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