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.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This week was pretty intense


Well this week was pretty intense. Vasil got baptized last night. Oh man he is one funny dude. He loves to tell stories about his life and his village and stuff and it usually makes our lessons take about an hour or more. So when we were talking about the logistics of the baptism with him the day before, we made special mention of his testimony that he gets to give after he’s baptized. We didn’t want the baptism to go for like three hours so we really emphasized how his testimony was supposed to be short and concise. We told him it wasn’t a time for life stories, but instead a time to share what he knows to be true. So we got to the baptism and the speakers give their talks, he gets dunked, and we come out of the changing rooms. It’s time for Vasil to give his testimony and the first thing he says is, “I, Vasil, would like to tell you a little bit about my life. . . .” Good times, eh? But he actually did really well. He kept it short and it was a good testimony. It was really cool to see Vasil get baptized especially because of Brother Saraçi’s work with him. Brother Saraçi is probably one of my favorite members here in Albania. He’s just a really really good man that really cared about his friend. And look where that friend is now. We have something that is so valuable and the people that understand that don’t hesitate to share that with their friends. We’re really grateful we got to take part in the baptism last night.

We had another training this week. This one was two days long and once again based on the principles of Teaching More Effectively. It was really good to get a lot more practice in and actually led to some success this weekend. One of the principles is called the Doctrine of Christ which really outlines our purpose as missionaries. It is found in 2 Nephi 31 and focuses on faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. After all this practice you really find out where you can improve and one of the areas we found that we could improve in was inviting people to prepare for baptism early. Getting it out there so they know we’re not just teaching them so they’ll learn stuff about Jesus, but teaching them so they will make the changes needed to receive the ordinances necessary for them to return to their loving Heavenly Father. So we decided to try it this weekend in our tracting. We kept our purpose in mind and set baptismal dates with two people. One’s name is Agim and the other Sefer. Agim is probably about 45 and is a really cool guy. He loves his family and he was ready and willing to accept the invitation to be baptized. Sefer is probably about 55 or 60 and has a killer northern accent. Oh man I love it. I am learning so much Gheg from him. It’s sweet. He is an awesome guy too and he loves the word of God. We tried to get him to read the Restoration pamphlet after we met him the first time, but he really can’t see well at all and it hurts his head to read those small letters. So we made a HUGE copy of 2 Nephi 31 for him and read some of it together. He also accepted the invitation to be baptized. He was like, “Well if it’s the word of God then of course I’ll do it!” They’re both gonna be really fun to teach and I’m really excited to see them progress.

Also. Our English class is huge now. About 40 people come to the beginning class. It’s kinda stressful sometimes, but it’s really fun too. We talked about professions this last time and I learned a new word. “Banakier” in Albanian means “bartender.” I have no idea how I’ve managed to live in Albania for a year and three months without learning that word. Pretty embarrassing, but it was a cool word. Anyway, we’re looking forward to some good investigators coming from our English class.

I’m glad you guys got to go hang out with the fam a little. Where is the Jasmine? Have I been there. I swear that I recognize that place, but I can’t put my finger on it. Tell Sher happy birthday for me!

Well I hope that you have an awesome week, mom! I love you and pray for you every day. Take it easy!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, September 20, 2010

I got to baptize Erodita

Hey Mom!

This week wasn't super eventful all in all. Okay well actually let me take that back. There were some pretty good stories from it. The first of all being that I got to baptize Erodita. It was awesome. She is going to be an incredible member of the church. It was an interesting situation, though, because about three weeks before the baptism she went through a terrifying experience swimming in the sea. She was very shaken up about it and understandably it was a hard thing for her to be in the water again a couple weeks later. But she made it out. I was afraid she thought I was trying to drown her though cause she came out of the water and took a huge gasp for air like she hadn't been breathing for a minute. She was just a little bit nervous I'd imagine. But it went well and the next day she came to English course and told us that she didn't even feel like she weighed anything cause she felt so light after her baptism. I told her that was great and that I was happy for her. I told her I wished I felt the same way, but our diet was pretty interesting that week and so I was definitely feeling by body weight. ;) Anyway, I was really glad I got to take part in that.

As for the update with Vasil, he will be getting baptized on Sunday. He got back too late from his fshat (village) to baptize him this week, but we'll get him in there this week. We don't know who's baptizing him yet. He wants one of us to do it, but we're going to try to get him to choose Brother Saraçi, his good friend and the one who referred him to us. But we'll see how things go. I'll send you some pics!

