Monday, May 31, 2010

June Message for "Ties that Bind" Newsletter

Hey Guys!

I honestly cannot believe it is time for me to write this again. This month has gone by incredibly fast. But I like it that way so it’s been a really good month. Not gonna lie, because I forgot that it was newsletter week I didn’t really have anything in mind to share. But hopefully I’ll be able to remember a couple things to share.

The one thing that was super awesome actually happened to us last night. We had planned for a night full of tracting, but after church one of the youth in our ward, Grisi, asked us if we could go do his home teaching with him because his companion was in Kosovo for the weekend. He home teaches one of the new members and an inactive family so we figured it would be good to get to visit them. The new member’s name is Lavdie. A couple weeks ago, her younger sister died and it hit her really hard. She had seen her sick for seven years and it was just a really hard thing for her to go through. When we went over to visit her you could tell that it still hurt her really bad. But she’s awesome and she told us that she knows that this is a part of God’s plan and we just have to take it and become stronger. She said she will always have faith in God no matter what happens. We talked about it for a minute and gave her some words of comfort and moved on to the home teaching message. Lavdie’s neice (the daughter of the sister who just died), Senada, came in and listened to the message. She had learned a little bit from the missionaries before, but apparently had problems with her dad and it became more of a burden than anything else so she stopped for a while. Anyway, during our discussion, Lavdie told us that Senada had also decided to be baptized. Now a lot of times Albanians just decide things for other people and so I didn’t know if this was just one of those awkward moments or if she really wanted to be baptized. But oh man—she wanted to be baptized.

The reasons she gave were so incredible. She realized that nothing really matters except for being close to God. Everything else comes and goes, but the only thing that really matters in the end is that relationship with our Heavenly Father because that’s where we’re going. We’re going to leave all this behind and go where He is. Both of Senada’s parents have died now. They are both where He is and she knows that. She said something that hit me pretty hard. She said, “Both my parents are now close to God so however much closer I get to God, I’ll be that much closer to my parents.” That was such a cool idea for me and you could really see that she had just been humbled completely. She realized that there was a God and he was all powerful. She wanted to know Him and do what He wants her to do.

She was SO pumped to be baptized. It was so funny because we were discussing when we could set a date with her and we tried for July 4th, but you could tell that she didn’t really like that. So we moved it up. June 27. Eh. Still not terribly satisfied. So we moved it up. =) She will be baptized June 20th and it’s gonna be awesome. So we set her up with the sisters and she is so ready to take those steps towards baptism. She told us that this whole death thing had turned her to smoking again so we explained that she was going to have to do the Stop Smoking Program that the church has. She said, “Okay I’ll just finish this pack and then I’m done.”

We were like, “HECK. NO. Go get that pack of cigarettes right now.”

She went and got it.

“Crush it.”

She is now a non-smoker. I can’t wait to see her progress. It’s funny how the ones that are really prepared somehow find you. Honestly I’ve never had an experience like that in my mission so far so it was just amazing to see someone so ready and so earnestly desiring to come closer to Jesus Christ.

That really is what matters in life. We need to find those things that are eternal and hold on to them. Our families. Our friends. Our testimonies. Our Savior. Nothing else really matters. I want to let you know that I know that God loves us. He loves every single person we see in the streets. They all mean SO much to him. Lets go help him bring them back.

Love you guys. Have an awesome month!

”Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee.”

-Elder Swenson

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Apartment

“Big Blue”

View from my apartment

Monday, May 24, 2010

We are working especially hard with a referral family.


Hey Mom! How’s it going? Pretty boring week this week! It was busy, but just nothing really out of the ordinary ha ha. We actually had a really good week in regards to lessons taught and stuff. We were teaching a lot and we had fairly good lessons. We are working especially hard with a referral family right now. They were given to us when we challenged the Veliu family to share the gospel with their friends/random people they had never talked to before. Motra Veliu chose the latter. =) But this family is doing really well. So far the grandma and the two kids have come to church every week for the past three weeks (except the grandma didn’t come this week). Nermin (Nair-mean) is the grandma’s name and she is the one that seems to be progressing the most. She really cares a lot about her family and we’ve really been trying to show her how the gospel can bless her family tremendously. Reldi, the 13 year old boy, is also liking the lessons. I think he likes the young men’s activities more, though. ;) He loves soccer and we played this last Saturday which was fun. Reldi’s a little different so I’m hoping that the young men in our branch can welcome him in instead of isolate him. They’ve been doing pretty good so far, though, which I am really happy about. The little girl, Antea, is so dang adorable. She is the nicest little thing you ever did see and she has a blast with her friends in primary. She was actually friends with another little girl in church named Abi so that was really helpful. This week we are going to be talking about baptism with them and hopefully setting a date with them that they can work for to be baptized! I hope all goes well with that. We know they have felt the spirit as we’ve talked together and as they have read. And we’ve given a strong commitment to pray and ask God if these things are true so we’ll see what the answer is this week!

