Monday, December 27, 2010

Man it's going to feel good to just work again.

Hey Y'all!

I don't have a ton of stuff to say cause we just talked, but I just wanted to let you know that I love you! Talking was fun/awkward! It was good to see you all though. Sorry again for my poor conversational skills, but hopefully someday I will have something to talk about.

Actually one new update. Last night I completely destroyed my blue suit. And when I say destroyed it I mean annihilated. You should have seen it. I didn't have my camera on me, but Elder Griffith got a good picture so I'll have to send that to you sometime. I was running up the staircase in the mission home to go put some keys back up in the office and as I was turning around the banister, it went into my coat pocket. So as I started moving up the stairs, my coat ripped almost in half and now I have no blue suit! So that suit that I said I might have someone make for me is now a need. =) And I'm thinking I might get two. . .? One black and one navy to replace the one that I just massacred. So if you could put some money on my card that would be great.

I've also got a lot of thank you cards to do so I'll be getting those out soon. I need to write the Briggs, Grandma and Grandpa, Kris, and of course you guys for all the stuff you gave me. Man that was an awesome package! By the way, Elder Griffith had never eaten a chocolate orange before so this was a good experience for him.

Hopefully this week we'll have a fairly normal missionary work week and I'll have some cool stories to write you next week. Man it's going to feel good to just work again. Can't wait!

I love you all! Talk to you next week!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, December 20, 2010

You guys have got to experience an Albanian branch Christmas party.

Hey Mom!

Well our week pretty much got destroyed. . . .but it was still a good week. Oh man, you guys have got to experience an Albanian branch Christmas party. This was seriously probably the best Christmas party I have ever been too. I got some good pictures hopefully, but then my camera died right in the middle of the party so I didn’t get some pics that I would like to have gotten. We had a really good program put on by the various auxiliaries of 1st Branch and then we went downstairs for dinner and some good ol’ popullore dancing. (Don’t worry, I wasn’t involved in the latter.) But man it was funny to watch. They LOVED it. If there is a people that loves to dance it is the Albanian people. There were people from ages 4 – 65 out there. I honestly have not seen so much joy in people’s eyes for probably. . . .well probably ever. I don’t know if I can do it justice in an e-mail.

So I’m so sorry about last week! I totally forgot about the trip until like Thursday night and we left early Monday morning. A senior trip (also called “the death trip”) happens when you finish your progression program within a year. If you finish everything, then you get to take an extra P-day with your MTC group before you leave the country. And because my MTC group consisted of Sister Bentley who is already in America, I got to go with the group ahead of me. We saw a lot of cool stuff! We went to the south of Albania and saw the sites down there. I got some pictures, but we all combined our pictures onto a CD and so I will send you some off of that cause those are probably better than mine.

For the newsletter. . .

Hey Everyone!

I can’t believe you’re home, Tim. That is just wrong. 'Nuff said. It's so weird to think that all of our missions are drawing to a close. Well, most of them anyway. ;) It's amazing to me that I/we have been out for so long and it has seemed like nothing at all. Lately I've kinda been freaking out because it's just hit me that I'm going to be leaving first branch pretty soon. I've been here for almost nine months and I love this branch. We had a branch activity for Christmas on Saturday and all the members were having a blast dancing to their traditional popullore music. As I was looking around taking pictures and just enjoying myself, I started realizing that after every person I would say something like, "Man I love Brother Deda," or, "Man I love the Saraçi family." I don't know if I've ever been in this same situation before. In all my other areas I've only stayed for one or two transfers and now I've been with these amazing members of 1st Branch for nine months. I am so grateful for the opportunity I've had to see these members grow. It's crazy how much you grow to love the individuals and families you work with.

We’ve had an interesting experience lately with the Deda Family. The family is made up of Agim (the father), Çlirime (the mother), and Ajvi and Ansa (the two children). For about the first seven months that I was here, Agim was the only one that would come to church. He is an amazing member with an amazing story. Unfortunately, the rest of his family was not doing as well as he was. Çlirime was at work every Sunday and wouldn’t really sit in for the lessons when we came over. Ajvi has had a really hard time coming to church (I don’t really know what that means for a 10 year old, but the point is he hadn’t been coming), and Ansa just does whatever Ajvi does. About a month or so ago, Çlirime got Sunday off for once in a long time and came to church with all the rest of her family. We were obviously really happy, but we knew that she had just lucked out and got Sunday off randomly and we figured that it would just go back to normal the next week. We had also had a lesson before that about the first part of the Plan of Salvation and she was an active participant in that lesson. It was a really good week for her, but like I said, we figured that things would just go back to normal the next week.

