Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Was Pretty Much the Best

Hey mom!

Yeah Christmas was pretty much the best. I loved it. Ha ha and yeah I was doing fine too until we had to say goodbye! That’s so hard. But it’s good to get back to normal just like you said. It felt really good to just get back to work and try to do something so I didn’t have to think about home. But man that was so fun. But I’m glad you guys had a good Christmas with lots of people! It’s always good to be with others on Christmas. Ha ha I love the pictures of you guys and Bear and all your new stuff. It looks like you had plenty of fun.

Well not much has happened since Friday. =) Danieli came to sacrament meeting again. Hopefully we’re going to meet with him tomorrow or Wednesday before he leaves to Korça for New Year’s. The holidays are murdering missionary work. In our weekly planning this week, we only had one person to plan for because everybody else is gone and we haven’t been able to find anybody else that can meet with us. Most everybody goes home for the holidays and a lot of people are just in Tirana for school or work or something. So this week should be interesting. We’ll see how it goes.

Ha ha funny story. So at the Christmas party, there was this kid there whose name is Hermës and nobody like knew who he was, but he was just acting like a member and he is way awesome and stuff. He came Sunday too and finally one of the other elders was like, “Who are your parents?” trying to like find out who’s kid he was. We found out that he’s not even baptized! He’s not a member! He is just a friend of another boy in the branch. So we sat him down yesterday after church for like 10 minutes and talked about the temple because he wanted to learn about it. So the other elders got set up with some good future lessons in the presence of a member! Ha ha he rocks.

So yeah that’s pretty much all I can think of for this week! Oh, those words. I actually wrote one of those wrong. Its e gëzofsh which means may it make you happy. And “të dua shumë” means I love you a lot! =)

Sorry about the no pictures thing. We kinda did e-mail spontaneously so we didn’t have time to go back to the house to get my stuff. Next week!

I love you, mom!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, December 21, 2009

“The elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.”

Hello Mom!

Ha ha I love how the first thing you wrote was, “So what is Bible bashing?” That was pretty funny. I can’t believe you’ve never heard of that! Bible bashing is when you just like debate about the scriptures and stuff. Like, “Well this scripture says. . . .” “Oh yeah! Well this scripture says this. . . .” And so on and so forth. So there ya go. That really doesn’t happen a lot in Albania, but it does sometimes. I am a horrible bible basher because I don’t have enough scriptural knowledge to compete, but I guess it’s a good thing not to be a bible basher. Fighting isn’t really what the Lord is going for. Besides, “The elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” (Some scripture reference that I can’t remember.) Another interesting thing. Today we went to eat at this place called the Stephens Center. It’s owned by an American I guess and it has something to do with some church organization. Anyway, there’s a bookstore attached onto it and I saw something interesting in there: a pamphlet called “Ç’është Mormonizmi?” (What is Mormonism?) I couldn’t help but read the first page and see some good old false conclusions about us. Oh yeah. Love it.

Okay well, I don’t really know what to write for this week. We seriously were blessed. We taught 11 lessons this week compared to like 6 or whatever last week. We met our “other lessons” goal which was really cool and we found 4 new investigators! Although pretty much all of those have already fallen through, but that’s okay. Really we have one that is really good right now. His name is Danieli. I don’t know if I’ve told you about him before, but he was the one that bore his testimony in fast and testimony meeting two weeks ago. Well this week, he couldn’t come to first hour, but I told him to come for second hour and he came! He participated too which was cool. Tonight we’re actually going to be talking with him and committing him to baptism. I am kinda nervous, but really excited for it. I don’t know if he really knows if it’s true yet, though. But this will let him know that we really want him to pray about it to see if it is the right thing to do. He has read a little and he has prayed, but just not specifically to know about the truth. But I have faith that he will receive an answer to his prayers.

That’s basically all the exciting news I can think of right now! Christmas here is weird. I didn’t want to embrace the Christmas season because it was making me sad that I wasn’t at home (and it still does sometimes) but our branch has been preparing for the Christmas party tomorrow and I realized how much I really love the Christmas season. I’ve started singing Christmas songs to myself in the road and tracting and stuff and now I’m kinda regretting the un-embracing of the Christmas season. It’s a great time of year and we always learn a lot. In church on Sunday, one of the sisters in the branch gave a talk about the birth of Christ. She was so excited to give it, she had a smile on her face the whole time. But the thing that touched me was that it was so simple, but so heartfelt. She just said what she knew and like was so excited about Jesus and I don’t know, it was just really awesome for me. She also had the cutest little boy I have ever seen.

Anyway, I will talk to you on Friday!!! =) Let’s just have fun on the phone okay? No crying!! ;)

Love you, mom!
-Elder Swenson

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Spirit Rocks!

Hey Mom!

I hear it’s been pretty cold/snowy? That’s pretty cool! We don’t have snow here at all. Well there’s some up in the mountains, but like none at all in Tirana. Just freezing cold rain. Mmmmm. . . .my favorite! =)

Okay pictures. Ha ha and that goal went really well. . . . . .for that week. =) Sorry! But we just went on a district trip so I will have some more for you next week! And I had a couple more besides that and I’ll take some more this week.

Elder Jones is from Texas and yes I will be with him until he goes home in January. He’s pretty cool. He is really good at the language which is cool. And he isn’t already home ya know? He’s still gonna be in Albania on his mission for the rest of his time here so that is really helpful. And he has weights so I get to lift in the mornings. =)

As for the area, yeah it’s not too bad. But that’s probably just because I’m not doing too much exploring yet. I’m picking areas and working them until they are done and then moving to another area. So I should learn some more pretty quick here.

