contacting, I've gotta say, is great. It's hard sticking your hand out and saying "greetings!" to a random person, then holding the conversation and steering it towards sharing the Gospel. But it really feels great when you get someone who actually talks to you, and even if you don't get their number or a return meeting, it's good when they ask questions and you just have a nice, informative talk.

Some of the girls we meet with for an English class are at the beach, but one of them really seems to have potential. She wants to read the Book of Mormon, and man, when people want to read it without you asking them to... that's awesome!

We are pretty dang blessed here. This country has progressed just enough to have most of the comforts of home, food wise. We make a nice pasta meal every Sunday and usually on Tuesdays we cook a huge pot of ham-fried rice that lasts us almost 3 days. I also love to snag a few nectarines on the way home, and if they're too tart, it's nothing a little sugar won't solve.

And last of all, I heard a pretty funny threat. A guy who we teach was relating a story about how he really told someone off after they asked why he was meeting with those dang Americans. He said "Ki kujdës herën tjetër. Do hash kokën tënde", which when translated for meaning, is "Be careful next time. You'll eat your head". Doesn't make much sense, but that makes it even funnier.

Stay frosty, people!

Monday, July 26, 2010

the one about a wheelchair

Ahh, finally a break from the heat. It rained pretty hard yesterday and today is nice and cloudy.

Yesterday we had the first baptism that I've been a part of! Her name is Vanina, and she'd been an investigator for about 4 years. When I got here a few weeks ago, she came to the point where she had to really decide whether she wanted to be a part of this great work or not. Good thing she chose to get baptized. She's a very smart 18 year old and she knows a lot about many churches.

I'm kind of tickled with myself; I now have a cheesy story about helping someone in a wheelchair. I think everyone secretly wants a wheelchair story. Anyway, it all started a few weeks ago when one of the missionary couples were recognized by another couple who'd recieved a wheelchair from the church for their son. The church gave these wheelchairs to the community as a humanitarian thing, not a proselyting tool. But the people who got the wheelchair wanted missionaries over anyway to talk with them, so that was cool. We went to their house and met them and their son who uses the wheelchair. They adopted him as a baby after his mother died in labor. He was born parylyzed from the thighs down, so he can get around the house on his knees well enough, but the wheelchair really helps to go out and about. He's in his late 30's and is a bit slow mentally, but not too much. Yesterday we took him to church, and I piloted him from the bus to the church, then at church, I took him to the investigator's class after sacrament meeting. He's no lightweight and I had to haul him up 2 flights of stairs. Good thing I'm so buff. It's just a small sacrifice to help my fellow man to be fed spiritually.

Well, that's about it. Things are going great. Bye!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quarter way

Huh, tomorrow is the 25% mark. That went fast.

Man, I am so glad the weather supposedly hit it's hottest point last week. Just yesterday, it was 40 degrees Celsius. Now, if my math is right, that's 108 Fahrenheit. When you add the humidity, I make for one drenched missionary. I sweat so much it just looks like I poured water on myself. Luckily I use military-grade deodorant. A few of these Albanians should take a hint from me and use some. Buses are miserable with the heat and the smell and the people packed in like sardines. But at least the buses are cheap: 30 cents a person. Very useful when we're running a bit late.

We're doing pretty well, but a lot of our work is going to disappear. We're teaching some kids whose mom is a member, but their school will start up again soon, so we won't be able to meet as often. A recently-baptized member who we have retention lessons with will be attending university in France, and a few other people we teach are going to be going on long vacations. And Adam will be returning to England in a week. Hopefully with all of these people, we've helped them have a desire enough to continue being taught with us after they get back, or to contact the missionaries where they'll be living. We'll be starting to have less-active lessons with a really, really strong member. The problem is, he's starting work at 2 jobs, 15 hours a day, to get out of a rough spot. It will only be for a few months, but he won't be able to attend church, and technically, he'll be a "less-active" member. So we're going to be visiting him on a few of his lunch breaks at work, to see how he's doing and lift his spirits. He's the guy who learned English in England and sounds like an Irishman. He's hilarious.

Not much else to say. I'm gonna go sweat somewhere.

Elder Weaver

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hello there

Ahh, back in Tirana!