Good works in mysterious ways. The next week, we find out that Çlirime had a terrible accident at work. She had been standing on a counter cleaning something that was high up and fell straight onto one side of her body severely cutting her head. After she was out of the hospital, we went over to their house and paid her a visit. She was pretty out of it and you could tell that Agim was a little bit stressed with the whole situation. We let them know that we would pray for them and if there was anything else we could do, we would come running. A few days later, we come over for our weekly teaching appointment and Çlirime is in about the same state that she was in before. So we start the lesson while she is laying down on the couch somewhere in between sleep and consciousness. The first question we asked was, “Do you remember what we talked about last time?” This, of course, left the whole family searching through the depths of their memories to remember what it was. After a little while of them taking shots in the dark, a weak little voice coming from the couch says, “We talked about how we were with God before this life as spirits and how we’re His children.” There was a long pause as I turned my head to look at Çlirime with my jaw hanging open. In my head I was thinking, “Dang! Your brain just got rocked by a tile floor and you still destroyed your entire family! Nice!” She then explained to us all the points that we had discussed in the previous lesson. The Spirit was definitely there.

I say God works in mysterious ways because ever since she has been able to move around, Çlirime has been at church every week and at all of the little activities during the week. She is in all the lessons and is even reading the Book of Mormon. She lost her job because of that fall, but we have seen that she has gained a lot more than that. I’m not going to lie and say I know that’s why she fell at work because I don’t know the reasons for everything. But I hope that she realizes what a difference she has made in her family and in the church in this last little while. She gave a testimony in testimony meeting this last month and I don’t know if I have felt the presence of the Holy Ghost more in a long time. It is AWESOME to see the Deda’s all together again. I’m so grateful that God has blessed them this much, however weirdly it was done.

God rocks. Trust Him. Work hard and He will get it done. I love you all! I can’t wait to see you again! Gëzuar Krishtlindjet e Gëzuar Vitin e Ri!

“Ring out the darkness of the land; Ring in the Christ that is to be.”

-Elder Swenson

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hey Everyone!

So I forgot to tell you last week, but I'm actually in Saranda on my senior trip! So I don't have any time to write. We just wanted to get a quick e-mail off to let you know we're still alive and well, but I will send you the thing for the newsletter next week. Hey, say hi to Tim for me. I can't believe he's coming home. About the Christmas phone call. . . .it will be on the 25th pretty much for sure, but I'll let you know on the time.

I love you guys! I'm sorry I don't have more time to write, but I will catch you next week and I'll have lots of cool pictures too. Love you! Have a killer week!

-Elder Swenson

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Got my game face on.

Massive trench coat that was in the office.

Short tie. How embarrassing.

Henrik Frroku from the branch.

On the road again.

Our district minus Elder Griffith.

This was a good view. You can't really tell in this picture though.

From the viewpoint of the bunny that I slaughtered

We went hunting for our food.

Mount Dajti

The mountaineer with crutches.

Me and Beni!

Motra Toska e Vogël

What happens when a 10 year old steals your camera.

I have no idea what's going on here.

Elder Griffith being creepy 2.

Elder Griffith being creepy 1.

From the castle at Petrela.

Bro Dervishi and I on the way to Petrela.

Me and Elder Griffith

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our branch is getting ready for our Christmas party

Hey Mom!

Well that Christmas party sounded pretty intense. Holy cow our branch is getting ready for our Christmas party as well and let me tell ya, they are getting into this. We ended church yesterday at about 12:00 so they could practice their songs and skits and stuff for the last hour. We ended up being there until a little after 2:00. Suffice it to say I’m getting my fill of piano playing. It’s kinda fun though, cause the songs are pretty boring so I get to spice them up a little. ;) The district (stake-like substance) is planning on doing a Christmas party as well so all the branches can get together. The district relief society president has been put in charge of the program for that and she’s really getting into it. . . .maybe too much. Apparently the program is like three hours long of just skits and music and other such things. So we’re going to have to talk to her about that. . . .

Anyway, thanks for that gingerbread house recipe! I might give it a try, but we’ll see. It seems like it would take a long time and I don’t know if I have that ha ha. I hope your gingerbread houses go well over there! By the way, did you notice that I sent you all some pictures last week? I hope you enjoyed them!

So missionary work.