Ha ha it’s funny you asked that because we live right next to Kolonat which is the Albanian rip off of McDonalds. But I’ve heard it’s actually really expensive and it’s not like amazing or anything so that is weird. I’ll take a picture of it and you can see how much of a rip off it really is. It’s pretty funny.

The work is going well. We did a lot of finding this week, but I think it’s going to pay off because we have a lot of people that we should be meeting with this week. We even have two lessons planned for tonight! I haven’t gotten two lessons in a day since last Saturday. So kind of a cool experience. It was really simple, but nonetheless, cool. We were tracting in an area I call the “triangle” and for some reason I just remembered that there was a pallat over in another area that we hadn’t finished yet. The thought wasn’t that we should go there, it was just that it wasn’t finished. But that thought just like stuck in my head so after we finished the pallat we were in, I said to Elder Jones, “Hey let’s go finish this other pallat.” We headed over there and sure enough we got in the door at a guy named Kushtrim’s house. We taught a good lesson and got him to say a prayer at the end of it. He didn’t agree to meet with us on a constant basis, but it was a good lesson and I think that I had that thought for a reason. It was just interesting to me how the spirit wasn’t like telling me to do something in this case. He just put a thought there. The spirit rocks.

Alright so byrek is this Albanian food that’s just like really flaky bread stuff with other stuff in the middle. It’s like a turnover except with cheese or spinach or onions and tomatoes inside. They also have some with meat in the middle too. It’s pretty good. It’s not my favorite Albanian thing though. And yeah muhabet basically means small talk, but they use it in other ways too. But most of the time, small talk.

I love you mom! I can’t wait to talk to you!
-Elder Swenson

Monday, December 7, 2009

Our Area is Way Confusing

Hey mom!

How are ya? It’s great to hear from you again! I’m excited to talk to you guys in like 2 and a half weeks! Elder Hixson is doing better, but we actually just had an emergency transfer and he had to go to Elbasan so my new companion is Elder Jones. He has a lot of time in the country and is going home in January with the next group. This has been pretty stressful actually because of my lack of knowledge of the branch and the area. Our area is way confusing with lots of little windy roads all over the place and I’m just not quite oriented yet. And I don’t know hardly any of our members. We were actually tracting a couple nights ago and we get to this door and I start talking about how we teach people how they can have more happiness and he’s just like, “Well come in!” It was kinda weird and we were like, “Well can we talk about this book and our message?” He was like, “We’ll find time.” So we go in and sit down and start doing some muhabet (conversation). This whole time, his wife is over making byrek at their table. I asked them what their religious background was and what religion they were with right now and he’s like, “Well she’s with you!” A lot of people here just think we’re catholic or orthodox and so I figured he thought we were one of those two and so I didn’t believe him, but then she was like, “Yeah I’m Sister Sulaj.” She has been a member for 11 years!! I had like never even seen her. She is at church every week and so I kinda felt like an idiot not recognizing one of the freaking members. It was a little bit frustrating. But anyway so you can imagine it’s a little bit frustrating not knowing anything about the area and being a co-senior companion with somebody. Please pray for me. I’ve definitely been feeling pretty humble lately and I know I have to rely on the Lord. I definitely need his help.

Tell Grandpa Gëzuar Ditëlindjen (Happy Birthday) from me! He’s still goin’ strong at 86. That is incredible. I hope he has a great birthday. Ha ha man I love Grandpa. And that’s great to hear that Grandma is doing so well. Ha ha when you told me that she showed you she can walk without a cane, it reminded me of President Hinckley. =) But I’m glad she’s following the rules a little better than he did. ;) It sounds like you guys are helping them out a ton and I’m sure they really appreciate that.

Well mom, thanks for the e-mail. I love you lots! I hope you have a great week. Don’t get too stressed out!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, November 30, 2009

The work. . . .is hard.

Hey Mom!

Our thanksgiving was pretty good. We all went to the mission home for thanksgiving where we had turkey and stuffing and all that good stuff. The dessert was supplied by the missionaries and there was a TON of it. It was good. =) So I definitely ate quite a bit for thanksgiving don’t worry. Yours sounded fun. The train looked way good! I’m jealous I wasn’t able to help. Ha ha that’s hilarious that there was another dog in our house. I can’t even imagine that and what Bear would do. That’s funny. I’m glad you had a bunch of people over too. I think that’s awesome. It sounds like a party that I missed out on!

And no I don’t think I was better with the language than I thought. I’m pretty sure I sucked. =) But it’s getting better. I can understand now and I can definitely communicate, but it’s still hard and I still make lots of mistakes. I have definitely seen that the language is going to be something that will keep improving my ENTIRE mission. There’s not going to be a point when I’m like, “Yeah I can speak Albanian.” There’s just way too much to learn. But it’s an awesome language and I’m excited that I will be able to speak decently after the mish. It’s a good thing that Albanian is used so much in the world. ;)

