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!
Zone Conference, August 2010