This week actually went really well. Right now we have four investigators that are preparing to be baptized on Christmas. And all four of them are looking fairly good! Lira is giving me some weird vibes so I hope that’s just a passing thing, but everyone else seems pretty solid. We met with Leta and her two sons last night to start the stop smoking program. Her sons are definitely on board with this program. They hate that their mom smokes and they are pretty ready for her to stop ha ha. This was actually the first lesson that Xhoi (her older son) actually came to and Leta said that it was just because he heard that his mom was going to quit smoking and needed his help. So we’re excited for her to become a non-smoker next Sunday! (Well, technically she’s a non smoker right now. . . .)

We actually had something pretty funny happen to us this week that was surely a blessing from the Lord. It’s Wednesday. We have an appointment set with Dorian for 7:00 at his house. We knock the door. Nothing. We knock again. Nothing again. We knock yet again. Nothing yet again. Obviously we were pretty downhearted at that, but as we were walking down from the third floor of his small apartment building, we ran into one of his neighbors who told us that we could talk to Dorian’s uncle who lived just below her. We knock on the door together with Dorian’s neighbor and a woman answers the door and looks pretty excited to see us. We had actually tracted into her a couple days before and found out that she was an inactive member. That day, we had narrowly escaped her trying to convince us that she was, in fact, a member of our church by showing us all of her pictures that she or her daughter had ever taken with missionaries or other members. Well tonight we didn’t. Almost the first thing she said to us was, “I told you I was going to prove to you that I’m a member!” She bustled around her hallway for a minute while we were standing at her door and finds a purse that looks pretty heavy. She opens the purse to expose loads and loads of old photos. Awesome. So we end up standing in her doorway for like ten minutes looking at photos of her baptism and old missionaries and branch activities, etc. and I joke sarcastically to myself, “I bet that this woman showing us her old pictures is God’s way of stalling us so Dorian can get back to his house before we give up on him.” Turns out that’s exactly what happened! No less than a minute after I had that thought, a boy comes running into the stairway out of breath. When he saw us, he let out a sigh of relief and said, “I’m glad I caught you before you left!” We were actually able to go up to Dorian’s house and have a good lesson with him. It was just so weird/awesome to actually have that happen. God really does look out for us and, even though He works in mysterious ways, he wants us to have success.

So that was my cool story for the week. I hope you enjoyed it. I love you, mom! I can’t wait to talk to you guys on Christmas. Speaking of which, this could kinda be complicated from my end of things cause there are 17 baptisms scheduled on Christmas right now. . .so I’m going to have to work some stuff out and get back to you next week on a time, but I’m guessing around 6:00 or 7:00 or maybe even later. . .? I hope that would be okay. Oh by the way! I got a package from you this week and I’m assuming that it’s the Christmas one so I haven’t opened it yet. =) So thank you for that! Man I love you guys!!

Have an awesome week! Thanks for your letter!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, November 29, 2010

We were really blessed this week.

Hey Mom!

The subject line is definitely the most difficult part of the e-mail so don't worry about it. It looks like you guys had a pretty good week! I hope your Thanksgiving went well. It was pretty awesome here. We ate WAY too much dessert. Here in the Albania Tirana Mission we all gathered at the mission home for a "Zone Conference" and Thanksgiving Dinner which was graciously prepared by Sister Neil with the help of the couple missionaries that are here. And the dessert was up to the missionaries. Oh man there was some good stuff. Afterwards we got to watch Toy Story 3 which was actually pretty funny. I don't know if you've seen it yet, but that would be a good one! Ooh Dad said that the new Harry Potter was really good! Oh man I can't wait to see it! I love those movies.

We were really blessed this week. We had a lot of good things happen. Not really because of our work, but because of the Lord's work. Interesting how that works out sometimes. We've continued meeting with Leta (the basketball player) and she is doing well. She got to see a baptism on Saturday that was really really uplifting and I think she really enjoyed the simplicity of it. She also really enjoys "Count Your Blessings" like every single other Albanian on the face of the earth. . .But we had been wondering what to do for her son, Xhoi, who is 13 and kind of at that stage where you don't want to do anything that your mom says. Remember that? ;) He hadn't come to any of the meetings that we had with her this week and so we figured that there was no chance in an extremely warm place that he would come to church. But lo and behold on Sunday morning we were waiting outside the church greeting people as they came in and Leta shows up flanked on both sides by her two sons! I don't know why he came but I'm glad he did. I think he had a better time this week than he did last week, too. So although that might seem like a small step, I am grateful for whatever progress he's making. Leta is still doing awesome. When she saw that family get baptized I think it really reinforced in her mind how much of a blessing it would be to have your entire family in the gospel. Hopefully that will be able to happen in the near future.