The work. . . .is hard. We as of right now have no progressing investigators. It didn’t help that my companion has been sick for the last 3 days, but hopefully we’ll get things back up to par quickly. We do mostly finding. It is really difficult because like one out of 5 doors actually answer and then divide those by like a million and that’s how many people let us in. So it’s really frustrating, but I’m trying to keep my head up. It’s funny because at district meeting this week, we were each assigned to give a 5 minute doctrinal lesson on whatever we wanted. It turned out that everybody else had chosen something that had to do with patience. . . .except for me. Ha ha I chose to talk about goals and setting good goals. But I figured that everybody else chose something about patience because I needed to hear that super bad. Ha ha I’ve been getting frustrated a lot lately because it feels like absolutely nothing is moving forward. But I have to take a step back and realize that it’s not really out of any fault of ours. We have been working hard and doing what we’re supposed to be doing, but people keep not showing up for meetings (like ridiculous amounts of people), and nobody’s answering their doors. So I’ve had to learn a lot of patience with myself and with the Albanians. Ha ha we’ve had some pretty annoying conversations at people’s doors this week, but that’s okay. Now that being said, I still am having a great time and trying my best and learning. One of the things that I have enjoyed most is spending most of my personal study time reading the Book of Mormon. These last couple days have been A.W.E.S.O.M.E. I just read like 2 Nephi 28 – 32 and oh my gosh those are awesome chapters. Some of my favorite by far in the Book of Mormon. Nephi just goes on this crazy prophesying rage and it is sweet. Love it.

So I did get some pictures off to you this week! Yay!! I actually set a new goal for myself to take a picture everyday so we’ll see how that goes. And I took a picture with the tie for Tim’s birthday with our English class, but you can’t really see the tie so I had to take a lame one of my doing some Bible bashing. . .with the Book of Mormon. But yeah sorry those took so long to send. I had some troubles the last couple of weeks and I could not send them, but it should be good from here on out.

Oh! Before I go, tell the Brigg’s a HUGE thank you! They sent me a Christmas package which was way too much for them to do. Tell them that I am super grateful to them. That made my day. And I’m eagerly awaiting yours. =) And don’t worry about the forgotten stuff, it’s all good! I will try to get your package sent next week. I finally finished getting the stuff today.

Well I love you mom! You have an awesome week! We’ll talk soon!


-Elder Swenson

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tirana is pretty cool.

Hey Mom!

That is dang awesome that RSL won the MLS championship! That is ridiculous! I did not think that that would ever happen in a million years. It's good to hear that Grandma is doing well. I will keep both Grandma and Grandpa in my prayers.

Mërzit - upset. It also means bored as well which is kinda weird, but whatever.
Shokë ngusht - It literally means "tight friends". And so I think you can guess what it is.

Tirana is pretty cool. It's definitely a lot different. We have been mostly finding while I've been here. Saturday we had an AWESOME day planned out. We had six lessons that we were going to teach which is just ridiculous. I was so pumped. And then we had FOUR out of the six prish on us! So we ended up street contacting for like hours and hours that day because we always were ready for our next appointment and so we thought we didn't have any time to tract, but then they'd prish too and ugh it was just pretty rough. So that was a little upsetting. But I have faith and I really want to baptize somebody this transfer which means in the next couple of weeks we are going to find someone who is ready. I know that he's out there. We just have to go and find him. =)

I love you mom. Thanks for your e-mail! Have a good week and be safe!!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, November 16, 2009

God Blesses Us in Tons of Different Ways

Hey Mom!

How’s it going? So I’ll actually try to write you a decently sized e-mail this week, okay? Cool. First I will answer your questions/comments. That is awesome that Mitch is learning a language. And that way, him, Ryan, and Kevin can all talk Spanish together, right? I think Ryan spoke Spanish in Texas? Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. Anyway, that’s awesome.

It sounds like your lunch was super fun! I hope all their families are doing well. I believe that families are blessed when they sacrifice their sons for two years, though. I guess I don’t know for sure cause I’ve never been in one, but I’m on the missionary side and I know I have been blessed so I don’t know how you guys wouldn’t receive the same blessings I am right now.

I really hope Grandma’s surgery goes well. I will definitely keep her in my prayers. She always writes me letters and stuff and has always been so supportive. Tell her thank you and I love her.

Okay and I don’t know if pouch or regular mail gets here faster. But regular mail does get here like 100% of the time and there have actually been some horror stories about pouch mail. None of which have happened to me, so I don’t know how often it happens or anything. So yeah there’s my knowledge on that subject.

Dictionary time:
Mirë – Good
Rrofsh – Thank you (. . . .kind of. In Albanian they have a wishing tense and this actually means “may you live.)
Të gëzofsh – Another wishing tense. It means “may it make you happy.” You would say it like after you gave a gift or something. Like, I just bought a tie and after you buy it they say, “T ë gëzofsh!” Speaking of which, thanks for that tie! And at the same time don’t send me ties! I can get super cool ties here for $8. Yeah. It rocks. But thank you. =) I think I actually have a couple pictures with that one.
Qërrasje – Treat
Pallat – It actually means “palace,” but that’s the word they use for an apartment building.

Okay so missionary work. Well I am actually writing you from Tirana today. We just did transfers and I am now in Tirana 3rd branch. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty mërzit with that. I never thought that I would be unhappy with a transfer, but ha ha I was. I had a freaking ball last transfer. I think the highlight of last transfer was working with our two xhaxhis. Theodhuraq and Fejim are two of the most awesome men ever. This last week we had to talk to Theodhuraq about church and that, because of his new job, he couldn’t get baptized yet. We told him that church was an essential part of baptism and that he needed to be able to come to church in order to get baptized. When we told him that, he was pretty upset which I was actually happy about because we definitely saw that it meant something to him. So we told him that we would work something out and that we would pray and he should pray too. And he did. And we did. God blesses us in tons of different ways. His new job was in Fier (about half an hour away from Vlorë), and it was basically just Saturdays and Sundays. So we were at a branch correlation meeting and we mentioned that to the other missionaries and they were just like, “Well, can’t he go to church in Fier?” We were like, “Oh my heck! That’s a freaking awesome idea!” We hadn’t ever thought about that and that was a great solution that we could tell him. So we went back on Saturday to tell him that we might have an answer and he had thought about it as well. We told him our solution, but then he brought up another solution. He decided he could ask his boss if he would let him start work after church and end up getting home at two or three in the morning. We said that both of those would work and he said he’d talk to his boss. So yesterday, he showed up at church and said, “I talked to my boss and he says it’s okay!” Oh man, I was so happy. He is so ready. Willing to sacrifice like that, he understand everything so well, he’s already on like page 150 or something in the Book of Mormon and he just loves it. And he loves to help out Fejim, who is a little bit slower (but just as awesome!). So basically, Theodhuraq and Fejim are going to get baptized!! Of course right when I leave, but that’s okay. Elder Garn is supposed to call me when they’re getting baptized so I will let you know.

