Monday, May 31, 2010

Hello again!

Whew, things have settled down now and I've gotten into the routine of things. Almost all of our time is dedicated to strengthening the members, like our nightly visits to a man named Ylli, and he's been coming back to church, which is great. We need more men to come; so far we only have 3 priesthood holders in the branch. It's a real challenge trying to get a branch to work on its own, right now the missionaries have to do everything, and that's kind of not how it's supposed to be. Every Wednesday we catch a furgone (taxi-bus-thing) to Lushnje about 30 minutes away, where we visit the one family that's still active and try to visit with other individuals.

I've been thinking lately about how the Lord helps us out. All throughout the scriptures, and in our lives, when people turn away from God, He withdraws his blessings. It's the times when we fend for ourselves and try to rely on our own strength that we utterly fail and realize we need the Lord in our lives. Once we realize that and truly repent, He is eager and happy to give us the help we need.

I've been studying the Old Testament a bit and it's interesting to see how only when Israel was being plagued with problems (heh, heh) did they humble themselves and turn back to the Lord. The same cycle is repeated all over in the Book of Mormon, too. It's my goal in life to not need that much chastisement from God, and any challenges that do come, I need to realized that they are only for my good. I'll share now my favorite verse from my favorite hymn, 'How Firm a Foundation':

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Stay strong in the Lord!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hello from Fier!

Well, here I am! Fier is much smaller than Tirana, and it's weird not having to dodge cars all the time. It's a much more small-town feeling this time around. Instead of a 15 minute walk to the church it's only about 5, which is nice.

Speaking of church, it's in another rented out commercial space. There were about 22 people in sacrament meeting, which was actually the highest it's been in awhile, I hear. We have an English course 3 times a week and mutual on Fridays, so we're there a lot.

My companion, Elder Griffith, is from Iowa. We get along great. He's kind of quiet like me, but once you get him talking he's pretty funny. He's got a pretty big responsibility, too, because he's branch president. We are doing a lot of retention and reactivation, talking with less-actives and visiting them frequently. I'm still learning about everybody and what they need, maybe I can share stories another time.

We've got a pretty nice place here to live in, it's on the 4th floor of a small apartment block. I'll try to get pictures next time, we still haven't cleaned it up all the way. Last transfer there were 4 elders living in it, and none of them were big on neatness, if you know what I mean. I had to sweep the kitchen area to keep from going mad.

Our district is pretty cool, the other elders who just moved into the new-for-us apartment are elders Buys and Asquith. It's nice to see elder Asquith, we went through the MTC together.

Well, it's sure different here, I'm excited to see what will happen. Until next time!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

First transfer….. done!

Wow, a whole transfer period is done... That went fast.

Not much has changed, except Gazmend, the one we have high hopes for, contacted us again! He'd been busy looking for work and couldn't meet with us, but he's coming to church again and is trying to find times to meet. It's great to see someone who really wants to change their life and accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our other investigators continue to meet when they can, and every time we try to help them come closer to their Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. The sad part is, we sometimes have to drop people. If they consistently don't answer our calls or don't show up for appointments, we have to say "good luck on your own" and hope they get a desire to contact us sometime in the future. A few of our investigators are at that point, so we just hope and pray for them, but in the meantime, we find more people!

Tracting is an OK way to find those who are ready to hear the Gospel, at least here in Albania. We've had much more success in this area doing tables, where we set up a little display at the parts of the city with heavy foot traffic. We've found quite a few investigators this way, and had many good and enlightening conversations with people who are just curious as to who we are.

Tirana has been a great first area, but now I've been called to serve in Fier! (fee-air) It's more down south, not quite to the coast, and a lot smaller than Tirana. I've heard that I'm in for a lot more tracting, but I'm fine with that. I'm just happy to serve wherever I can.

I know all your prayers and support help me and other missionaries in many ways, some which we can see and some we can't.


Monday, May 10, 2010


This week's update is kind of short because...there isn't much to say. We tract, we street contact, we teach.

Not much has changed since last week, as far as investigators. They all continue to progress slowly, and some not-so-surely. All we can do is our best, and the Lord will take care of the rest!

There are pretty bad things happening in Greece, I hear. Thankfully things aren't as bad here. We do have a bit of excitement, though. On May 1st, there was a huge protest at the main square. They say there were over 200,000 people, but police say there were less. I don't know who to believe. As far as I can tell, they want the prime minister out of office. There have been little gatherings every night since then, and they'll continue to gather until something changes. We had to walk by there last night coming home from a baptism, and the police had blocked off a road and there were probably 30 officers standing, blocking the road. I personally don't think much is going to happen; our investigators say it's really serious. Oh well, come what may and love it!

Hopefully this week will be more eventful (in a good way), so I can have more to write about.


Monday, May 3, 2010

random post title

The road goes ever on and on... The work goes on and on, too! It takes a lot of mining to find the gems.

Reni is a good soul who's been investigating for a while now. He's been taught all the lessons and then some. He doesn't come to church that often but we continue to meet with him. He's learning English so he likes to watch church videos with us.

Kozeta has been meeting us only about twice a month, and we haven't had a chance to turn her over to the sisters yet. She has lots of great questions and seems to have great potential. She hasn't been to church yet because she drives down to Durres every weekend to visit her parents.

Hallit is a great guy, speaks English pretty well. We have good discussions with him.

Agrone seems to be our most promising prospect right now. He was being taught a few months ago, then dropped off the radar. All of a sudden he showed up recently! He's been having trouble finding work, but he hasn't smoked or drunk (drank?) for 3 months, and he seems like he really wants to change. We're excited for him.

There was one man named Gazmend. He was referred to us by his friend who served a mission in Italy. He was golden! He seemed to accept everything we taught him with an open mind and also seemed to have a real desire to be baptized. But about 2 weeks ago he completely disappeared. We can't get a hold of him at all. I guess in cases like that all you can do is hope for the best and move on. You can't agonize over the past if you know you did all you could, and I know we did, so... Yeah, I hope he gets back in touch.

Other than those, we have Hermes, a 12-year old boy that I do believe will be in an area 70 someday. When we meet with him for retention lessons, we have him teach us principles. His knowledge of the scriptures is immensely more impressive than mine was at that age.

On Sundays, the attendance at the branch is about 45 people. That's about average for all the branches in Albania. My first Sunday in the country I was asked to give my testimony, and to my knowledge I gave a decent one with hopefully not too much false doctrine in it. Last Sunday I sealed the oil for a blessing, reading the words off a card. It was a good experience, might be awhile before I feel comfortable giving a full blessing in Albanian, though.
Uhh... God be with you all the time! Especially until we meet again!

(bonus points to my nerd friends who get the allusion of the post title)