Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We Just Tract and Tract and Tract

Mother Albania Monument

Cameron's Birthday

July 27, 2009

Hey Mom!

Okay holy cow sorry about the pictures. Myldsmail.net is ridiculous. So basically you’re probably not going to get a ton of pictures because it took me forever to pick like 7 pictures to send and then I couldn’t send them in one e-mail. It was dumb. Now that I know that maybe I’ll be able to send more next week. So yeah sorry about that. I got my Tie picture in there for Cam’s birthday. Tell him I said hi!

Anyway, how are things going at home? The summer is already coming to a close for you guys I guess. When does Lindsey go back to school? Summers are way too short. Ha ha but you guys can’t complain about heat anymore! You have no idea.

Yeah Nate is Awesome! And Leslie too, but I didn’t really know her all that well ha ha. But I know they’ll both do fantastic! Tell them good luck for me! I would say that Nate was probably the most in tune with the spirit of any of our group. You could just always tell that he was going to be a missionary. You could see his testimony even when we weren’t even doing things that related to the gospel at all. He is a great example and he will be an awesome missionary!

I love that scripture in Alma that talks about them being depressed and ready to turn back. It shows that they were human. It also says “With patience bear thine afflictions” which always reminds me of Be Still, My Soul. I love that line. And then the most important part, if we do bear our afflictions with patience and with faith we will have success. That is a really good chapter. I will read it again this week.

Ha ha mom did you say you’re really “kot” on those machines? Ha ha that’s funny. That made me laugh. That word gets used a lot here. And woohoo! Go Lindsey! You catch those minnows. =) Ha ha I got the funniest picture in my head of her reeling in this little dinky fish and I laughed a hearty chuckle. That sounds like it was a fun week! I miss going camping with the Jessop’s and Jim and Kathy. They always make things entertaining.

Okay so your phrase for the week is something that I say at least a million times every day: Me fal, nuk kuptoj. It means I’m sorry, I don’t understand. =)

Ha ha so we have definitely been working hard this week. We just tract and tract and tract. I don’t really mind tracting though. It’s not that bad. You just have to be willing to work. And it’s helping with my understanding. I understand more and more everyday, but I still usually can’t put it together fast enough to understand what they’re really saying. But I’m working at it. So we spend the huge majority of our time tracting. Other than that, tonight we’re starting the Stop Smoking Program with a man named Sefer. It is a really good program and often leads to the participants taking the lessons and being baptized. It is a seven day thing which to me is pretty impressive. I’m excited to do that and so is he. I can’t wait to see him make this change in his life. And Flamur is doing well. He came to church again this week, but he didn’t have time to meet with us after so we’re meeting with him on Wednesday. I’m excited for that. Coming to church is a really good sign. I think we’re going to be inviting him to be baptized either this week or next. Pretty cool!

Anyway, I should go. I have like 10 minutes left and I haven’t written Dad or Lindsey. Have a good one, mom!

I love you!
-Elder Swenson

Yo Linds!

Ha ha yeah that does sound like a crazy week! That sounds so dang fun. Okay as soon as I read that you went on dune buggy rides I was like, “please say that Lindsey got to drive, please say that Lindsey got to drive.” AND! My wish was definitely granted and I was definitely fully satisfied with the result of you driving. =) Ha ha ha you crashed?! Yeah it is a good thing that Grandpa likes you so much! Ha ha ha ha ha oh my gosh that’s so funny. I love stick shifts. EVERYTHING here is a stick shift. Oh my heck I’m so screwed if I end up having to drive because the roads are C.R.A.Z.Y. It’s not even funny. But you should learn how to drive one! They’re fun.

Ha ha yeah we only have five members. It’s not very big. And the piano is a not full size keyboard that doesn’t have touch sensitivity and no pedal. Yeah we’re pretty hardcore out here in Kamez. =) Ha ha, but at least I get to play. I miss the piano and my guitar so bad. I was so lucky to have those things at my disposal. And yes I think I will lose weight in Kamez just cause we are always walking and it’s hotter than a lava pit of death out here. I can already move my belt in one more notch. =) Ha ha, but honestly I don’t think I will come back looking that different. Except for a KILLER farmer’s tan. It’s awesome.

Well I gotta go. I love you Linds! It’s great to hear from you every week. I’m sorry if my e-mail was short. I didn’t have a lot of time today. Love you!

The Albanian Greeting

July 20, 2009

What’s up!