Basically, I just can’t believe how fast this last transfer went by. It seriously felt like it was just a week. My companion, Elder Garn, was awesome as well. By the end, we were pretty much shokë të ngusht. So he’ll finish his mission out strong down there. I’m super jealous. But I know that I’m supposed to be here for a reason and so I will try to look forward to this transfer as well. My new companion is Elder Hixson from Tennessee. He is in the group that came to the country right before me so he has 3 more months than me. I think it should be a really good transfer actually, I’ll just have to get going right from the start and get used to it. He said he was pretty upset when he got the call to go to 3rd branch as well, but in his last president interview, he asked the president if he could stay so apparently 3rd branch grows on you ha ha.

Holy cow, this is a dang long e-mail. Thanks so much mom! I love you!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, November 9, 2009

I am so grateful that God leads his work and I can be a part of it.

Hey Mom!

So we had a really good story this week. It was actually last night. Saturday night was. . . .let’s just say it was a long night. Then Sunday came and it was pretty much just a normal Sunday. Nothing really special or nothing super annoying happened, until the night. We went and taught Samanta and Geri at 6:00 and then after that we had planned on going to a neighborhood called Çole and tracting. But it had started to rain and so we were debating if we should go get our umbrellas or not. Eventually we came to the decision to run by the house, grab our umbrellas, and go to a different neighborhood right by our house. Earlier in the day, we had discovered that we had mysteriously skipped some pallats in that neighborhood Saturday night. So we decided to go tract those. We got to the pallats and began with a prayer. Everything was going as normal. People were giving us lame excuses about random stuff that wasn’t really relevant to anything. We got to one door, knocked, and heard a woman come look out the peep hole. We heard her say, “Oh, it’s some of those JW’s.” So that wasn’t a really good first impression, but she answered the door. I started out by smiling and saying, “How are you? We’re from the Church of Jesus Christ and we have a special message about. . . .” She then said that she was Muslim and just believes in God and nothing else. We talked to her for a few minutes and we both testified about things that we knew in our hearts. They let us in. We found that there were four people in the house, a husband, wife, daughter, and soon to be daughter-in-law. We asked them a little bit about themselves and found out that the daughter (Bruna) really wants to be baptized even though her parents are Muslim. Not necessarily in our church, but just generally to be baptized. Me and Elder Garn both thought to ourselves, “Well we can definitely do that!” We started to share our message and they listened. They like really listened. It was so cool to explain about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and then testify about it. They must have really been listening to the spirit because they accepted to meet us often so we could teach them and we’re going to be going back tomorrow to give them a Book of Mormon.

Now that’s just kinda like a good lesson, right? Well think about it for a second and see how unbelievably miraculous it was. We had “just randomly” not even seen that pallat Saturday night when we were both pretty upset and not in any state to testify powerfully of the principles of the Gospel. We had planned on tracting in Çole, but it started to rain and so we had to change our plans, and then at the door their hearts were open to the spirit as he spoke through our simple testimonies of truth. It was just so cool to see how God really does put you in the right place at the right time if you are willing to work. My testimony definitely grew as we were thinking about all the things that had to happen in order for us to meet that family when we did. I am so grateful that God leads his work and I can be a part of it.

Alright, well I should probably get going and write Dad and Lindsey, but before I go tell Mitch that I am WAY excited for him. That is such an awesome mission call! I know this is a stupid question, but what language do they speak there? I am so pumped for him. Tell him I will pray for him as he prepares and leaves. That will come sooner than he thinks. ;)

I love you mom. Thank you for your e-mail.

-Elder Swenson

Monday, November 2, 2009

Elder Garn says, “Rrofsh!”

Hey Mom!

Well it looks like you guys had a blast on Halloween! Ha ha Dad really does make an awesome Indiana Jones, huh? On the other hand, Preston Stewart does NOT make a great cheerleader. Ha ha ha oh man those were some good pictures. Thanks for sending them to me. It is so weird to think that Halloween came and went and I did like nothing. I remember last year Halloween was like the whole month for me. And here it was just a day. But I did go door to door still! And I even got a treat! =) But I was fasting so I didn’t get to eat it. Some Albanians will just not let you leave their doorstep without giving you a qërrasje, even if they don’t let you in. So there you go! I went trick or treating in Albania. And to answer your question, no they don’t really celebrate it here, but we did see one group of kids dressed up. But that was about it.

As for the packages, it’s the same address. Everything just goes to the mission home and then gets delivered to us. And by the way, thank you so much for that package! Ha ha it was funny because I was just telling Elder Garn a couple days ago about how my mom uses the best spice in the world called “Bam!” when she cooks fish. And that talk seems pretty cool. I started reading it, but I haven’t finished yet (I got it yesterday).