But I still think my favorite thing that happened this week was with a woman named Liri (lee-REE). On Saturday, we had some time before branch correlation with Vëllai Toska so we decided to get out and tract for a little bit. After a while, we had to ask ourselves if we should go back or if we should keep tracting. There was obviously not enough time to teach a lesson if somebody let us in, but because we're idiots we figured we'd keep going. Idiots MY FOOT!!! We knocked on Liri's door and she was kind enough to let us in to hear a short message about God. We shortly found out that she and her husband had had one daughter who had died when she was 17 years old. That was an extremely hard thing for them to go through and her husband went through a period of serious depression. It was obvious what we had to talk about for the few minutes that we had before we had to leave. We asked her if being with her daughter again would be a desirable thing for her to which she replied, "Of course! I would do anything." We taught her that, because of a prophet in our day, we have learned more about God's plan and how all of us can return to God with our families if we will just follow his commandments. We asked her if she would be willing to try this and she said yes. We invited her to church the next day and she said she would come. We were able to say a prayer at the end of the lesson and ask God to help Liri to know what to do so she could see her daughter again. As we lifted our heads up after the prayer there were tears in her eyes. You could tell that she really missed her daughter. She came to sacrament meeting on Sunday and brought a friend and was able to meet some of the members in the branch. So many people say that they will come to church and then don't show. I can't tell you how happy I was when Liri showed up to the church. Ten minutes early even! I know that the gospel will be able to heal that wound in her life if she will act on the message she hears. We are going to visit her again tomorrow and I am so excited for it! I really hope that Liri is willing to let God help her family to be reunited again.

Sunday night finished off the week in like fashion when we were able to set a baptismal date with a fifteen year old boy named Dorian on his birthday. When is his birthday? December 25th. =) I don't know what else there is to say about this week. I'm grateful for the Lord and his hand in our lives. He really loves us. The hard times are hard, but the good times are so worth it. I know God answers our prayers.

-Elder Swenson

P.S. By the way, is there any way you could send me the recipe for the gingerbread houses that you make? I just want to see if it would be possible to do those here. The Albanians would love it. Thanks!

Monday, November 22, 2010

This week went much better than last

Hey Mom!

Thank you so much for doing that deferment stuff for me! And thanks for the pictures as well! I love pictures. And speaking of pictures, I’ll send you some today, okay? I know I’ve been horrible at sending pictures, but we’re going sez bën today.

I’m happy to say that this week went much better than last week. We have three investigators right now that are progressing towards baptism and we’re pretty sure they’re going to make it. They are all three referrals from branch members. We finally got some good investigators out of our English class. Their names are Marin (mah-reen) and Jurgen (you’re gen). Marin is 15 and Juri is 14. They are friends of an awesome member in first branch named Henrik. It was awesome because last week we had asked them if we could meet with them after English to talk about our church and they said they would ask their parents and let us know on Saturday. So last Saturday we asked them if they had talked to their parents and they said that if we were the JW’s that their parents wouldn’t let them. We told them that we weren’t the JW’s and they said that they would go ask again. So this Wednesday rolls around and we’re kinda hoping for the best but expecting the worst as we go to ask them about meeting us. But our fears were put to rest as Marin said, “My parents want me to be registered with your church.” Awesome change of opinion! So we sat down with them that day and committed them to baptism. We met with them again yesterday and talked about the Holy Ghost and how we receive answers to prayers. They are doing well so far.

We also met the friend of Sister Isufaj from the branch. Her name is Leta. She used to be a professional basketball player in Albania. Her husband died several years ago and she has had to raise two boys by herself. She just barely moved back to Albania from Greece in the summer and she met the Isufajs through her son. She came to church one week and enjoyed it and now we’re meeting with her and her boys. The oldest one’s name is Joey and he’s a little bit more difficult, but the younger one is named Krisi and he seems like he’s about as ready as Leta. I feel bad for Joey though because that would be really hard to move somewhere when you’re 13 and not have any friends really. So hopefully we can help him find friends and find happiness in the words of Christ.

I’ll give you the update on those people as things progress. Anyway, so this week was a pretty good week for us. It was refreshing after a lot of effort with no real success. I’m grateful for the hand of God in our work. I’m grateful for the members and their willingness to share the gospel with their friends. I hope that we will continue to be guided by the spirit and help these people progress.

Thanks for your love and support! I can’t wait to talk to you in a month. It’s crazy that time has gone by this fast. It’s almost Christmas again.