Okay so the translations of that stuff. I actually kind of lied last week in saying that it all meant the same thing, but you do have to say like 5 of them before you can consider yourself sufficiently greeted. =) It’s basically like, “How are you? Are you well? How have you been? With health? From the house? (That one is my personal favorite) Good.” But yeah so they’re pretty much self explanatory. You can also say stuff like C’fare thote puna? (How is work) Si e ke familjen? (How is your family) and stuff like that. But anyway yeah so those are some Albanian greetings.

So about the companion thing. . . .long story. Back when he was in Fier he developed a problem called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome (I don’t know if that’s spelled right), but basically it just kills when you walk and as much as we were tracting and street contacting here in Kamez , it started to act up on him again. So he actually got emergency transferred to Tirana in 3rd branch where they have more work at the moment. So today is my first day with my new companion Elder Bullough! He seems pretty cool, but I’ve actually only been with him for like 2 hours now so I’ll let you know more next week. ;)

So the schedule for the summer is kinda weird. We wake up at 6:00 and work out and make breakfast and stuff and then we have personal study from 7:30 to 8:30. Companion study from 8:30 to 9:30 and then we’re out of the house until 1:30 we come back in for lunch. During the summer the Albanians basically have a siesta type thing because it’s so hot so we have lunch from 1:30 to 4:00 and then we do language to 4:30. After that we’re out of the house working until 9:30 again. Most of the time we’re out of the house, we are either street contacting or tracting. I’m definitely tired every night when we get back to the house. It is hard work.

But I have a cool story about street contacting. One day we were street contacting in the Qendra e Kamzes and all of a sudden out of the blue this guy named Flamur comes up to us and is like, “You guys have a meeting here on Sunday, don’t you? Call me and I’ll come.” We were like, “Heck yes we do!” We found out that he had been contacted by some missionaries when he was in Tirana one day and so he was obviously interested. So we called him Saturday night and he came to church yesterday! After sacrament meeting we showed him The Restoration and talked with him about prophets and the Book of Mormon. He seemed really interested. So we gave him a Book of Mormon and told him to read 3 Nephi 11 and he’s coming to church again next week. We’ll have another lesson after sacrament meeting. He also asked if he could get baptized and how fast so we were pretty excited about that! I hope he is sincere and I think he is. So hopefully we will be able to make this happen. It was really cool. That was probably the highlight of my week.

So about our Branch. The Kamez branch is very small as of right now. We have I think five members. They are so great though. It is fun to talk to them and teach them. A couple of our members are actually trying to go on missions soon so hopefully they are able to do that because they would be fantastic missionaries. But yeah, we meet in the bottom floor of a three story house. It’s a pretty small building, but it works for us right now. So obviously the work in Kamez is just starting out right now, but I have faith that it will grow to be just like any of the other areas. We just have to keep working.

I have a funny story for you. We were taking the sisters around Kamez last night so they could meet the sister members and teach them and we were at Alketa’s house. Motra Bentley had never met Alketa before and so she was showing her some pictures of her family and stuff. Apparently Albanians are a little bit blunt sometimes which, as you could imagine, makes for some funny moments. Alketa saw one of the pictures of Motra and she said, “Is that you? You were so thin! Why are you so fat now?” Ha ha ha ha oh we all had a good laugh at that one. That brightened up my night at least. =)

So tell Nate good luck! That is so exciting! It’s coming right up. So he’ll just be in the MTC for three weeks then, right? That is way cool. I’m so excited for him. And let me know where Cameron goes! I can’t wait to hear! He’ll be an awesome missionary wherever he goes. I think about the guys from time to time and think how cool it is that we’re all going to be on our missions within a very short time. I have freakin’ awesome friends.

Anyway, I should go. I’m praying for you guys and hope you are doing well. It sounds like you are all doing well and I hope that you know how grateful I am for your support and love on my behalf. Thank you so much for everything!

Te Dua!
-Elder Swenson

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First Real Week

July 13, 2008


C’Kemi! Mire je? Si ke qene? Me shendet? Nga shtepia? Mire. Ha ha that is a traditional Albanian greeting. It’s funny because basically all of those ask the same question, but they have to ask you five times to be considered normal. It’s good stuff. So yeah I’m here safe! And I was thankful that the mission president let me e-mail you as well. I knew you were worried. Ha ha. I do not like the picture he sent you anymore though. I was so dang tired ha ha. I’m pretty much off the jet-lag now and doing well. This is definitely not Utah anymore. It has definitely been a change for me, but I am catching on. And yeah! Motra Bentley is actually in my district still which is really cool. She’s going to be a great missionary.

So my companion is Elder Tracy. . . . .he is a great elder. He is a fantastic teacher and he is really good at the language. By the way, forward these to my MTC teachers, Brother Krumweide and Brother Tamanaha. Faliminderit shume! (Thanks a lot!)