Elder Garn says, “Rrofsh!” He has been here for a year and 7 months now so he will be leaving in January. He’s awesome.

Sorry about the super short letter today! I’ll tell you all about the work next week, okay? Cool. ;)

I love you, Mom!!
-Elder Swenson

A Message to Elder Swenson’s missionary friends:

Hey Guys!

How is everything going on your sides of the world? So basically I had a goal to write all of you by the end of this transfer and the only thing I did was reply (finally) to one of Braden’s letters and then I wrote Tim once. Okay so I have a more realistic goal this time: I am going to get at least a super short letter out to all of you by the end of the year. =) Mirë? Mirë.

So this week I was thinking to myself a lot. I was thinking about how hard I thought my mission was going to be before I left and how much I thought I was going to be sad and just want to go home. I was thinking about it this week and I came to a conclusion. I love being here. This is such an amazing opportunity we all have to work with all our heart, might, mind, and strength for the Lord. I love getting up each morning and studying the scriptures. I have just barely started the Book of Mormon and I am so excited. I love that book. I love the opportunity I have to grow this much in knowledge, in spirit, in Christlike attributes, and, of course, in stature. You should see my muscles right now. I really never thought I was going to get weaker ha ha. But oh well, because I’m having an awesome time. I want you all to know that I have a testimony of the Gospel. I know that it brings happiness like nothing else can. I have definitely come to appreciate even more the doctrines in the lessons that I teach, especially the Restoration. How freaking cool is that? We have a prophet on earth that receives revelation from God and directs us in truth and light. I know that if we listen to him we will be happy. It’s all about happiness, man and this gospel is what brings it.

I love you guys! I can’t wait to hear all your stories and successes from your missions. You seriously have been an awesome example in my life and I am so grateful I was blessed to be in such a good circle of friends. I can’t say it enough. Keep it up! “Onward, ever onward as we glory in His name!”

Well I better go, just one closing thought. I’m still going to dominate you all in our super ping-pong tourney in 2011.

-Elder Swenson

Monday, October 26, 2009

I love the principle that light and darkness cannot co-exist.

First of all, it was your birthday yesterday which is super exciting! Urime! I wrote you a letter last Monday so it should be getting to you sometime soon. I thought about you a lot this week. It was always in the back of my head like, “It’s my mom’s birthday in five days,” or something like that. So definitely know that you have not been forgotten by your son even though he is all the way on the other side of the planet. Isn’t that weird? The other side of the planet? Crazy. I hope you had a good birthday. On those days where we would be all together as a family, I really wish I could be there, but at the same time I really would rather stay here. =) It’s been a pretty interesting week. On Monday I was talking with Elder Garn and somehow we got on the subject of sicknesses and if we’ve gotten sick on our missions and stuff. Elder Garn ended up saying something along the lines of, “I don’t get sick.”. . . .then came Tuesday. On Tuesday night Elder Garn ended up not looking to good. Then Wednesday came and he was basically just out of it. Thursday and Friday we didn’t really do any work. Saturday we worked at night and then yesterday we finally got to get out and work for a full day again. Ha ha it was pretty funny though. I guess I’m just a sadist, but Elder Garn has been hilarious for these past few days. Seriously there have been periods of time where it’s just like constant sneezing and after like 2 minutes of it I can’t help but laugh! ;) But he is pretty much better now thank the heavens! Luckily he’s a good sport or else he probably would have punched me right in the face.

Alright a “xhaxhi” (pronounced jaw-jee) is basically just like an old man. It actually means “the uncle” I guess, but they just use it as like a respectful term for someone who is older than you. It’s cool when the little çuns call us xhaxhis ha ha. But yeah we have two xhaxhi investigators. They are friends actually. One is named Theodhuraq (whom we have a baptismal date with) and the other is Fejimi. It’s funny because Fejimi is just like one of those sidekicks that is there for comical relief. He just has such a hard time understanding anything at all. But he always has a huge smile on his face and he is way nice. Theodhuraq on the other hand is fairly smart and he actually understands what we teach him and what he reads which is, I think, why we were able to give him a baptismal date and not Fejim. I’ll get some pictures with them this week and send them to you next week.

Speaking of pictures, I sent you a few of us with 2 members Samanta and Geri.
Samanta is 11 and Geri is 10. They are way awesome and they actually both speak English fairly well so most of the time we teach them in English. But they are super funny together. Sometimes Samanta has like tons and tons of questions and so she just keeps asking us and Geri is like, “Oh come on, will you shut up?!” But I’m trying not to laugh when he does that now. =) Last night we answered a ton of questions about like the nature of God and Satan and stuff and how Satan really isn’t a red monster with horns and a pitchfork and how if they listen to the Holy Ghost they will always have power over him. It was a pretty good lesson. I love the principle that light and darkness cannot co-exist. If we are in the light of Christ and following his teachings, the devil cannot be with us. What a powerful principle that is.

Okay well I have definitely just rambled on and on and on now. =) I loved to see that picture of Mason. Tell him that I saw it and I am rooting for him. I am glad he is doing something so freaking awesome. That is definitely gonna be an experience he can tell his future kids. Just tell him that I love him and good luck!

Thanks for the addresses too! I have so many letters to write and so little time! Aaaah! But I will get a head start on it.

Well, I better go. I love you mom! You are AWESOME!
-Elder Swenson

Recent Pictures

Monday, October 19, 2009

The View from My House

Hey mom!

Here is a picture of the view from my house in Vlorë. It’s been a super rainy week though so it’s probably not the best picture. As soon as the sun decides to come out again I’ll try to get a better one for ya.