-Elder Swenson

P.S. I had typed this whole thing out in Word so that I could copy and paste it into my e-mail, but then I got distracted and when I got back in the zone I thought I had already sent this to you so I erased it all and started writing Dad. I was about halfway through when I realized that I hadn't sent you your e-mail and I was thinking, "NOOOOOO! I spent all that time for nothing!" But then I go back to Microsoft Word where I had been writing dad's e-mail and decided that maybe I could recover it by just undoing everything and seeing if your letter was within the memory space that it has. And it was! So here ya go! Shyqyr for Microsoft Word!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jenny is dunked!!

Message to friends:

Hey Boys!

How is everybody? It’s weird to think that Tim is pretty much dead. Sucks for you, bro! Ha ha just kidding, Tim, you rock. But seriously. . . .that does suck. . . .

Anyway so this last week I found something out that rocked my world. In a good way, of course. Remember, if you will, the story about Jenny. She was the one from Greece that we talked to in her stairwell and ended up having the best lesson of my entire mission. Yeah, that one. Well anyway, I was tracting on Thursday night and I got a phone call from Elder Smith in the office. I answered the phone and Elder Smith asked me if I was busy or if I had a second. I said, “Nope, we’re just tracting! What’s up?” He replies with, “We just got an e-mail from the Greece mission. Guess who just got baptized.” Jenny is dunked!! That seriously made me so happy. We had been having a pretty rough week as well so it just made it that much better that we saw a HUGE blessing from the Lord in the midst of all that other frustration. Anyway, I was just really excited about that and I wanted to tell somebody. =)

Like I said we had a pretty frustrating week other than that awesome announcement. I was pretty dang discouraged by the time Sunday came around. We had had no success finding and those investigators that we had found before turned out to be like all the other ones and didn’t show up for their second meetings. Even the members that we tried to visit were cold to us. Ha ha lets just say I was not in the most positive mindset ever. So Sunday rolled around and church was actually really great. Several members brought friends to church and we even had a couple of young men from our English class there. I taught my investigator class about Abinadi and his story and we did a reenactment of it—pretty fun. But then the night came and we had two sure lessons set up. At least I thought they were sure, but they both ended up being no-shows which didn’t help my already supremely un-Christlike attitude. We finished the night with one of the worst lessons I have ever seen on my mission and headed back to the house. We got back and planned and I started getting ready for the night. I realized that I could have been way more positive about this whole week and could have acted a lot more like a servant of Jesus Christ than I did. I got down on my knees to say a prayer and as I was praying, the story of Abinadi that I had taught earlier that day came into my mind. I thought about Abinadi’s last week. The people of Noah hated him. They put him into prison. Abinadi didn’t see one person converted from his “mission.” Not one. And in the end he died burning at the stake. Awesome week, eh? Makes mine look pretty pathetic. But anyway, that’s not the point. The point is what came out of Abinadi’s efforts. Alma came out of Abinadi’s efforts. How many people were converted because Alma was converted? Well, just in that group at the waters of Mormon around 450 were baptized because of the spirit that they felt coming from Alma’s teachings not to mention however many people after that.

Abinadi didn’t see any success and in fact I can guarantee that he was probably pretty frustrated, but because of his powerful testimony, tons of people received the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Abinadi is the man. I’m grateful to be a part of this work. It’s really hard, but at the same time I have learned more than I could have asked for. I know the Lord is with us. He loves us and he sends us so many blessings. I love my Savior. I’m grateful for the sacrifice that He made so we wouldn’t have to suffer. I love these people even though they bug the heck out of me from time to time. ;) I’m grateful that I still have time left to serve them and I know that the Lord takes care of His servants. I love you guys. You are incredible examples for me. I feel like I would feel so amateur being any of your companions. I can’t wait to hear your stories. Have an awesome Christmas!!

“Pains, nor toils, nor trials heeding, And in heav’n’s good time succeeding, God speed the right. God speed the right.”

-Elder Swenson

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I’ve been trying to practice patience

What’s up?!

That’s so cool that Hannah is going on a mission! She will be an awesome missionary. Seriously. Awesome. And I was actually just going to write Abi oddly enough so I will ask her! But that is way cool. I’m so excited for them! Do you know when Hannah is leaving?

Ha ha I didn’t really do anything out of the ordinary last week either! Now you know how I feel! =) Probably the most exciting thing that we did this week was go up to Mount Dajti. It’s a mountain on the border of Tirana and you can take a gondola to get up there. It’s pretty cool, but it’s nothing like the Utah mountains. We really have such beautiful scenery in Utah. But I’ve got some good pictures I can send you.

Ha ha that Webelos activity sounds like the bomb. I’m sure all those parents are going to love you. ;) But even if they don’t the boys are going to think that you’re super legit. Are you making the marshmallow shooters out of PVC pipes? I remember we used to have a blast with those things.

