Monday, April 26, 2010

This really has put the importance of temples into perspective for me.

Hey Mom!

Yeah that was a picture of the district I was in before this transfer. We were up at Shkodër castle like all the other ones. And speaking of Shkodër, Elder Johnson is serving in Shkodër and he is in (well. . . .was in) my district. He’s going to be awesome. He is super excited to be here as far as I can tell and he’s willing to get out there and talk to people. So tell Karen to tell his parents that he’s doing great! He also has a great companion, Elder Fahey, so he’s in good hands. =)

Okay so the latest news. I was involved in yet another emergency transfer. So I am no longer in Durrës as zone leader, but now I am back in Tirana in 1st Branch. I am serving as assistant to the President with Elder Monson so unless I get injured or something and have to move, I will be here until the beginning of October. That was pretty weird when I found out I was moving. But hopefully I’ll be able to do my best.

Ha ha it was so funny to compare your account of Jade’s farewell to Dad’s. Your words were “I’ll have to admit it brought some tears to my eyes.” Dad’s words were, “Mom was blubbering the whole time.” =) I laughed a hearty chuckle right there. Man that youth conference was so memorable! It was pretty dang fun. Seriously I don’t think any one of us that was there is going to forget that. And who doesn’t appreciate sister missionaries?! Whoever it is, they’re insane. Sister missionaries kick Elders’ trash. At least here in Albania they do. There’s just some people that the Elders could never get to, when the Sisters can. Jade is going to do great and God will definitely appreciate the work that she does in his vineyard. Tell her good luck from me again if you see her before she leaves!

Well this week was pretty interesting as you could imagine with the emergency transfer and everything, but the work in this area seems to be doing a little better than my last couple of areas. Hopefully I don’t curse it forever ha ha. One thing that really hit me this week is how much of a sacrifice some people have to make to go to the temple. We have it so lucky in Utah. When we want to go to the temple, we don’t have to decide a year or more in advance or start saving up money. We don’t have to arrange for plane tickets or worry about visas and passports and other such things. I could decide at noon that I felt like going to the temple and be there in ten minutes. This really has put the importance of temples into perspective for me. These people start saving up money and preparing way in advance just to go even one time in their entire lives. But it’s because they know they wouldn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of an eternal marriage and family. And when we have the opportunity to go so easily, we need to take advantage of that and help others to seal their families for eternity as well.

Well, I should probably get going. I feel like this letter sounds kinda weird. Sorry! It was kind of a strange week so hopefully next week I’ll have my feet set a little bit more. I love you, mom. Thanks so much for your e-mail. We get to talk in two weeks! Have a great week!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, April 19, 2010

Well this week was interesting.

Me and Elder Shields waiting for like the seven hundredth no-show in a row.

A visit to the Cani Family

FHE Durrës Style

Hey Mom!

Well this week was interesting. We were out of Durrës for like four mornings in a row so the work suffered a little. But that’s okay cause I got to drive. =) And to answer your question about how much I drive, basically anywhere we go my companion will drive one way and I will drive the other. But we usually don’t go too often. This week was an exception. I’d say we go somewhere probably once a week on average, but I think this week we might be here the whole time which will be cool.

Me and Elder Shields decided that we had an average of about three no-shows per day which was pretty awesome. We spent a lot of time waiting in vain. But that’s okay, that’s just how it goes sometimes. Ha ha yesterday while we were waiting for our investigator to take to church this guy comes up and says, “How’s it goin’, Elders?” in like perfect English. I was so taken off guard that when he asked us where we were from, I said, “America.” He replied, “Well duh, but where?” It turned out he was there with the Army and he’s from Nephi, Utah. If we see him again I’ll ask him if there’s some way I can give a shout out to his family with like an e-mail address or something.