And no Lindsey didn’t tell me that about her wisdom teeth. Ewwww, that’s gross. =)

It’s funny that you say that sun thing because I just got a nice little sunburn on my arms. Long story that I won’t go into right now, but yeah. Tell Grandpa I love him and hope he is well. That does sound pretty painful so I’ll be praying for him. Oh man, I miss those 2nd Sunday dinners. That is so great. I’m glad that Grandpa and Kris came as well. This will be a good chance for him to relax a little and do some fun things. It’s good to hear that he is doing alright. Tell him that I wish him the best!

Yeah I’ve had some Albanian food! Luckily, I’ve only had a lot of the good stuff for right now. I haven’t had pacekoke (cooked sheep’s head) or anything else like that. . . .yet. But it’s inevitable. Oh well! I’ll get used to it. Oh my heck the ice cream in Albania is THE BEST! It’s called akullore. It is way good. And I’ve also had suflaqe (soo-flaw-chey) which is basically just a gyro, but better. It’s pretty good, but I’ve had better stuff as well. My companion, Elder Tracy, likes to cook so we have good food when we get home, too.

So as far as understanding Albanians. . . .I’m pretty much kot (useless/worthless). It is so dang hard to understand them! But I’m getting better. Our first night, me and Motra went street contacting with the Assistants and after awhile they were like, “Okay you guys go try one by yourselves!” So we stopped this guy and he was looking at our pass along card and he kept asking us this question and neither one of us could understand him worth beans so eventually I was just like, “Uh. . . .po.” (Po means yes by the way.) And we gave him a card and he gave us his number! Shume Mire! (Very good) So yeah it’s going to take me a while to get to where I can actually communicate effectively in the language. But don’t worry, I’ll get it.

Oh man I’m excited for the newsletter! I love that testimony book and I love hearing from all of them. It’s way cool to see how everybody’s doing. Make sure you let me know the next time I need to write a paragraph for them. Right now I just want to tell them to BE OBEDIENT! That’s pretty much the best advice I could give as of right now, but let me know when I can write them. =)

You know, I’ve only been here for like 5 days, but I can already tell two things: 1) This is going to be freaking hard. In lots of ways. 2) This is going to be the most amazing thing ever! I can already tell that I’m going to have so much fun and have amazing experiences! We’ve taught a couple lessons already and it’s just amazing how much of a change it is from walking down the streets where horns are constantly honking and music is consistently blaring to sitting down with somebody and teaching them about the gospel. You can really feel the Spirit come in when you’re teaching. It’s such an amazing feeling and I can’t wait to feel that for the next two years as I teach the people of Albania. I’m so excited! I really didn’t think I was going to be this excited, but I just want to do everything I can while I have this time here. I want to be able to look back on my mission and not have any regrets. I want to serve the Lord. He has given us everything and now I can give him something back.

I love you guys and thank you for your constant support. You are amazing! Miss you! See you soon!
-Elder Swenson

Hey dad!

Sorry I don't have much time. I kind of write both you and mom in mom's e-mails ha ha. But I just wanted to thank you for your e-mail and for your prayers. I've been doing really well so far.

Yeah my Mission President is a really nice guy. He's going to be great to get to know while I'm here serving. He will be a great support on the mission. He has definitely been called of God to lead the missionary efforts in Albania. He's a great guy. And I will ask him in my e-mail this week about the picture thing. Speaking of pictures, I will send them next week because I don't have what I need to send them as of right now, but I will next week for sure. Sorry about that! But yeah, hopefully they will give you a little bit of a taste of what Albania is like!

Anyway, I've gotta go! I will talk to you next week! I hope you're doing well. I hope work is doing alright and you're happy. Do what
Billy says and "Keep the Faith" =)

-Elder Swenson

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Elder Swenon's First Assignment!

July 9, 2009

From Elder Swenson’s Mission President:

Dear Brother and Sister Swenson,

We have had the wonderful opportunity of spending more time with your son and getting to know him a little better. Your son is still functioning in another time zone, but jet lag will pass quickly for him. Elder Swenson is doing well with the language and is talking to people in the street already. This morning, we took our two new missionaries to the Mother Albania Statue and Park, a memorial to the heroes of Albania during the second world war, overlooking the city of Tirana. This is where Albania was dedicated for the preaching of the Gospel in April of 1993 by Elder Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve. The attached photo shows Elder Swenson and Sister Bentley from the MTC up at the park, overlooking the city of Tirana.