I must not lie... I love it here. I've missed the big city feel with the big city people. Everyone here is more open to new ideas and such than in smaller towns. One thing I like about being here is that we're always busy. Mostly with teaching, and when we have an hour or two once a week that we don't have a lesson scheduled, we try a little finding.

Friday we had mission conference, and we were trained by Elder Causse, a counselor in the presidency of the 70 over Europe. He taught us many things, but mostly that all we do comes from our desires. Scripture after scripture illustrates that it was the person's desires that guided them to do certain things, whether they be good or bad. We were also taught to look for specific people when we find, not just sift through random masses and hope we strike it lucky. So we tried it.

We went to the artificial lake on Saturday to find a man in his 20's or 30's. Well, we went around one side of the lake, found nobody, went back and started on another path, and it took a bit of courage, but we finally walked up to a black man (pretty dang rare here) stretching his hamstrings. He started talking to us in English, which we were expecting, but we weren't expecting the Jamaican accent! We found out that Sisi here was living in Dubai, and he came here to play soccer for one of the small cities to kind of take a break for awhile. He's half Nigerian and half Jamaican, and he seemed interested, so we're going to hook him up with the Elders in the area he's living in.

We went out and had a "coffee" with an investigator of ours. We do this a lot here. Once people get more comfortable with us, they take us out to a cafe to chat. We usually sit at the outside tables. I get a Fanta Exotic (mmm), and we just talk about them and get to know them more and teach a few principles of the gospel. I got to know Fatione better on Saturday. He speaks English pretty well, so it wasn't as hard to have a good conversation. Turns out, he likes a lot of the same comedians we do, and like me, loves electronic music. We talked about our favorite DJs and genres and stuff and it was really great!

The language is coming along full steam ahead. A lot of things we learned in the MTC about the grammar is making sense now, and I'm seeing how it all fits together. Constantly when my mind is wandering, thinking random phrases, it's also trying to translate those phrases without my permission. This happened with German, and its happening now. In passive listening, I can understand most words and what's going on 96% of the time, but when people talk directly at me, it goes down to like 64.6%, which I hear is pretty normal for everyone.

We visited a man named Adam for the first time yesterday. He's from England and married a less-active member, and she wanted us to teach him a bit to see if he's interested. I like Adam. He's a pretty laid-back guy, likes electronic music also, and loves to read. He was discernably excited when we gave him his own copy of the Book of Mormon and wants to read it as soon as he can.

Speaking of English speakers with non-American accents, there's a member named Mario who spent a few years in England and speaks to us in English with an Irish accent, which I think is pretty dang cool-sounding. He's a very strong member, and we've had great discussions with him. He's great to have in a lesson because he's great at connecting with people, making them feel at ease with his warm sense of humor.

Sunday we didn't have normal church meetings, instead all the members in Albania met at the Palace of Congress (really just a big auditorium) here in Tirana. There were sadly only about 200 people there, but that's ok. We heard a great talk by Elder Causse about covenants and he urged the members to get a temple recommend, and then make every effort to go to the temple in Switzerland. If they couldn't get to the temple, then at least they would have a recommend and be living worthy of it. We also heard President Niel, our mission president, describe how he was blessed to be one of the first missionaries in Italy. He remembers thinking "How could the church ever grow here?", and now, 40 or 50 years later, there are 7 stakes and a temple soon to be built. He said the same thing could happen here.

Goodbye, I'm going to go enjoy my special treat now.
My very own Mountain Salami. From Austria!
Elder Weaver

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hey there

Another week comes to a close, and the hot season is that much closer to ending... though I fear it hasn't hit it's max yet. I think I'm getting used to the heat because I don't even notice when I start sweating and when I stop. Today we went to a caged in football (soccer) pitch and played a game with us 4 missionaries and about 5 of the 12-30 year-old members. I wasn't expecting to have much fun, but surprisingly, I did! Maybe I just haven't been running around in so long I've missed it. By the end of the game, I think I'd lost about 2 kilos in sweat, but I was sure to drink it back.

The mustachioed beret-man came to church again, but he left before the meetings started. It may have been because the elder he was obsessed with finally took a hard stance against the borderline groping. Elder Asquith smacked beret-man's hands away and said "Mos më prek!" (Don't touch me!). I would have done the same.