Well this week was pretty boring actually. I’ve been trying to practice patience ha ha cause it’s been tried a lot. We’ve had a lot of difficulty getting people to show up for the second meeting. I guess if you look at it from the positive side it’s just filtering out the ones that are not ready to receive the gospel yet. But still, it’s pretty dang frustrating. We have been able to find a lot of new investigators, but I’d really just like to know why they don’t stick. And I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault that they don’t. There’s got to be something that I could be doing better. We learned in our leadership training that missionaries worry most of the time about what they say and they feel like it’s what they say that influences the investigators. But actually that’s not true. It’s what they feel that influences them. So I’ve set a goal this week to really seek for the guidance of the spirit as much as possible. All I really want to do is to bring the spirit into the lessons and let God do the converting. So I’ll let you know how that goes next week.

Mom, I love you! I hope you have a good week this week! Thanks for sending me that form for school and looking into that stuff for me. You’re awesome.

-Elder Swenson

P.S. Oh! I forgot. If you could e-mail me a couple recipes that would be awesome. The one for chicken a la king and the one for sister Simons’ soup. Mmmmm. . . . .that’d be sweet!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I’m teaching Elder Griffith how to drive a stick shift.

Hey Mom!

Halloween looks like it was fun! Ha ha of course it would rain and make everything difficult for you in the good old cul-de-sac. Thanks for sending the pictures! I thought dad’s costume was great as always and I’m sure it was especially entertaining for all the neighborhood folks. And oh man you gotta say hi to the Call’s for me! It’s has been forever since I have seen anybody.

Our week was a pretty average week. Ha ha I’m teaching Elder Griffith how to drive a stick shift which is definitely an adventure, especially in Tirana. ;) But he’s actually doing great. We’ve just got to work on the hills and fine tune everything and he’ll be ready to go. We also went to Elbasan to do an emergency transfer on Friday. This time, though, the only way that I was involved was in the transport! Shyqyr! You guys would love the drive to Elbasan. You basically just drive on the top of this mountain and there’s tons of great scenery. My opinion is that the only thing that would make it better would be a golf course in the canyon. =)

On Sunday we met a really cool kid named Bushi (boo-she). We were tracting in an apartment building and we knocked the door at the end of the hall. Nobody answered that one, but the door behind us opened and there’s a college kid standing there thinking that we had knocked on his door. So, naturally, we talked to him and told him about our message. Almost before we had said anything he invited us in and said we could talk about it. It turns out that he’s from Vlorë but going to school in Tirana for philosophy. In Vlorë he was part of a group of students that would get together to read the Bible and study about Jesus Christ. He said a lot of stuff that lead us to believe that he’s had some problems in his life. I’m pretty sure he’s not in the greatest financial situation and it doesn’t sound like his family is the most solid family on earth, but he said that he has learned to pray every night and every time he does he feels relief.

He really made an impression on me because of his willingness to believe even when those around him don’t. At the beginning of the lesson, we had talked a little bit and asked him a few questions and we were just about to say a prayer when one of his friends walked out of the other room. Bushi invited him in to listen and he came and sat down for a second, but when he found out we were going to say a prayer and talk about God he just kinda laughed and left the room. I think Bushi knew that was going to happen, but he tried anyway. I think I realized why I was born into a member family in the middle of Happy Valley, Utah. Cause if I had that kind of opposition coming from my friends I don’t think I would be able to stick with what I know is true. Now I probably could, but back then, no. But I think this kid is going to be blessed because of that faith. I hope he shows up on Thursday when we are planning to meet him again. He was an awesome kid and I really think the message of the restoration will touch his heart.

So that was our week! Hopefully we’ll have some cool stories this week ha ha. About the package, I don’t really know what I need. . . .I don’t think I need anything that’s absolutely essential right now. I can get most of the stuff here. But maybe I could do a recheck this week and send you requests next week? I don’t know if that is too late so you let me know.

Also, have you seen anything about school registration? It’s probably about time that I need to start filling stuff out and what not.

Mom, I love you! Thanks for your support and love! You rock!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, October 18, 2010

We got to do a lot of missionary work this week.

Hey Mom!

That’s good to hear you’re still having good weather cause then the Halloween party might go well! Well actually I guess we always say that, but then it snows or rains like crazy so good luck! What’s dad planning on doing this year? Make sure you take some pictures and send them to me. Over here it is definitely starting to get cooler. It rained literally all this week and it was awesome. It’s not super cold yet so the rain doesn’t bother me. I wish it rained in Utah like it does here.