We had a short service there where we read together the dedicatory prayer, which is beautiful and becoming fulfilled in amazing ways. After prayer and thoughtful consideration, we have assigned him to work with Elder Tracy, in the city of Kamez. Kamez is right next to Tirana, and was only opened in the last two years. Your son’s companion is a great missionary who has earned the opportunity to be a trainer by his dedicated service here in Albania. I am sure that your son will be able to learn much from him. He will also learn to rely on the Spirit to guide him daily. He will grow in ways that you can’t imagine.

There is no mail delivery in Albania other than post office boxes, so our Office Secretary goes to the post office twice a week to pick up the mail and packages. DHL or FedEx delivers the Church pouch to us once a week. We have found that US express mail is the least expensive and fairly rapid option and the packages are actually delivered to our doorstep. So, for everything else, use this address:

Elder Swenson
Fondacioni Liahona
PO BOX 2984
Rr Qemal Stafa Vila 1
Përballë Postës 22
Tirana, Albania

You can also write to him via the pouch at church headquarters if you write on one sheet of paper and fold it and seal it without an envelope. Address your letters to your missionary in care of:

Albania Tirana Mission Pouch
P.O. Box 30150
Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0150

Again, thank you for raising such a fine son. Sister Neil and I love the Lord, we love His church, and we love His missionaries, and will do everything we can to support and sustain your son so that he can accomplish what he came here to do. We know he will have a wonderful mission, and will accomplish much good in this developing land of generous and kind people.


President John M. Neil
Sister Elizabeth Neil

Elder Erik Swenson's Safe Arrival

July 8, 2009

From Elder Swenson’s Mission President:

Dear Brother and Sister Swenson,

As you can see from the attached photograph, Elder Swenson arrived safely here in Tirana. He's here with Sister Neil and me in our conference room in the Mission Office in Tirana. He is a bit tired, wrinkled and overwhelmed by the cultural shock of landing here. He's also missing one piece of luggage, which is not uncommon, but we've always been able to track it down. But other than that he is excited to get to work and to be assigned to his new companion. He has already been out to do his first street contacting (with great success!). We will assign him tomorrow afternoon to his trainer, a special dedicated missionary called to that important position. But rather than wait until then to let you know he arrived safely, we thought you might be anxious to know that he didn’t get lost in transit and that he did arrive and that all is well. Earlier today, I had a wonderful interview with him, we got him registered with the American Embassy and tomorrow, we’ll go register with the Albanian police. We just had dinner, and he and his companions are off to get some rest. We will send you another short note tomorrow with all of his addresses, the name of his companion and any other information that will hopefully make you comfortable about his status.

Please also know that we already love your son and are concerned for his well being. We will do all in our power to make sure that he is safe and that he has a wonderful experience serving as a missionary. We can say without question that he has come to one of the finest missions in the world. The people are kind, the members are so loving of the missionaries, and the other missionaries are the finest young men and women in the church.

Thank you for sharing your son with the people of this country. We know that your family will be blessed as you share in his experiences.


President and Sister J. Martin Neil
Albania Tirana Mission

I'm in Albania!

July 8, 2009

Hey guys! I’m in Albania! It’s really weird. And needless to say I’m really really really tired. I’ve been having kind of a hard time ever since I talked to you. But that’s okay. I will get over it. So I met my mission President, President Neil, and his wife. They are very nice and they are going to send you a couple pictures a little bit later I think.

Anyway, so about Albania. It is definitely different than Utah. I think I am in shock because this is the first time I’ve ever been out of the country AND I’m completely wasted. It’s a really poor country. It looks pretty run down in Tirana which is where I am right now. My first area (of which I can’t remember the name right now) is on the outside of the city. My companion will be Elder Tracy. I haven’t met him yet, but I will meet him tomorrow. Apparently he likes to sing a lot which will be something that will probably help me get used to being away. I just don’t feel comfortable here yet. So I’m going to pray and try to get to that point, but I’m going to need you to pray for me as well. But yeah so apparently he is really cool and he likes to sing a lot. So more on that in my next e-mail.

Tonight after we went and got all the legal stuff out of the way, we went street contacting. It was actually kind of fun. I found it pretty easy to not get down on myself, but maybe that’s just cause it’s my first day. Me and Motra went out with Elder Flack and Elder Oki who are the Assistants as of right now. We got five contacts and Motra and I got one by ourselves. So it was pretty fun. We only got to go for an hour-ish, but it was fun.

Anyway, I should probably go. President Neil was kind enough to let us e-mail tonight. I love you guys. I am thinking about you guys and hope you are alright. I’ll see you soon!

