Monday, August 30, 2010

This week was kind of a blur

Hey Mom!

Sounds like everybody had a pretty eventful week! I guess it’s better that way than boring. That was a big surprise that we got a new bishopric. They’re all studs though so they’re going to do great. That’s sad to know that Bishop Pearson isn’t bishop anymore. He was really good. But there are other things to do in life. Tell him thanks from me for his help. I’m planning on writing him a letter next week, but let him know that I really appreciate everything he did for me and everybody else in the ward.

So this week was kind of a blur. We have been kinda sick and we haven’t had water almost at all in our house which is awesome. We’ve had to come to the church to shower and get ready almost every day this week. It’s pretty annoying. It also prevents us from doing the dishes/mopping/cleaning. Not the greatest situation ever. We thought it was just our old grandma neighbor stealing all our water, but we figured out it’s actually probably the pump so we’re looking into that right now.

We had Zone Conferences this week which were fun as always. The Missionary Department released something they call “Fundamentals from Preach My Gospel: Teaching More Effectively” which are eight basic teaching principles that will improve our teaching skills. They are really good and they released some DVD’s to go along with them that are very effective. So a lot of the Zone Conferences were introducing the principles and watching the DVD’s. I really enjoyed it, though. I think the principles are awesome. They’ve definitely helped me to become a better teacher so far. It’s funny cause they’re just simple things that you just forget sometimes. Some are harder than others, obviously, but for the most part they’re pretty simple. I really just want to become a better teacher. I think that is an awesome skill to have and I really look up to exceptional teachers. And it really helps in missionary work seeing as that’s basically all we do.

Really just another normal week. We taught Vasil and Azgan a lot and they’re still both progressing avash avash (slowly, slowly). We’ve moved Vasil’s baptismal date to the 19th of September and we’re pretty confident that he can be ready for that. We still have to talk to him about the Law of Tithing, though, which is our biggest concern. They are not a wealthy family at all and it’s going to be hard for him to show his faith by paying his tithing. But if he has really received a testimony of the Book of Mormon then he knows what he should do. We’re also going to be starting the stop smoking program with Azgan this week so we should have a pretty groundbreaking week! We’re a little nervous, but excited as well. It’s always amazing to see people progress in the gospel.

Well it was awesome to hear from you! I hope you have an amazing week! I love you, mom!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, August 23, 2010

This week was a really busy week.

What up?

This week was a really busy week. Not a ton of people here in Albania have cars so we were basically the youth camp transport. Girls camp and boys camp both happened this week and I think we made at least five trips up there. We also took our entire Wednesday night and did shopping with Sister Veliu for girls camp food. I’ll tell you what, we bought a lot of food. I think I got a little insight into what it takes to prepare for a youth camp in America cause that would probably be even more work than we did. But apparently the camps went well which is really great. The youth had a really good time.

I don’t know if I told you last week, but we found a new investigator named Azgan who now has a baptismal date. He’s really weird, but he’s moving along. He looks and acts exactly like Igor from Young Frankenstein. He is a Muslim and actually knows quite a bit about Islam. He is very smart and understands everything we teach, but somehow thinks that it all ties right along in there with Islam which is not really true. . . . .so we’re going to have to work on that one. But he’s got a baptismal date for the 19th! We’ve got some time. We’re gonna work on the Word of Wisdom with him this week which is always a significant point in the teaching process.

Vasil is still doing well. Just kind of frustrating cause he talks so dang much. We’re actually not sure if the stuff we’re teaching him is getting into his brain. Like, he understands it, but he still tells us tons of super random stories that have nothing to do with anything and that are just based on completely fabricated lies by preachers in his village. It’s really really frustrating. I don’t really know how to explain it, but we’re really trying to overcome this and we haven’t found anything yet. So hopefully we can get this soon. We’re thinking that this week we’re going to do some sort of lesson that’s just really straight forward about how there is only one true church and all the others are false. And the true one is not in his village so he needs to stop talking about it. But we’re hopefully going to say that with a little more tact. ;) We might have to do the same thing for Azgan as well. We’ll see.

Oh, kind of a cool story. There is a member here in first branch named Grisi (greasy). He is pretty much the most legit person ever. Well, Thursday he left for the Preston, England MTC to get ready to come back here for his mission. About a week and a half ago we let him know that this was his last chance to bring any of his friends that he hadn’t talked to already to learn about the church. And what do you know, Wednesday morning we had a meeting with a guy that he always says hi to on his way to the church. Did it go anywhere? Not really, but Grisi is legit. End of story. We can’t wait to have him as a missionary here. My dying wish is to have Kosovo open and serve together there with Grisi. We’ll see. ;)

Yes I know I only have 8 more months left. That’s so weird. That means Tim only has four. Crazy sauce. Motra Bentley does come home at the same time as Elder Foulk. They’re both getting home in early October. I honestly cannot believe that she is going home. But I guess that’s how these things go. You’ll have to say hi to her for me when she gets back.