So Cameron is almost gone. That is so cool. Do you even realize how cool that is?!! Eight – EIGHT – of my best friends are all going to be serving at the same time. That’s definitely a rare opportunity to have that kind of friendship. Speaking of friends, have you heard anything about Mason? How’s he doing? I wrote him back, but I haven’t gotten anything back from him. So tell Cameron that I am so stoked for him and tell him that this means I’m going to have six months before he gets back to get back my ping pong skills so I can destroy him. =) He really is going to do awesome. When you get his address, let me know.

I’m glad you guys had fun at the lodge! And holy cow it sounds like it was pretty good fishing! In your picture, you both look a little burned. Did ya get a little sun? That’s cool though. How long did you stay up there again?

Vlorë is way awesome. It’s been pretty cold actually ha ha. It’s funny how much the weather can change from one rainstorm. It was nice and sunny and warm enough to not wear our jackets like 3 or four days ago and then it rained during the night and the next day it was winter. Seriously. Now we wear our jackets and a sweater even in the morning. But I’ve been having a really good time so far. Things are going. . . .well I don’t really know with Nënë Lavdie. I think we might have scared her a little last time. We did a pretty heavy lesson on baptism and she might not have been ready for that. We haven’t been able to meet her this week because I guess one of her friends died and so she was over in some other town. But we should be meeting her tomorrow or Wednesday so we’ll see how that goes. She is such a nice lady though and hopefully we can get to teach her a little more and let her feel the spirit a little more before we scare her away.

We also have been teaching a couple xhaxhis that are pretty good. One’s name is Theodhuraq and the other is Fejim. It’s so funny because Fejim is this like 60 year old guy and he’s not the brightest guy in the world, but he always has a smile on his face. Theodhuraq is a little bit quicker on the pickup so when we’re teaching and Fejim doesn’t get something, Theodhuraq will be like, “Oh my heck you’re being so stupid right now! It’s like this!” And then he’ll try to explain it to him. They are just so funny together. They actually came to church yesterday which was really exciting and we’re meeting them again on Wednesday. We’re going to be teaching them about the Plan of Salvation.

Oh ha ha funny thing real quick. We were street contacting last night and a Croatian sailor came up to us and we started talking and he asked us which faith we represented. I said that we’re from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but some people call us the “Mormons.” And he was like, “Oh! The Mormons! They’re a very traditional people, aren’t they?” And we were pretty confused about what he meant and so we tried to figure out what he meant. Elder Garn finally came to the conclusion that he meant conservative and we settled on that until he finally said the thing that gave it away. After a while, he said, “So you still use horses and buggies and stuff, eh?” Needless to say, I laughed a little and replied, “No, that’s actually a religion called Amish.” And so we got to clear up some stuff about how we didn’t practice polygamy (do the Amish even practice polygamy still?), and about how we, in fact, do use electricity. Ha ha funny stuff.

Well I gotta go e-mail Lindsey so I’ll talk to you next week! Love you, mom!

-Elder Swenson

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vlorë is great!

October 12, 2009

Hey Mom,

Vlorë is great! It’s a lot different than Kamëz that’s for sure. We are basically right on the beach. I will take a picture from the house and send it to you next week so you can see how much of a rough life we have. ;) And my new companion’s name is Elder Garn. He is from Idaho. He’s pretty much awesome. We have had a good time so far. Right now, we’re working on cleaning the house so we just got done with some major repairs ha ha. It seems like you would learn how to keep your house clean as a missionary, but some definitely don’t. When I got here, my bathroom had an awesome layer of dust and dirt on the entire floor and sink and mirror and stuff. Mmmmm. . . .tasty. So needless to say that was the first thing I cleaned and now it is sanitary so don’t worry. =)

But the work here is a lot different too. We actually have like a legit branch down here! There are something like 80 members and an average sacrament attendance of 50 or so. That is going to be weird. Yesterday we had district conference in Tirana though so I still haven’t been to sacrament meeting in Vlore. That’s one disadvantage of being so far away from everything else. We had to wake up at 5:00 yesterday so we could be in Tirana by 10:00. . . .and we were still a half an hour late. But that’s okay. It’s great to see so many people that have the gospel in their lives. Ha ha we have an investigator right now who is a 66 year old nene. Her name is Nene Lavdia. She is so dang funny. She has the biggest crush on Elder Garn ha ha.

Not really, but she always says, “You guys are like my little grandsons!” She loves to learn though and we have invited her to baptism. She is worried about her age and what other people will say about her if she changes from Muslim to our faith. Elder Snow (the senior Elder in Vlore) posed the question, “Who’s more important? God or your friends?” And she was like “Oooooooh! That’s a hard question!” It is a hard question. Especially when you are that old and you’ve had those friends for a long time. She is very looked up to in her neighborhood and it could potentially be devastating to that. But she is giving us an answer on Tuesday. We talked to her about how the only question you have to resolve is whether or not the Book of Mormon is true. If it is, that means that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that this church is the ONLY church on the face of the earth that has the authority to perform ordinances such as baptism. She said, “If God tells me to do it, I never go against Him.” So I am really praying for her and hoping that she really asks to know if it is true. I know that if she reads and really wants to know, she will receive an answer.

Holy cow, that was my reply to your first paragraph. =) I should probably wrap up here pretty quick. Tell Cameron good luck! I wish I could be there to see him speak, but I’ll be there for sure when he gives his homecoming talk. He’s going to be an awesome missionary and I am excited for him.