So a couple of funny stories really quick. We went tracting a couple of days ago and we took the elevator up to the top floor. It was a beautiful view and I saw that the door to the roof was open so I figured we’d get a picture while we had the opportunity. So we went up to the door and as soon as I stepped one foot through it, I saw that there was a woman watering plants or something so I said, “Hello! How are you?” She flipped. I guess I scared her so she flipped out and started to push me back through the door and tell us to get out of there. I asked her nicely if we could just take a picture from the top and she would not let us for the life of me. So we just left without complaint and began to knock doors. But would she let us go quietly back to our work? Never! As soon as we started to knock on the doors she told us to leave and not bother the people or else she was going to call the police (never true). She followed us down like two floors before we could finally get back to our work and knock doors in peace. So that’s why I don’t have an awesome picture from the skyline of Durrës. =P

And the other one happened yesterday at church. Saturday, we had a meeting with a woman name Viollca that may have been the most awkward lesson in the history of missionary work. But she agreed to come meet us and walk to church together the next day so it can’t have been too bad! Also she doesn’t have a phone so we can’t call her. She didn’t understand me when I explained how to get to the church (not because I suck at the language, but because she’s just weird). INTERRUPTION: The song playing at the internet café that I’m at right now is Layla (acoustic) by Eric Clapton. END OF INTERRUPTION. So we had to meet her at the train station which is like half an hour walking distance away from the church and we can’t drive her in our makinë because the church has a rule against that. She showed up about 15 minutes late and I was going to be giving a talk in sacrament meeting. So we had to walk fairly fast out to the church and got there right in the middle of sacrament. When we finally got to go into the chapel it was my turn to speak so I headed up to the podium while Viollca sat down with Elder Shields in the pews. I started to talk and seriously no later than ten seconds into my talk, she got up and left. Elder Shields followed her out and then came back alone about 20 seconds later. I finished my talk trying to not be weirded out by the whole situation. As soon as I got back to my seat, I asked Elder Shields what happened and he said that Viollca had told him that she felt like she was in hell when she was in there. Man! Church must rock here in Durrës! Ha ha but we had only had one pseudo-lesson before that so I don’t really blame her. She agreed to meet with us again tomorrow so I think she just wasn’t used to the whole church thing. Hopefully we’ll get a good lesson in tomorrow.

Anyway, holy cow sorry I just babbled on there! Tell Grandma that yes I did get her package!! I thought I already told you that, but maybe I forgot. Thanks for sending me those pictures! They were so good. I absolutely love pictures.

I have got to go! My time’s almost out! Thanks for the e-mail, mom! I love you so much! OH! We are going to be talking on the phone for Mother’s Day here pretty soon. Cool, huh? =)

-Elder Swenson

Monday, April 12, 2010

It’s spring now!!

Some cool ruins right next to the road in Durrës

A funny little punëtor (worker).


It’s spring now!! We are wearing short sleeve shirts which is pretty awesome. Some of the days are still pretty cold though, but hey, we’re allowed to so we will. But it’s been pretty nice in general. I am now in Durrës which is right on the beach. Well, my area is not the beach, but it’s still pretty close. I’ve heard it’s the mildest climate for the summer, but I honestly don’t think it’s going to make that much of a difference. It is going to get dang hot and that’s just how it goes here in Albania. But right now it’s nice. Also, I get to drive places which is fun. Ha ha I’ve only driven once and I only stalled like eight times on the way to the church! But only once on the way back. =) Improvement. So hopefully I’ll be rockin’ at stickshift by the time I get out of Durrës.

This week has been pretty intense. We got here and there was nothing for us. No investigators. One recent convert. That’s it. So we’ve been doing a lot of finding and God was definitely on our side this week. The first couple of days we spent mostly street contacting and getting phone numbers. Now, usually it takes about seventy numbers to get an appointment to actually go through (exaggeration, but that’s beside the point), but this week we had eight meetings show up from street contacting! And six of them turned into new investigators! That’s probably the most success I’ve had yet on my mission from street contacting.

We had a really cool experience with one of them yesterday. We had set up a meeting with a kid named Xhefer (Jeff-air) after church. It wasn’t a super sure meeting, but he had said he would come and so we had to go wait for him. But what do ya know he showed up. The only problem was he was with two of his friends. You should probably understand that these were 15 year old boys trying to be cool so this did not give me any outstanding expectations for the lesson that we were going to have. It was hard enough to get them to agree to walk to our little meeting house to actually have the lesson. Then on the way there, his friends were making fun of us the whole time and thinking this was the dumbest thing they had ever done in their lifetimes. We got to the house and his friends wouldn’t even come in (which we were actually grateful for). Xhefer definitely did not want to be there and even if he did, the pressure of his friends was not helping us or him out at all. I was really hoping that we would just be able to teach him without him leaving in the middle of the lesson because he thought it was so stupid. I was praying in my heart to be able to get along with him and help him feel something to realize that this wasn’t a joke and it wasn’t something stupid. So we started teaching the lesson and he listened. He didn’t oppose and he didn’t make fun of us. The Lord helped us to keep it short, but at the same time to say what we needed to say. The lesson turned out to be really good. I know he felt something because I felt something. He seemed to take it all in as well. Maybe he was just putting on a good act, but we’ll see. At the end he even said a prayer and agreed to meet with us again. He turned out to be a really good kid when his friends weren’t pressuring him. As he was walking out the door, I told him not to let his friends bother him about it cause I knew they would. He laughed and said, “Okay.” We have our next meeting set up with him tomorrow and I really really really hope he comes. It was just so cool to see the environment completely change because of the hand of the Lord. If Xhefer has been prepared to hear the Gospel, then God will certainly do everything he can to help him meet with us.

