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!