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.