Monday, December 27, 2010

Man it's going to feel good to just work again.

Hey Y'all!

I don't have a ton of stuff to say cause we just talked, but I just wanted to let you know that I love you! Talking was fun/awkward! It was good to see you all though. Sorry again for my poor conversational skills, but hopefully someday I will have something to talk about.

Actually one new update. Last night I completely destroyed my blue suit. And when I say destroyed it I mean annihilated. You should have seen it. I didn't have my camera on me, but Elder Griffith got a good picture so I'll have to send that to you sometime. I was running up the staircase in the mission home to go put some keys back up in the office and as I was turning around the banister, it went into my coat pocket. So as I started moving up the stairs, my coat ripped almost in half and now I have no blue suit! So that suit that I said I might have someone make for me is now a need. =) And I'm thinking I might get two. . .? One black and one navy to replace the one that I just massacred. So if you could put some money on my card that would be great.

I've also got a lot of thank you cards to do so I'll be getting those out soon. I need to write the Briggs, Grandma and Grandpa, Kris, and of course you guys for all the stuff you gave me. Man that was an awesome package! By the way, Elder Griffith had never eaten a chocolate orange before so this was a good experience for him.

Hopefully this week we'll have a fairly normal missionary work week and I'll have some cool stories to write you next week. Man it's going to feel good to just work again. Can't wait!

I love you all! Talk to you next week!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, December 20, 2010

You guys have got to experience an Albanian branch Christmas party.

Hey Mom!

Well our week pretty much got destroyed. . . .but it was still a good week. Oh man, you guys have got to experience an Albanian branch Christmas party. This was seriously probably the best Christmas party I have ever been too. I got some good pictures hopefully, but then my camera died right in the middle of the party so I didn’t get some pics that I would like to have gotten. We had a really good program put on by the various auxiliaries of 1st Branch and then we went downstairs for dinner and some good ol’ popullore dancing. (Don’t worry, I wasn’t involved in the latter.) But man it was funny to watch. They LOVED it. If there is a people that loves to dance it is the Albanian people. There were people from ages 4 – 65 out there. I honestly have not seen so much joy in people’s eyes for probably. . . .well probably ever. I don’t know if I can do it justice in an e-mail.

So I’m so sorry about last week! I totally forgot about the trip until like Thursday night and we left early Monday morning. A senior trip (also called “the death trip”) happens when you finish your progression program within a year. If you finish everything, then you get to take an extra P-day with your MTC group before you leave the country. And because my MTC group consisted of Sister Bentley who is already in America, I got to go with the group ahead of me. We saw a lot of cool stuff! We went to the south of Albania and saw the sites down there. I got some pictures, but we all combined our pictures onto a CD and so I will send you some off of that cause those are probably better than mine.

For the newsletter. . .

Hey Everyone!

I can’t believe you’re home, Tim. That is just wrong. 'Nuff said. It's so weird to think that all of our missions are drawing to a close. Well, most of them anyway. ;) It's amazing to me that I/we have been out for so long and it has seemed like nothing at all. Lately I've kinda been freaking out because it's just hit me that I'm going to be leaving first branch pretty soon. I've been here for almost nine months and I love this branch. We had a branch activity for Christmas on Saturday and all the members were having a blast dancing to their traditional popullore music. As I was looking around taking pictures and just enjoying myself, I started realizing that after every person I would say something like, "Man I love Brother Deda," or, "Man I love the Saraçi family." I don't know if I've ever been in this same situation before. In all my other areas I've only stayed for one or two transfers and now I've been with these amazing members of 1st Branch for nine months. I am so grateful for the opportunity I've had to see these members grow. It's crazy how much you grow to love the individuals and families you work with.

We’ve had an interesting experience lately with the Deda Family. The family is made up of Agim (the father), Çlirime (the mother), and Ajvi and Ansa (the two children). For about the first seven months that I was here, Agim was the only one that would come to church. He is an amazing member with an amazing story. Unfortunately, the rest of his family was not doing as well as he was. Çlirime was at work every Sunday and wouldn’t really sit in for the lessons when we came over. Ajvi has had a really hard time coming to church (I don’t really know what that means for a 10 year old, but the point is he hadn’t been coming), and Ansa just does whatever Ajvi does. About a month or so ago, Çlirime got Sunday off for once in a long time and came to church with all the rest of her family. We were obviously really happy, but we knew that she had just lucked out and got Sunday off randomly and we figured that it would just go back to normal the next week. We had also had a lesson before that about the first part of the Plan of Salvation and she was an active participant in that lesson. It was a really good week for her, but like I said, we figured that things would just go back to normal the next week.