As for Azgan. We're meeting with him tonight so we can drop him. We've been doing everything we can for him to start turning his life around, but he also has to do his part. And he hasn't been doing that. We taught him about the Word of Wisdom Saturday night and he has a lot of work to do in that aspect. So we agreed to start the Stop Smoking Program the next day after church. He didn't come to church. So we went over to his house ready for him to become a non-smoker, but apparently he wasn't. It's kind of a long story, but he just doesn't have the courage to stop all at once. But that's the only way it can happen. He kept saying stuff like, “Yeah, this will be good. I mean if I quit that would be awesome, but at least I'll reduce the amount that I smoke.” I just had a really bad feeling about continuing with the program and so we decided to stop before we got too far. He said he wasn't ready to quit yet. It's really frustrating because he says over and over again that he knows he's killing himself. His health is completely in shambles and yet he'll decide to wait to stop doing that to himself. He said that we can try it again after October 7th, but it's not going to be any easier then. It's frustrating, but he doesn't do anything without our help. So we're going to read from D&C 58 with him tonight and hopefully someday he'll realize that he has to do his part.

I've got to tell you about Sunday night. =) Ha ha it was probably the most frustrating night of my mission. But it ended well. So there's this thing called patience and me and Elder Foulk both have some. But, Sunday night the little patience that we do have was pushed to the extreme. There was seriously a moment where we were both just pacing back and forth in the stairwell just trying not to blow up. Seriously I haven't been so aggravated in a long time. BUT! We kept going and finally we knocked a door and a man named Sefer let us in. He was from a city called Puka so he had a legit northern accent. We had a pretty good first lesson with him, but nothing really came out of it. But we had been trying really hard to get in so we could teach somebody and after many many many trials, came the blessings. Man I rock at telling stories, eh?

So that's pretty much it for this week. Oh, except for we took the entire day yesterday and went to Theth with President Neil. It was probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen on earth. I fell in a river. Awesome. That is something that of course only Elder Swenson would do. You'll get some sweet pics. I took a couple pictures of literally the most breathtaking view I have ever seen in my entire life. Wish y'all could have been there with me.

So now there is seriously nothing else. ;) We're coming up on a busy week so hopefully I'll have lots to write you about next week.

Love you!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, September 13, 2010

The real highlight of my week will happen on Friday.

Hey Mom!

So here's the deal. We got back late from our district trip today and so we have like 20 minutes for e-mail! So basically I'm just putting everything in here and you can send it to Dad and Lindsey and stuff. =)

That is so cool that you basically knew Elder Foulk's sister. I've been hearing the updates on the marriage thing every week of course. That was definitely a weird coincidence. Also, you have a facebook page? Weird.

This week was pretty boring actually. The highlight in time consumption was a three day training on the Fundamentals From Preach My Gospel: Teaching More Effectively. (Ha ha hilarious name) We got to practice a ton on each of the eight principles and get some great new ideas for our investigators. It really was a pretty good experience and we definitely need all the practice we can get. Ever since the trainings have started, the mission has seen a drastic increase in baptismal dates and just good positive key indicators. It's pretty cool. The goal that I've set for myself for the rest of my mission is just to become an awesome teacher. I have a lot of work to do, but I really really like the practice we've been getting and I think it's been helping me. But what do I know?

The real highlight of my week will happen on Friday. Guess what. I am going to baptize somebody! Not somebody I taught, but somebody I found. Her name is Erodita and she came to our English course the last time we did it. I also had the opportunity to give her a blessing last week and it was a really good experience. One day a long time ago in English class, I asked for a volunteer to say the prayer and nobody was volunteering. So finally Erodita was like, "I'll say it, I guess." She said an amazing prayer and then after the prayer we had like a one minute discussion about prayer from which we drew the fact that she was awesome and ready for the gospel. We sicked the sisters on her and they have been teaching her ever since! It's really exciting that she's going to get baptized and obviously I'm pretty excited that I get to dunk her. ;) So I'll make sure to get some pictures from that.

Vasil was actually in his village this week and so we didn't meet with him, but we should be meeting with him again tomorrow and he should still be getting baptized on Sunday. We're definitely excited for that as well. We're just trying to get him to let Brother Saraçi (his friend that referred him to us) baptize him and not one of us. But either way it should be a really good baptism. He's always super happy and we think he's going to have a positive effect on 1st Branch.

We are also meeting with Azgan still. He has a lot to change, but this week we feel like we saw signs that he actually is changing. He has a huge prejudice against Albanians (yeah weird) so we had a lesson about 3 Nephi 12 when Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to those that despitefully use us. It was a really good lesson and so now we're helping him focus on the positive things in his life instead of the negative. It's a big change, but one that has a LOT of effects. Avash avash (slowly, slowly). He'll get there.