Hey mom, thanks for the e-mail! I love you and I am praying for you all every day. I hope you have a great week!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, August 16, 2010

It’s awesome to see the Lord’s hand in our lives.

Hey Mom!

How’s it going? Well I guess this week is just gonna be kind of a normal letter compared to the last few. We had a good week this week, but nothing incredibly exciting. First branch has been really blessed this last little while and it’s awesome to see the Lord’s hand in our lives. All three companionships in our district had really good work this week. The office elders set an all time high for number of lessons taught as office elders, the sisters just have tons of good progressing investigators and three baptismal dates, and we got a triple double. (A “triple double” in Albania Tirana mission terms means that we hit the mission standards for member lessons, new investigators, and total lessons) It was a good week to say the least.

We had to give Jenny, our incredible new investigator, to the sisters, but she’s still doing really well. Apparently the Book of Mormon has already changed her life! We have also been working a lot with Vasil who is now set to be baptized on September 12th. He’s been doing really well. He’s a very talkative person, but our lessons have been under more control lately and so we’re able to move a little bit faster than we were at the start. This week we’re going to be teaching him the word of wisdom which we imagine will be the hardest thing for him. So after this week we’ll see if he’s really set for baptism or not. He’s come to church every single week for the last month now and not only that, but he’s been in a shirt and tie which almost never happens with investigators. We’re really excited for Vasil.

Other than that, we’re just working. Just doing stuff that missionaries do, ya know? We’ve been doing a lot of tracting lately and, honestly, it’s been working really well. I know that the Lord has been guiding us as we’ve been asking him where to go and I hope that He will continue to do so. There’s just something about tracting that makes you feel good.

About the pictures. I’ve lost my jump drive again. Right when the new one that you sent to me got here, I found my old one and so I never used the new one, but then I was looking for my old one last week and I couldn’t find it. I still have the new one though, but I don’t know if it’s gonna work. It didn’t last week so I’ll see what I can do. I know my old one is just floating around the house somewhere, though, so I’m sure I’ll find it soon.

Mom, I love you! I’m grateful you guys support me so much and send me e-mails and shoes and candy and other good stuff like that. =) It means a lot. I hope you have an awesome week! In the words of Bobby McFerrin (spelling?), “Don’t worry, be happy.”

-Elder Swenson

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finally Pictures!

Really Cool Story

Hey Mom!

Okay okay okay! I’ll answer you’re questions first and then I have a really cool story to tell you. About the package, yes I did get both of them! I thought you were just talking about the first one. I had no idea there was a second one coming and so when it came on Saturday I was blown away! Thank you for all the stuff! Those are some pretty serious shoes. I’m going to save those ones for winter since they have huge soles. I really like these Rockports you sent me by the way. At first I didn’t know if they were going to work out because they were a little big, but they are awesome. Thank you so much for all the candy, too. That’s gonna take me a while to take that all down. But we’re both working on it so don’t worry.

Also, things are going well with Vasil. He is unbelievably talkative which makes the lessons really hard. It’s to the point where we almost can’t ask him questions or else he will just talk at us for a good ten or fifteen minutes about the churches in his village or just random things about famous characters in the time of communism and stuff like that. We’re working with him. He understands the fact that he’s getting baptized and I am pretty sure he understands why, but we might have to push his date back a little bit. Vëllai Saraçi has been really amazing. He’s Vasil’s friend and he has been helping us a ton and we’re very grateful to him. We’re going to have to make him some cookies or something. Oh, one more thing. How do you pronounce Vasil’s name? I just want to hear it cause I think it would be hilarious. ;) In Albanian, you pronounce it Vah-seal.

Alright it’s really cool story time now.
Last night was probably the best night of my entire mission. I have seriously never run into a more prepared person in my entire time here. We had no meetings set up after lunch and so we did as missionaries do and went tracting. A couple weeks ago we had enlisted the help of the spirit to show us where we should go tracting to find the elect and were directed to a place called Allias (All-ee-oss). It’s about a half hour walk from our house but since we had nothing else to do we decided we might as well just go for it. So we made the journey and went to our first shkallë. In the stairways, we always go all the way to the top and tract down. At the very top of this shkallë there was a girl sitting out on the stairs just playing with her phone or something. We went up to her, smiled, and introduced ourselves as representatives of Jesus Christ. We told her that we had a special message that would bless her life. She interrupted us and said, in Albanian, “I don’t understand Albanian very well. One second,” and she called her mom out from the house. Her mom came out and we smiled and greeted her. She asked us where we were from and we replied that we were American. She looked surprised and asked us kind of harshly, “Well why aren’t you speaking to my daughter in English?!” We answered, “We didn’t know she understood English!”

We talked a little bit to the girl and then, because we’re dumb, started talking to the mom again. We started talking about the Book of Mormon and how it could bless their family’s life. As we were talking to the mother, the girl said something to her in Greek that we didn’t understand. The mom relayed the message just kind of in passing that the girl wanted to hear what we had to say. So we asked the mom if we could sit down and talk with her daughter for a minute. They were so excited to let us in! It was kind of awkward cause the daughter, Jenny, was the only one who understood English, but she was the one who wanted to hear the message so we taught her while everyone else just kinda sat around and watched.