Probably the most eventful thing that happened this week was an investigator coming in and introducing himself as his twin brother and trying to get us to believe that he actually was his twin and not himself. I’ll admit, he had me going at first because it was kind of a sudden thing and the circumstances were just weird, but it didn’t take too long to realize that it actually was him and not his “twin brother.” Especially when he had the exact same phone with the exact same crack in the glass . Hmmmmm. . . . . . .

So you’ll be happy to know that I’ve been getting the pictures you wanted of my house and random stuff like that. I’ll send them to you today. Except for I forgot to get the drying rack! But if you want to see it, it’s actually in one of the pictures you are having me label today. But I’ll get some pictures of it in action and send them to you next week.

Well say hi to the Wilson’s from Elder Swenson! I’m sure their mission was a killer success and hopefully they have had a good time since they’ve been home. I can’t believe Matt is leaving. If you see him again, tell him good luck and don’t forget to pray! He’ll be an awesome missionary. I can’t even imagine leaving for your mission on your birthday. That would be so bizarre. When does Tim leave, again?

And that stinks that I’m not going to be there to see Lindsey graduate. You’ll have to take pictures and send them to me. Lindsey looks awesome in those senior pictures you sent me! You should send me that one with Bear and the one of her in that tree thing. Where is that?! I swear I’ve seen that before, but I don’t know where it is.

Well you have a great week, mom! Be safe and have fun! I love you!

-Elder Swenson

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Newest Pictures

Cool Tie!
Amphitheater in Durrës

A cool room at the amphitheater
Me And Elder Monson at the amphitheater in Durrës

Me and Elder Monson on the way down the street. Ironic how this picture is in front of The Good News Church. . . .

Exchanges in Shkodër on T’s birthday
This is our apartment. Our bedroom actually. The American flag is covering up the creepiest picture ever of the pronari’s little girl. Also you can see our drying rack there in the background!
This is a goat with it’s head stuck in a crate. Actually it wasn’t stuck but it was funny

Me and Elder Monson after an incredibly tiring day. And sorry for the scandalous immodesty of Elder Monson! I told him he should stop doing that. ;)

Me and Elder Shields on our last day together. How sad.

On a bridge in Durrës

Monday, May 17, 2010

I’ve got pictures


How are ya, mom?! So I’ve got pictures to send you this week! =) We’re going to an internet place finally today so I can send them to you so you won’t have them with this e-mail, but you will have them today. Sorry I took so long. Our days are always really weird cause things like get in the way of lunches which is when I would have time to do that. But today I’ll have time!

Anyway that is so weird that Mike is leaving! Nobody even told me he got his call! But that’s cool that he’s going to Singapore. He was just made for learning really weird languages. Why are Natalie and Tyson over there? What does he do for work again? Or were they just bored and decided to move there.

Yes I have met the Ahlborn’s. Actually I was in their branch for a little while with Elder Hagen. But yeah they’re in Tirana so we see them quite a bit. They are awesome people. Very very self sufficient. Just really really good people. And they are working hard to get the outreach centers going and stuff.

Holy cow how are all these people getting married at like the same time?! You’ll have to send me an announcement of Kevin’s or e-mail it to me or something. That’s crazy.

So this week went by so fast. Busy busy busy. We got to go to Elbasan on exchanges which was intense. The road there is like four miles above the ground and when you’re not the one driving it’s pretty dang scary. It is gorgeous, though. I didn’t know Albania had that kind of scenery. I should have taken some pictures but I was too busy either driving or holding on for dear life. But it really was breathtaking. Next time I go there I will definitely snap some pictures and send them to you. And a trip to Elbasan also means that I got to drive Big Blue again! I only stalled once this time and it was when we pulled over so it didn’t even count. I also almost ran straight into a tourist bus, too! Sweet, huh?