The rest of the time we had this week we just filled with handing out more English flyers than you can imagine. We're starting up our course on Wednesday and hoping some good, prepared people come to that. I actually really like teaching English. It's fun stuff and it kinda reminds me of teaching piano which, by the way, I will be starting again this week. =) I'm happy.

I'm really looking forward to this week. It's gonna be busy, but it should be a really uplifting week too. I hope you guys have a week equally as awesome!

I love you! I'll send you pics next week. Sorry!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, September 6, 2010

Albania has been really good.

Message to Friends:

Hey Boys.

Well things just get busier and busier don’t they. This last month has flown by. And I’m sure September is just going to be even faster. It’s so weird to think that I’m basically ¾ done. I don’t know how I feel about that. Tim’s gonna be home for Christmas which is really jacked up.

Albania has been really good. Good weather, good work, good times. We’ve been trying really hard to incorporate this new teaching stuff into our lessons and it has been really interesting. I find myself either having a really good lesson or just bombing horribly. It’s pretty funny. I’m sure you’d all be supremely entertained to see some of my bloopers from lessons. But as a general rule I’m really glad that they released those principles. I have a lot to work on, but now I know where to focus my efforts and what to practice. And I think I’m getting better. Slowly, but surely.

Anyway, so what’s up in the rest of the world? It’s great to hear all your guys’ stories and successes. Fjelsted, sounds like a pretty rough comp. Hang in there! You’re my hero. So as I was reading the last newsletter, I was thinking to myself about how legit you all are. You guys are seriously awesome. I can honestly say that my friends are probably the coolest people on earth. All of you out there working tirelessly/biking across freaking America. How can you get more legit than that? Anyway, thanks for your examples to me. I’ve always looked up to you guys and always will. I feel like if I were Tazz I would tell you to stay classy.

We’ve had a lot of blessings from the Lord this past little while. It seems like He knows exactly where we need to be. I’ve also seen more answers to my personal prayers than ever before in my life. There’s a section in Alma 33 that really describes how I’ve felt as of late. Alma is quoting Zenos and he says the words, “Thou didst hear me,” over and over and over again. Zenos recognized that God always heard him and was continually answering his prayers. Lately I feel like God has been very close to me listening and answering my prayers. I’ve felt peace when I’ve asked for peace. Forgiveness when I’ve asked for forgiveness. Direction when I’ve asked for direction. It’s incredible to know that we really do have a Father in heaven that looks out for us and cares for us. He can do anything and He is so ready and willing to help us. He loves His children.

One of the answers we saw yesterday after church. We have set a goal that was inspired by President Neil to not let any week go by without finding any new investigators. We usually don’t have too big of a problem with that, but this last week we were really cutting it close. It was Sunday and we still hadn’t found one. In our nightly planning, we had decided that new investigators were really all we wanted out of our Sunday. So we decided that we were going to go tracting after church and find a new investigator. Even if it took us till 3:00 when everyone is asleep. It was Fast Sunday so tracting after church was not the easiest thing to do, but we had faith that the Lord would guide us and help us find the person that was waiting for us. So we started tracting some private houses on a dirt road. It was about 2:00 which is usually when tracting stops being effective in anyway, but we knew our new investigator was right around the corner. We ended up at a big, bright green door and gave it a knock. We had heard a couple voices coming from inside the gate, but weren’t sure if they were coming or not. It was weird because we both just ended up standing at the door for a really long time. Normally I would have left, but I just kinda stood there waiting for my comp to leave. Finally after probably two or three minutes of standing in front of the door, a young man came to the door. We introduced ourselves and our message and asked if we could sit down for a couple minutes and show him how he could benefit from it. He was like, “Uh sure I guess.” We sat down in his front yard and had a really short, but really good lesson. He’s not super religious, but he said that he was willing to ask God and read the Book of Mormon. We’re going back on Wednesday to follow up.

God was obviously helping us to achieve our goal. It was really cool because afterwards I found out that my comp was fasting to find a young man that we could start teaching. (We’ve had this streak of finding women and having to give them to the sisters. Weird I know.) Just like Zenos says, God hears us when we pray to Him. He wants to help us and He loves us so much. I know God answers prayers.

I love you all and I’m praying for you. Keep your stick on the ice.

“Prayer can change the night to day. So, when life gets dark and dreary, don’t forget to pray.”

-Elder Swenson