Jenny is amazing. She is 18 years old and has lived in Greece for the last 13 years of her life. We talked a little bit about how she learned English and why she was in Albania and what not. Then we asked her the big one. “Jenny, do you believe in God?” In response to that question, she told us that she used to believe in God, but now she is pretty doubtful about it. We asked her why. She told us about an experience she had that was extremely hard for her to go through. She had lost someone very close to her when she had been praying and praying for God to not let her die. And after that she said that she just doesn’t feel like God hears her. Like she’s talking to herself when she prays. She even said that sometimes it feels like God hates her. This happened six months ago and ever since then, she’s had a small prayer in her heart that God would send her some people that could talk to her about God. After six months, we showed up and she knew it was a small answer to her prayers.

We talked to her a little about that experience and about prayer. She asked us what happened in our lives that made us believe that God was there. We shared our simple testimonies that through reading the Book of Mormon and praying to God to know if He was there and if these were his words, that we felt the answer. We read Moroni 10:4-5 and explained that if she would pray to God with a sincere heart, with real intent, and with faith, that God would answer her. There was a spirit there in the lesson that I have not felt for a long time. I don’t know why, but she trusted us and felt like she could ask us questions. It was about 7:00 when we finished teaching her and the only copies of the Book of Mormon we had were in Albanian. We told her that because she was so awesome, we were going to go run and grab one in English and one in Greek and bring them back to her. So we went back to the church all the way from Allias and got two copies of the Book of Mormon for her and went all the way back to give them to her. It was the happiest hour of walking in my entire life. When we got back, she was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, still with her mom and grandma and a couple other friends. We gave them all a book and we’re going back on Tuesday. I am so excited.

I am so grateful to the Lord for the experience we had last night. Honestly I have never met anyone on my mission like Jenny before. I have never so literally been a part of an answer to somebody’s prayer before and it was awesome. We hadn’t even knocked one door. There’s no one else that could have communicated with her cause she doesn’t speak Albanian. She was so ready and now I am praying so hard that she gets an answer to her prayers. If you can, pray for her as well. God is there and He loves us. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, but then there are those moments that are undeniable. Last night was one of those for me. I don’t feel like I deserved that. God loves me way too much.
This was super long and I’m sorry and now I am completely out of time. I’m sorry you all get the same e-mail this week, but you have to understand that this was literally the best story of my entire mission. I feel so blessed right now and I hope this story makes you happy!

I love you all! Thanks for everything in the packages. By the way, Lindsey, those bracelets were SUPER cool. Especially the black and white one. Much appreciated.

-Elder Swenson

Monday, August 2, 2010

Message to Newsletter Friends

Hey Guys!

How’s it going out there? You know what’s dang legit? Mason freaking biked from one ocean to the other. That is unbelievable. Mason, you rock! Also, Nate, you said something a couple letters ago about how I’ve gained like tons of weight on my mission? (Sorry, I just barely remembered this.) I think you’re high because I’ve actually lost a ton of weight. I’m practically Enrique Iglesias now. Not really, but seriously I have lost a lot of weight. But maybe my picture was deceiving. Maybe I was just getting my jiggle on that day or something.

I can’t believe how fast time is going. It’s incredible. So I was thinking about something this week. Do you realize how different all our missions are? Like, it’s a rare occasion that I talk to somebody that has actually read the Bible or actually knows anything about Jesus Christ. Whereas I’m guessing most of you don’t run into too many Muslims on a day to day basis. Just different things like that. It’s weird to think about. But we all have the same purpose and teach the same things to help people come closer to God. Missions are insane!

This week something really cool happened to us. We were coming to church last week and just as we got across the street from the church building, a man flagged us down and stopped us. He asked us if we were with that church and we said, “Yes we are!” He explained to us that a friend of his (a member of our branch) had invited him to District Conference the week before and told him that church was on Sunday at
9:00. So he had showed up even without the help of the member! Actually his member friend was in his village for the week so he didn’t even come. But Vasil came. And that’s what’s important. So church that week was INSANE. Sacrament meeting went like twenty minutes over, the investigator class was just a screaming battle between teacher and students, and third hour was a discussion about a member named Franci’s unworthiness to go to the temple. Somehow that resulted in Vasil setting a goal for himself to go to the temple. What?! But we have met him three times this week and he went to the Temple Preparation class last night with his member friend before coming to a baptism. So pretty much if he has gone through all that and still likes to come, you know he’s good. ;) We’re hoping to set a baptismal date with him soon this week. So that was pretty cool!

Things are going well in
Albania! We just saw The District 2 for the first time which was super awesome. We had a huge two day training that I loved. I realized how much room for improvement I have as a teacher. I’m trying to learn how to bring the spirit stronger into the lessons that I teach. That’s really all I want to do. So I’ll let you know how that goes!

I hope you guys are doing well! Love you all!

Leave to thy God to order and provide; in ev’ry change he faithful will remain.”

-Elder Swenson