Tell Lindsey to get feeling better for me! It is the season for sickness. But hopefully it will pass. Ha ha yeah dad was saying how you went to her school and were here “models.” I find it hilarious that Dad was there. =) That’s good to know that she’s doing something she likes though. And from what it sounds like, she’s a natural!

Oh my goodness I better write Grandma a letter then. Tell her happy birthday! She has written me my entire mission and I don’t know if I’ve ever written her a letter back. That’s pretty lame of me so I will get on that.

Tell Bishop and Race that I said hi. Man that’s a bummer for Race. But I’m sure it’s for a reason. The Albanians always say that, “it’s in God’s hand.”

Well we got to do a lot of missionary work this week. We didn’t have a ton of random stuff to do here in the office. We did a lot of tracting. But it worked I guess cause we found eight new people to teach. We had some really cool lessons. I think the coolest one was last night. I don’t know why but the best stuff always happens on Sundays. We were tracting and we got in with a small family of three. It was a grandma, her daughter, and granddaughter. It was funny because the grandma was the one that was interested at first at the door so she let us in. We talked for a while and taught about Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon and how they could and why they needed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. When we asked them if we could come again and talk about the experience that they had reading and praying about the book, the grandma started saying everything normal for people who don’t want to commit. “I’ll tell you what, we’ll try for sure. I’m not making any promises but we’ll try.” “We’re always home just swing by whenever you’re in the neighborhood and we’ll be here.” Translated into English, it basically means, “Thanks for the free book, but we’re not really that interested.” But the daughter, named Olta, gave us a definite yes. You could tell during the lesson that she was really listening and I think because she was listening, the spirit was able to touch her heart. She was excited to give it a try and volunteered really fast to give the prayer at the end of the lesson.

It was interesting because I think me and Elder Griffith are still kind of trying to get used to each other’s teaching style and everything, but last night for that lesson it just clicked. We were able to work together and teach a lesson where the spirit was able to be there. I’ve been having a really weird week just not feeling all there, but when you’re in one of those lessons, all of that just goes away. It’s such a great feeling. I would love so much if this family continued to learn. I would love to see somebody be more happy in their lives because of the gospel. So I’ll keep you posted on them.

Mom, I love you! I’m really grateful for all your letters and support and prayers. I’m lucky to be a part of the family I have. I continue to pray for you all every day so I hope it’s working. ;) I love you.

-Elder Swenson

Monday, October 11, 2010

It’s definitely getting a little chilly here.

Hey Mom!

How’s it going back in Alpine? Is it starting to get cold yet? It’s definitely getting a little chilly here. I’m grateful for those massive shoes you sent me. They are really good for the rain. =) By the way, thanks for that picture book that you sent with the Foulk’s! I enjoyed it thoroughly. I was such a stud when I was little, eh? ;) I love pictures so thanks for sending those. Man it was weird seeing Elder Foulk meet his parents cause then right after that the fringos came and we got to take them all over the place and get them ready to work. I saw the whole circle of life in the course of an hour.

That was probably the most exciting thing that happened this week. We got new missionaries! I love getting new missionaries. This group was really, really good. There were four elders and one sister. Interesting story. When new missionaries get here, we have to take them all to the embassy to get a copy of their criminal records (or lack thereof). Well, this time we forgot that, in America, it costs $50 to print off a piece of paper and I had nowhere near enough money on me to pay for $200 worth of criminal records. So I had to collect money from all the new elders and we finally scrounged up enough to pay for the four dang papers. It was funny though because apparently when they got to the Salt Lake airport, some random guy came up to them and gave them $80 bucks so they could get some food before they left and for anything else they might need during their trip. They still had $40 bucks left over when they got here so that helped out a lot! Who knew that guy was so inspired?

I wish I could take you guys driving around Tirana. You would freak out. The fringos love it. I promise I’m not an insane driver, but in Tirana you have to drive differently than in Utah or it’s not safe. It’s funny cause we don’t even think anything of it anymore we’re so used to it, but every time the fringos come in they always say something to the effect of, “Well I guess the rumors they told us about the driving were true.” Good times.

So I am still in Tirana and still in 1st branch. I didn’t move. My new companion is Elder Griffith. He’s from Mount Vernon, Iowa and he’s taller than I am. We’re the tallest companionship in the mission (averaged, of course. There’s still one elder that’s taller than Elder Griffith). He’s a really funny kid and like a thousand times smarter than I am so I’m learning a lot. Hopefully I can pick up on some of that and start getting smarter/funnier again. Both of those aspects have taken a drastic hit during my mission.