Holy cow! You guys have been married for 25 years now?! That is crazy. I swear it was like last year that you had your 20th anniversary. Have fun at Strawberry! And thanks for your testimony, mom. Ha ha you say that you hardly ever bear your testimony, but it seems like in every letter you write me you tell me at least a part of it. And that works for me. You have a strong testimony and you are a great example for me and Lindsey. I never realized how much I appreciated you and Dad until I didn’t have you. I guess that’s just how I work which is really lame. But thank you for all the hard work you did and continue to do to help us have a good environment to grow up in and to know that we are loved and cared for. It really does mean a lot.

Well mom, I love you! I’ll send you some more pictures next week. I forgot to bring my camera to do e-mails today. Gabim! I’ll talk to you next week! Love you!

-Elder Swenson

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pictures - October 2009

I’m in Vlorë!

Hey mom!

I’ve got to be short today so sorry! First off, if you have any way you can, tell Mason that I’m rootin’ for him. When Mason makes up his mind to do something, he does it and I think that will definitely be the case for this adventure that he’s about to start. I’ll pray for him and for his family too.

Okay a lafazan is like someone who just won’t stop talking. But it is like something you would only say to a good friend. It is offensive if you don’t know them. Oh hey! Before I forget could you send me all of the guy’s addresses except Braden and Tim? Thanks. =) I’ve set a goal to write them all this next transfer.

Okay so guess what! I’m in Vlorë right now! Transfers were today and so that’s why I didn’t e-mail yesterday. I hope you weren’t up too late worrying about me. ;) Sorry I forgot to tell you last week that P-day would be on Tuesday! Just for future info, every 13 weeks P-day will be Tuesday cause that’s when old missionaries leave and new ones come. We are getting 14 new missionaries! Maybe that’s not a big number for anyplace else in the world, but that’s HUGE for Albania. It’s crazy. It will be so cool though. They get here on Thursday I believe. Yay! I won’t be the baby anymore.

So it’s weird that I’m not in Kamëz anymore. It’s good and bad. I really loved the members in Kamëz and I really liked finding too. We had just started to tract an area where they really don’t like us. We had never really been there before though because most missionaries just avoided it because of it’s reputation. And. . . .it kinda lived up to it, but we actually found an investigator. I don’t know what will happen with him, but he realized that we weren’t JW’s and let us in his house. We talked about the Book of Mormon and what our special message is. It was really good. He was a nice guy and I think that he could really go a long way.

Oh man, conference was sweet. I only saw the morning sessions so I didn’t see the talk by Elder Holland that you, Lindsey, AND Dad talked about. Not fair. But I really loved conference. More than I ever have before. There was so much comfort in conference. I like comfort. =) I needed it too. I’ll talk more about conference and what I thought about it next week since I don’t have a ton of time today.

Anyway, I should go! Love you mom! I pray for you guys always.

-Elder Swenson

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pictures - September 2009

On the road to Besmir’s house. That tall, bamboo-like plant is called kallamë. I just loved the look of it so I had to get a picture. Besides, it makes it look super awesome and rugged kind of.

This is Diana Kola. We taught Stak (her dad) mostly. But she was just so funny, I couldn’t help but take a picture of her.
The door to the Kamëz house.
This is at the mission home for lunch at mission conference. Elder Causse of the Seventy came and spoke to us. It was cool. Elder Fisher who's from Idaho I believe. We were just kinda buds in my first district.

More Pictures - August 2009

The Kamëz house

Elder Bullough looking confused. =) Ha ha just outside the Kamëz house.
Nate's Birthday

Yummy crepes! Elder Bullough is teaching me how to cook. On the street in Kamëz the first time it had started to rain since I had been in Albania. Pretty exciting moment.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Prophets are Definitely Important


“C’a ke bërë” literally means “what have you done?” but they basically just use it like “how’s it going” or “how have you been?” Ha ha yeah the pictures were pretty sweet I thought! =) Besmir and his bros are seriously some of my favorite people on this planet. They are such good kids. No their parents are not members, but Besmir is hopeful for them. He says, “One day my dad will get baptized.” He doesn’t know if it will be while he’s on this earth or not, but he has confidence that eventually he will accept the gospel. The other two members are Alketa and Alma. They’re around the same age, both girls, and both awesome. We’ve been struggling a lot with Alma lately. She hasn’t come to church in almost three months now and we don’t know what to do. We’re trying to do everything we can for her, but nothing seems to work. Alketa is way awesome too. She wants to serve a mission so bad. She has come to a couple teaching appointments with us and has been so good. We are going to visit her with the Sisters tonight so I’ll get a picture of at least her and I’ll try to get one with her whole family too since this is probably my last week in Kamëz. =( This next transfer is going to be pretty intense. There are 14 new missionaries coming in which is HUGE for Albania. Almost every single missionary is either going to be training or in leadership. And when I say almost, I mean like maybe one or two won’t. It’s going to be awesome though.

Thank you SOOOO much for the packages! But holy cow you need to stop sending me those!!!! They are so freaking expensive it’s ridiculous! But thanks for the stuff! I think the thing that I absolutely loved the most was the pens ha ha. I had just run out of black pens and I bought a couple that weren’t like the expensive kind and they were just horrible. They were seriously irking me so bad and then I opened that package and saw like a thousand black pens and I was in heaven. So thanks. =) And stop sending me packages!