Elbasan was funny. We had to be bouncers for their English Course cause there’s a ton of little kids that come and just make lots of noise and distract everyone else from learning so we had to stand out at the fence and be the selectively permeable membrane for those that were good and those that were lame. We actually literally had to be bouncers too. Like I physically had to push people off of the fence. It was pretty fun. There were some funny kids, though. There was this one little, happy, chubby kid that was hilarious. So we made a couple friends, too. ;)

We have also been working with a woman in Kosovo. Yeah, we’re basically opening the country. =) No, but we’ve been teaching her through Skype. Her name is Donika and she has been going to church over there for four years now and there’s an American couple in Kosovo that got in touch with us and wanted to start the lessons with her and so far she’s really good! Just really hard to meet with. That would be so sweet if we lined up a baptism with her and she got to come down to Tirana or we got to go up to Kosovo! (Probably not going to happen, but why not have hope?)

Well, thanks for your e-mail, mom! I love you so much! Have an awesome week!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, May 3, 2010

We are here to help the members.

Hey Mom!

Guess what?! We are going to be talking in like five days! Sweet, huh? I’m pretty excited.

That’s great that Chase is ready to go! Argentina will be sweet. Good soccer as well. ;)

Ha ha ha ha ha and yes that is the Elder Monson that I’m serving with now. That was hilarious cause he saw that picture on my screen and he was like, “Um. . . . .what the heck?. . . .” So yeah last week on Wednesday I moved back into Tirana. This last week was super busy getting ready for Zone Conference and making sure everything was going smooth. We also gave a training about working with the members. We called it “The Easy Way to Have Lots of Missionary Work.” Man I was so exhausted by the end of this week. On Wednesday (the night before Zone Conference) we ate lunch at 8:30 p.m. But I’d personally rather be busy as a missionary than have nothing to do. So it’s good. I do miss regular missionary work though. I mean we still do it, but there’s also lots of stuff we do that’s just kinda logistical stuff. Oh by the way, I think some people are confused that I’m an office Elder. . . . .I’m not. Elder Dittmer took that bullet for me a long time ago. ;) But now Zone Conference is over and we’re hopefully going to be doing a lot more finding and teaching this week.

We actually had a pretty good work week considering all the other stuff that had to get done. We’ve been trying to be examples of what we talked about in our training and working with the members to get referrals. One of the things that we really incorporated into our training was that we are here to help the members. They are not here to help us. Really if you think about it, it would make no sense if the missionaries were in charge of the missionary work. That sounds dumb, but look: Missionaries come into a branch for a fairly short amount of time and usually don’t have enough time in the area to see the whole process of finding, teaching, and baptizing. They usually leave somewhere in the middle of that process. The members are the ones that see everything and that will be there before and after to check on the progress of the new convert. For me it helped to compare it to when I was working at Chili’s. I remember there were about two weeks when the chefs from Headquarters came and did kind of hands on training for the chefs in our branch. They worked with them and just helped them become even more efficient than they were before. Then they left after a little while. It’s exactly the same with us. We come and make sure the teaching is going well. We are here to help the members with whatever they need to bring their loved ones into the fold of God. I don’t know if this is making as much sense to you as it did to me in my head. It was really an epiphany for me and it’s changed my way of thinking about missionary work. Ask me more on Saturday if you want to know more. But I’m guessing probably not.

Anyway! So we’ve met with a couple of families and hopefully we are going to be meeting with a couple referrals this week. I’m excited to see some real missionary work going on here. We also have just started meeting with a girl from Kosovo. . . . .over Skype. Her name is Donika and she lives in Kosovo. She’s been going to church there on and off for about four years. There is an American couple there that found our website or something and contacted the mission office so we finally got to meet with her on Thursday. The connection was really horrible so we’re gonna try it on a different computer that hasn’t had as many problems and we’re going to do it at a later time so hopefully there won’t be as many people on and hope things go better this time. Kosovars are so awesome. And they have a killer accent.

Okay so about my shoku. Elder Monson is from Orem, Utah and he’s been on his mission for like 22 months now. He’ll be leaving in July. Things have been going really well lately and President has been giving me some awesome companions. We do still get to drive although they just cracked down on the auto policy so not as much anymore. But we usually drive “Big Blue,” a huge, nine passenger, Volkswagen van that is a manual transmission. I haven’t driven it yet, but then again I haven’t really asked. But I think we’re going to Shkodër on Saturday so I’ll see if I can’t get some driving time in then. ;) Ha ha funny you say that I’m the one that’s always involved in emergency transfers. I came to the conclusion that, whenever they find out that there’s going to be an emergency transfer, the first thing that they do is say, “Okay, how can we involve Elder Swenson in this?” I’ve been a part of three now and they’ve all been fairly stressful, but whatever. This was actually probably the least stressful one.

Okay holy cow I have just been blabbering this whole time. I love you and I will talk to you on Saturday!!

-Elder Swenson