Anyway, thanks for everything, mom! Oh and thanks for sending me the recipe! I’m definitely going to try that out. I love you, mom! Tell everyone I say hi.

-Elder Swenson

Monday, April 5, 2010

Message for Friends Newsletter

What’s Up Everybody?!

Things here in
Albania are pretty good. I just got word that I’m going to be leaving Tirana for Durrës which is a city right on the beach. I’ll be white-washing my area because one of the zone leaders that was there had to go home for health reasons and the other finishes his mission in two days. So that should be interesting. Something that I’m sure some of you will find funny is that I will be driving a stick-shift. Good times.

Oh man how was conference for you guys? Do you all get to see it? I love getting to see conference. We only get to see the two morning sessions, but they were really good. I loved the emphasis on family this time around. I know I’ve definitely come to appreciate my family a lot more as I’ve been away and realized how much they did for me and how much better I could have been. I’ve also noticed what kind of effect families have on obedience to the principles of the gospel. Those people here that have good, supportive families behind them are the ones that really develop their testimonies and excel in the gospel. That doesn’t mean that those whose families oppose are out of luck, but having a family united in the gospel is a huge blessing. I’m glad I’ve been able to be a part of a great family during my time on earth and I hope to start an awesome family of my own in the next few years. The gospel really puts into perspective the importance of families for me. How happy we can be and what our future really holds for us. I’ve also been blessed to have an AMAZING circle of friends. You guys have been like a second family to me and your example has helped me so much. I love hearing about all your missions and your testimonies.

Well this transfer has been a pretty slow one, but we had a good time. I don’t know if you guys have the same problem, but we have to set up like 10 appointments for one to actually go through. It’s pretty lame and it’s been especially bad these last couple of transfers. But that’s where the faith comes in, I guess. The area presidency here gave us some direction and re-emphasized some stuff in Preach My Gospel like meeting investigators three times a week for short lessons and following up by making daily contact. We really tried to do that this transfer and it’s really narrowed our sights, but we have faith that by doing this we will find those who are really going to turn into good, productive members of the church with strong testimonies of the restored gospel. It’s also really helpful in that you can focus your lessons on just one or two key things which I am a fan of.

Geez, can you tell that I have no idea what to write for these things anymore? =) Well I guess I will leave you with my simple testimony that I know Jesus Christ is our Savior. He has suffered it all and then some more. He descended below every condition. That is a very comforting phrase. One of my favorite pieces of scripture has always been Matthew 11:28-30. If we come unto Christ and love him and try our best to keep his commandments, he will help us carry our burdens. I was reading in
Alma 31 and 32 this morning and in chapter 31 verse 31 Alma prays for help to suffer his burdens with patience. He doesn’t ask God to take his burdens away because God rarely does that, but he asks for help to bear those burdens. God loves us and he wants to help us. We’ve just got to ask. I love my Savior. I love this Gospel. I love my family. Can’t wait to see you guys again.

“Forward into battle, see our banners go! Onward Christian Soldiers!”

Elder Swenson

April Pics

A university in Sheshi Nënë Tëreza.

The Branch at the Easter activity!

Me and Elder Hagen with Afërdita and the Korita's.

Just a good landscape at the park.

A really good future couple finding easter eggs. ;)

The cutest little dog ever that is always in the same place. We see him everyday.

The Last of March Pics

Mason's Birthday

The path up to the Shkodër castle.
My amazing photography skills.
Up at the Shkodër castle.
The other xhami with some road construction that I didn’t mean to include in the picture.
Motra Bentley ruining my picture.

A really cool xhami in Shkodër.

Me going through the taxi protest. =)
A taxi protest in the middle of Tirana.
Me and Elder Hagen just after haircuts.