It's kind of sad, but the baptism we had scheduled for yesterday didn't happen at all. The two girls who committed to baptism haven't come to church or activities or anything since we last talked to them over 3 weeks ago. Oh well, people have their agency, I just wish they could see how great the Gospel is and how it can help them.

Well, Fier has been interesting and a good experience for me, but I found out Saturday night that I'm being transferred back up to Tirana! *quiet "yay"s are heard* I'll be going to 2nd branch, and I get to be companions with Elder Moyes, of whom I have heard much good about.

Well, uhh... bye!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Another week

Hot dog, another week gone! I can't believe in less than a month I'll be a quarter way done.

This week has been kind of crazy. I've never really appreciated how hard it is to plan and execute a church activity, until we had to do one Friday. All week stressing out over plans and doing it in what little free time we had. Four missionaries with the combined creativity of a fly make for a hard time. BUT, it worked out ok in the end.

We first took people into the sacrament hall where they could choose two paths: one was wide and easy, the other path wound through chairs and had an obstacle blocking the way which they needed to ask the helper (me) to move. If they went the easy way, they got water sprinkled in their face. If they chose the more difficult path and asked for help, they got a little candy bar. We then read some scriptures afterwards about how the path of the adversary is easy and many find it, but strait is the gate and narrow is the way of the Lord. I don't know if it really stuck, since half of them chose the easy path and the other half never actually asked for help.

Then we fed them real american hamburgers. It was hard finding good quality beef, so we had to special-order ground veal. They were really good, and even though only about 15 people showed up, 5 kilos of meat was somehow a perfect amount. The rest of the night was spent by people doing their folky-albanian dancing and me hiding in the library so I wouldn't get pulled into it.

This last Sunday was... interesting. We had a man wearing a beret and a funky mustache join us for church. He seems to have an unhealthy fascination with Elder Asquith, hugging his stomach and calling him his brother about 14 times. The line he kept saying that got me the most, though, was "Your father made you beautiful".

Well, until next time!

Monday, June 21, 2010


Bad news: Our power was out last night, which meant no anti-mosquito fan for me. I woke up and scratched for half an hour.
Good news: It wasn't that hot last night, so at least I wasn't sweating and scratching.

Bad news: We just spent two hours getting the run-around trying to pay our electric bill. We finally got the matter resolved at the city headquarters.
Good news: The places we were told to go were no more than a 2-minute walk.

Bad news: I gave my first talk in church yesterday.
Good news: I gave my first talk in church yesterday!

Things are going well as usual. It's been raining today, which makes me happy because it means I'm covered in water and not sweat.

One thing I've learned while here: I didn't judge people before my mission, but now I really don't! That guy on the street with a cigarette in his hand and tattoos all over is probably a really nice guy and everyone could use the gospel.

Man, I'm having less and less to say. We keep visiting less-actives and non-actives. We haven't had any success with the people we've met the last few weeks, but the people we do meet with have been bringing friends to church, which is awesome! Also, a few people from the English class we teach have been coming.

Hopefully this will be a more eventful week!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Week... hot

Mission log: It's hot. I seem to be excreting a permanent layer of water-proof oil. It keeps the sweat rolling around, but what the true purpose is, I have no idea. Candy melts inside of it's wrapper, even in the shade. The majestic tree-octopus has almost disappeared from the surrounding forests. Children cry because their ice cream melts in their hands before they can get a taste. My sweat rag is the only thing between me and insanity. The child in me wants to run through a sprinkler, if they had sprinklers here. But I'd probably get third-degree burns from the water. I have to plan ahead and freeze half a bottle of water if I want a cool drink. There is no cool-down period from a shower, only a warm-up period. I have a fan blowing on me all night long, never needing a blanket. The fan helps keep the mosquitos away, which seem to prefer my face and knuckles more than anything else.

On the cooler side of things, 2 of our investigators now have baptismal dates! These 2 mid-teen girls are friends who've been investigators a fairly long time. I'm thankful to the Lord they finally took that big step of setting a date. Now we're trying to meet with them 2 or 3 times a week to teach them more and review what they've already been taught before they get baptized. I'm excited to see this process; it's amazing to see the change in people's lives and countenances.

Stay cool!