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