Thanks in advance for that workout. You could have just e-mailed it to me though. Sorry I probably should have mentioned that. I basically just need it so I don’t have to go outside to run during the winter. Brrr! I am not excited for the cold ha ha. But don’t worry, I’m sure I won’t get too skinny. I think I’m kinda at that point where it just stays where it’s at ya know? But I’m trying to be healthy and eat right. Mmmmm they have some of the best fruit here ever. So you know how I always made fun of you for eating your apple pie with cheese? One of my favorite snacks now is a Boston (kind of like a honeydew, but a thousand times better) with some good old feta cheese. Oh my heck it’s so good. So I guess I can’t make fun of you anymore, huh? Right now the persimmons are just getting in to season. I had never tried one until last night, but they are pretty good! That’s what I ate for breakfast this morning. =)

I’m glad that your BofM class is awesome! Prophets are definitely important. That really is our message to the world. We have a man with the power of God that speaks with him and directs us and helps us in our lives. They have the eternal perspective that we don’t. We had a devotional at the MTC where they showed a picture of this guy on a canoe just flowing down this river and there were beautiful trees all along side the river and it was just a gorgeous picture. They asked us, “This looks good, doesn’t it?” We all obviously agreed, but then they un-cropped the picture. The man was rowing straight for a gigantic waterfall where he would obviously plunge to his death. After they had shown us that, they asked, “Is that still lookin’ good to you?” And that is kind of how the prophets see things. They have that insight that only they can receive from God. Things that we might not think are dangerous or that look really good right now can lead to dangerous things ahead. The prophets can warn us of danger and keep us on the path that will make us happy. I have really come to appreciate that doctrine as I’ve been out here preaching it every day. So we better all listen to General Conference, huh?! Yes I will be able to see some of it. We go to the mission home and watch it at like 6:00 at night. It should be cool. I’m not gonna lie though, I’ll miss watching it with you guys. But it will still be great!

Holy cow I’ve been kind of a lafazan today! Sorry about that! I better go e-mail Lindsey and dad now. They can give you anything I didn’t say here that I told them ha ha. I love you mom. You are setting a great example for me even all the way across the world.

Thanks for everything!
-Elder Swenson

Monday, September 21, 2009

We finally met our goal!

C’a ke bërë?

Alright so I finally got some pictures with some members. The picture of us all together is at the Kamëz branch building.

We have church in the first floor of a house. The oldest brother is Besmir and his two younger brothers are Ardit and Janus. Janus is the youngest and Ardit is in the middle.

Besmir with Elder Bullough

Ardit Janus We went over to their house yesterday for Bajrami which is a Muslim holiday. Ha ha it’s funny because this whole last month has been Ramazan which is where they are supposed to fast during the day and only eat at night and at the end of Ramazan, you have Bajrami which is where you basically just eat as much as you can all the time. =) Not many Albanians really truly keep Ramazan (although they use that as an excuse for why they can’t listen to us), but I’m pretty sure every single Albanian has no problem keeping Bajrami. Ha ha yeah so we went over there for lunch yesterday. It was way fun. I wish you guys could meet these members. They seriously are soooo good. No matter what, Besmir and his brothers are at church every single week. It’s gonna be kinda sad when I leave Kamëz.

And then there’s one picture of me and a chubby kid named Romeo. He is our pronari’s (landlord’s) son. Looks like me when I was about that age, huh? =)

Well I’m glad to hear that Bear is doing better. I was sad for him. Ha ha I miss him too! I can’t pet any of the dogs here and it’s weird! So the Webelos are doing good then? Oh man knots are the best. Ha ha there’s always that one who just can’t get it though which is always funny. =) So good luck with that! That’s so cool that you’re taking a Book of Mormon class! Is it like just a ward thing or is it like Institute or something? Where is it held? I’ll tell you what, I went to Institute one time with Kiersten and it was probably one of the coolest lessons I’ve ever been taught. So I’m betting that you are going to have a great time at that class. Do you get graded and everything? Ha ha that will be funny when you’re doing homework with Lindsey. That’s sweet, mom.

Holy cow I miss those family dinners. Ha ha where did you play croquet? On the hill? Me and Tim actually played on the hill once I think. It was interesting. How is Shawn doing? I’ll have to write him soon. I am a horrible writer, but we’ve had some extra time these past couple of P-days cause we haven’t had to go into Tirana so hopefully soon I can get a letter off to him. What’s his address? And yes I had Marisa in my class. Ha ha she is the funniest little girl ever. Tell her I said hi! And I had one of the Ross boys in my class and I want to say it was Dallin, but maybe it wasn’t. . . .I don’t know. But he was way awesome too. We had an awesome primary class for like the 4 weeks that I was there.

Well the mission’s going well. This week was really good. We finally met our goal for new investigators! We got 4 this week! It took us all the way till yesterday to do it, but by golly we did it! We are really excited for this one family that we found. Qemal is the dad’s name. His wife is Merita and their daughter is Sara. Sara was in a really bad makinë (car) accident when she was little and is handicapped now. We found out that she really liked music and so we said the next time, we’d sing a song for her and she got so excited. But this family has definitely been prepared. Or at least Merita has. We were talking about what usually happens when we meet with people and we had said that as we meet with her, we will talk about baptism because that is how we show our Heavenly Father that we are willing to keep his commandments for the rest of our lives and she can choose to be baptized or not. She is orthodox right now and has already been baptized so she asked me why she would need to be baptized again. And let’s just say that I murdered the answer, but she was very humble and she understood what I was trying to say. And she agreed to meet with us 2 or 3 times a week! We are really excited to see this family progress together.

Well I better go write Dad and Lindsey now. Mom, I love you! Thanks for your e-mails every week and all your support! You are always in my prayers.

-Elder Swenson