-Elder Swenson

Travel Itinerary

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Last Email from the MTC

Elder Swenson and Motra Bentley with Albanian Flag
MTC at Night
Elder Swenson playing his guitar

Hey dad! I'm glad you see that there are lessons to be learned from every experience in life. We do go through everything for a reason and we can always learn and grow from it. That's why we're here. We want to become like our Heavenly Father and to do what we need to gain experience. It's amazing how simple that is, but sometimes it's so hard to understand. But I'm glad you do.

And yes this is the last thing I will be writing from the MTC. That is so. dang. weird. It's kinda freaky because I am not good at Albanian at all. This week is our consecration week so we are supposed to speak only Albanian and I'm realizing how much I need to learn. I'm nowhere near ready with the language aspect. The thing I'm most worried about is not being able to get something for MONTHS. Usually I can get things pretty fast. I've never had something take me that long to get and so I don't know how I'll handle that, but I'll try to remember why I'm there. But I have faith that I can learn it faster than a lot of people if I just get out and start working as hard as I can right from the get go. I have kind of a personal goal. I want to be a missionary that could train another missionary. Whether or not the mission president decides to let me train or not, I want to be able to say that I could and that I could do a good job at it. I also just want to start enjoying the work. It's going to be frustrating at first, but I know as I start to love the people and just have fun and serve, it will come. And yeah I don't know about the camera, but it's weird because it uses up battery power even when it's off. I found out it was a recalled model ha ha. But I just take the batteries out when I'm done with it now. And it works!

Anyway, I hope you're doing well. Still playing soccer and working hard and teasing bear. It's so weird to not have a dog! I wish missionaries could have a dog! =) Ha ha, but it's all good. I look forward to talking with everybody on Tuesday and I hope you have a good 4th of July weekend! Eat some good steak and mushrooms for me.


-Elder Swenson

Hi Mom,

Well I'm glad you guys love getting my pictures ha ha. I'm a pretty boring missionary so I don't have a ton of really good pictures. But I try. So one quick note. There is no mail on Friday OR Saturday so basically the next things I will get from you will have to be in Albania. AND I just remembered that I forgot to bring my mission address. Ugh. I'm retarded sometimes. But it's sitting on my desk and I just forgot to bring it to the room in classic Elder Swenson fashion. So this is what I'll do: I will either send a letter that pretty much just has that in it OR I'll get back on for like a minute and send you that address. Probably the latter. But yeah! So don't worry. I won't forget about it. I can't seem to find my mission call though. Did I bring it? I don't recall packing it, but maybe it is in my folder. I haven't checked there yet. I'll check tonight. You WILL get a copy of my address and if I have my call you will get a copy of that too so don't fret. =)

Okay anyway! How is the Oquirrh Mountain temple?! I hear it's beautiful. We'll definitely have to go on a temple tour when I get back. I'm excited to see all the new temples. It will be really fun. Happy Fourth of July!!! Ha ha I'm so dang excited to hear the Jonas Brothers from the MTC. It will be so weird going to bed at 10:30 on the Fourth of July. I'm not even sure if we get to see the fireworks. I hear that they let us go out to the field to watch them until 9:30 which means we might get to see like. . . .one. Exciting, huh? Ha ha but it's all good.

I will probably call at New York. It should be sometime between 12:25 here and 1:25. It says I leave Salt Lake City at 8:30 and arrive in new york at 3:25 which sounded wrong to me so I figured that that was local New York time and I compensated for the time zone change. But maybe I'm just retarded so I don't know. ha ha so basically just keep the 7th open from like 12:00 noon until like 5:00 ha ha. And tell Kiersten too so she can come over. =) I'm excited to talk to you all. I think it will be cool, but yeah it's probably going to be hard as well.

Holy cow this e-mail is really weird. I am freaking tired if you couldn't tell. =) I got a shot today! And guess what?! Yep. I almost passed out again. Geez I need to practice this. =) Anyway, my time is going really fast for some reason so I need to e-mail dad and Lindsey. Hope you have a good day and I will talk to you in 6 days!!

Me Dashuri,

-Elder Swenson

More Pictures from the MTC

I will not sing Babylonian Songs

Motra (Sister)Bentley and Elder Swenson

Elder Swenson, Motra Bentley, Elder Bennion
Elder Swenson and Motra Bentley
The Gang

Studying Hard
Elder Swenson and Elder Call
Provo Temple
"Missionary Road"

Saying Good Bye to My Hungary Missionary Friends

Elder Swenson and Sister Dunaway
Elder Morgan, Elder Swenson, Elder Bird
Motra Bentely, Sister Andersen and Elder Swenson
Elder Morgan and Elder Swenson

Elder Morgan and Motra Bentley
Elders Morgan, Mitchell, Bird, Motra Bentley, Elders Bennion, Feuz, Nauman