Well I can’t think of anything else really exciting that happened this week so I will finish by saying that I love you! I hope you are all doing well. You are in my prayers every morning and night. I’m grateful that I was born into such an awesome family. I can’t wait to see you guys again.

Love you!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, October 4, 2010

I actually have something cool this week to write about.

Guess what! I actually have something cool this week to write about. Weird, huh? Nothing cool really happened to us this week per se, but I just saw a cool comparison that we actually were able to teach in our English class.

Some of the pictures that you just looked at are from a village in between Tirana and Elbasan called Pëllumbas. It’s a small village where nobody really lives, but if you hike a little ways up into the mountains there are some caves that you can explore. They are humongous caves and there are probably thousands of bats inside. The floor is covered in slippery mud and the only source of light that you have is a fairly low-powered flashlight to help you see what’s barely in front of you. The scenic hike up to the caves is beautiful and we enjoyed it thouroughly. The caves were also really fun to explore. We were all given flashlights to walk around in the caves, but obviously when you’re in some bat caves with a bunch of 20 year old kids, at some point you’re going to turn all the lights off. We all piled in to one of the caves and on the count of three we turned off our flashlights. It was incredible how dark it was in there. Honestly, you couldn’t see your hand held up in front of you. You couldn’t see anything. If we would have tried to get out of the caves without a light, we would have never made it and probably ended up slipping, falling, and getting hurt along the way. But if one person would turn their flashlight on and scope out the path, you could follow that person and know you weren’t going to slip or fall. You knew that he could see the safe way out and if you followed him, you would be safe as well. All you need is that one light source in the midst of the drowning darkness and it becomes possible.

We all know that the times we live in are fairly dark. There are tons of things around us that do not give off light in the least bit. Satan is using anything and everything he can find to turn out the lights or to blind us so we can’t see them. Think about the words in John chapter 8. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” We are all unavoidably put in this world of darkness. Whether we like it or not, we are in darkness. Heavenly Father is not here to show us every step of the way. It’s our job to find a way out of the darkness and back into His presence. But luckily, we all have one person to whom we can look for that source of light. That person is Jesus Christ. He set the perfect example for us. He knows the path and if we follow that path, we won’t slip or fall. We will be safe and one day we will make it out of the dark caves into the glorious light of the Celestial Kingdom. Now think about the words in Matthew 5 and we learn about the responsibility that we each have as followers of Jesus Christ. “Ye are the light of the world. . .Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” When we are on that road, we all have the opportunity to be that light for others. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I have to be that light in my life. It’s awesome to be able to help people get on the path so they don’t have to suffer anymore.

I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for the example he set for all of us. I’m grateful for forgiveness. He is there and he knows exactly how to help us. Why not come unto him and be a part of that peace. I know this is His true church.

I love you, Mom!

-Elder Swenson

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Newest Pics

Vasil’s baptism. The woman on the left is his wife and the guy on the right is Vëllai Saraçi.

Is this my picture?

The best mountain view I have ever seen in my life. Or it might be tied with the top of Little Cloud at Snowbird.

Waterfall on the road to Theth.

Me trying to be cool, but ending up just falling into the river.

Me in front of the river that I fell into.

Some pics from a church in Theth. This was a sweet view.

Random picture. I don’t know why I wanted to take that picture so bad. . . .but I did.

View from the road to Theth

View from the road to Theth

A sweet picture I took of Elder Klein throwing a rock.

This guy is Zef. He is a member in the Shkodër branch. He is so legit. Ha ha I freaking love this picture. He was our tour guide to Theth so we had a blast with him.

The road to Theth.

Sweet mountain pick.

Me looking weird at Theth.

Theth. This place was gorgeous. We stopped here for a bathroom break. =)

Exchanges with Elder Skousen and Elder Knowles.

Elder Foulk, Erodita and me

Erodita being short. We thought it was funny.

Erodita with Motra Halabuk and Motra Yourstone.
(I'm assuming these are the sisters who taught her)

Me with Erodita

Still going back.

Going back from the caves.

Same canyon looking the opposite way.
Same canyon. Same bench.

The canyon by the caves near Pëllumbas.

We found a turtle. And Elder Klein decided to be a tool to it.

Long story. Basically every single person that drives by us will get right up next to us and tell us that our plate is down. Every single one. It’s been really annoying. I guess you kinda just had to be there. . . .

Mason’s birthday

This is a t-shirt that Elder Smith had. I had to borrow it from him cause we decided to play volleyball one P-day and we didn’t want to go all the way back to our house.