Good works in mysterious ways. The next week, we find out that Çlirime had a terrible accident at work. She had been standing on a counter cleaning something that was high up and fell straight onto one side of her body severely cutting her head. After she was out of the hospital, we went over to their house and paid her a visit. She was pretty out of it and you could tell that Agim was a little bit stressed with the whole situation. We let them know that we would pray for them and if there was anything else we could do, we would come running. A few days later, we come over for our weekly teaching appointment and Çlirime is in about the same state that she was in before. So we start the lesson while she is laying down on the couch somewhere in between sleep and consciousness. The first question we asked was, “Do you remember what we talked about last time?” This, of course, left the whole family searching through the depths of their memories to remember what it was. After a little while of them taking shots in the dark, a weak little voice coming from the couch says, “We talked about how we were with God before this life as spirits and how we’re His children.” There was a long pause as I turned my head to look at Çlirime with my jaw hanging open. In my head I was thinking, “Dang! Your brain just got rocked by a tile floor and you still destroyed your entire family! Nice!” She then explained to us all the points that we had discussed in the previous lesson. The Spirit was definitely there.

I say God works in mysterious ways because ever since she has been able to move around, Çlirime has been at church every week and at all of the little activities during the week. She is in all the lessons and is even reading the Book of Mormon. She lost her job because of that fall, but we have seen that she has gained a lot more than that. I’m not going to lie and say I know that’s why she fell at work because I don’t know the reasons for everything. But I hope that she realizes what a difference she has made in her family and in the church in this last little while. She gave a testimony in testimony meeting this last month and I don’t know if I have felt the presence of the Holy Ghost more in a long time. It is AWESOME to see the Deda’s all together again. I’m so grateful that God has blessed them this much, however weirdly it was done.

God rocks. Trust Him. Work hard and He will get it done. I love you all! I can’t wait to see you again! Gëzuar Krishtlindjet e Gëzuar Vitin e Ri!

“Ring out the darkness of the land; Ring in the Christ that is to be.”

-Elder Swenson

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hey Everyone!

So I forgot to tell you last week, but I'm actually in Saranda on my senior trip! So I don't have any time to write. We just wanted to get a quick e-mail off to let you know we're still alive and well, but I will send you the thing for the newsletter next week. Hey, say hi to Tim for me. I can't believe he's coming home. About the Christmas phone call. . . .it will be on the 25th pretty much for sure, but I'll let you know on the time.

I love you guys! I'm sorry I don't have more time to write, but I will catch you next week and I'll have lots of cool pictures too. Love you! Have a killer week!

-Elder Swenson

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Got my game face on.

Massive trench coat that was in the office.

Short tie. How embarrassing.

Henrik Frroku from the branch.

On the road again.

Our district minus Elder Griffith.

This was a good view. You can't really tell in this picture though.

From the viewpoint of the bunny that I slaughtered

We went hunting for our food.

Mount Dajti

The mountaineer with crutches.

Me and Beni!

Motra Toska e Vogël

What happens when a 10 year old steals your camera.

I have no idea what's going on here.

Elder Griffith being creepy 2.

Elder Griffith being creepy 1.

From the castle at Petrela.

Bro Dervishi and I on the way to Petrela.

Me and Elder Griffith

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our branch is getting ready for our Christmas party

Hey Mom!

Well that Christmas party sounded pretty intense. Holy cow our branch is getting ready for our Christmas party as well and let me tell ya, they are getting into this. We ended church yesterday at about 12:00 so they could practice their songs and skits and stuff for the last hour. We ended up being there until a little after 2:00. Suffice it to say I’m getting my fill of piano playing. It’s kinda fun though, cause the songs are pretty boring so I get to spice them up a little. ;) The district (stake-like substance) is planning on doing a Christmas party as well so all the branches can get together. The district relief society president has been put in charge of the program for that and she’s really getting into it. . . .maybe too much. Apparently the program is like three hours long of just skits and music and other such things. So we’re going to have to talk to her about that. . . .

Anyway, thanks for that gingerbread house recipe! I might give it a try, but we’ll see. It seems like it would take a long time and I don’t know if I have that ha ha. I hope your gingerbread houses go well over there! By the way, did you notice that I sent you all some pictures last week? I hope you enjoyed them!

So missionary work.

This week actually went really well. Right now we have four investigators that are preparing to be baptized on Christmas. And all four of them are looking fairly good! Lira is giving me some weird vibes so I hope that’s just a passing thing, but everyone else seems pretty solid. We met with Leta and her two sons last night to start the stop smoking program. Her sons are definitely on board with this program. They hate that their mom smokes and they are pretty ready for her to stop ha ha. This was actually the first lesson that Xhoi (her older son) actually came to and Leta said that it was just because he heard that his mom was going to quit smoking and needed his help. So we’re excited for her to become a non-smoker next Sunday! (Well, technically she’s a non smoker right now. . . .)

We actually had something pretty funny happen to us this week that was surely a blessing from the Lord. It’s Wednesday. We have an appointment set with Dorian for 7:00 at his house. We knock the door. Nothing. We knock again. Nothing again. We knock yet again. Nothing yet again. Obviously we were pretty downhearted at that, but as we were walking down from the third floor of his small apartment building, we ran into one of his neighbors who told us that we could talk to Dorian’s uncle who lived just below her. We knock on the door together with Dorian’s neighbor and a woman answers the door and looks pretty excited to see us. We had actually tracted into her a couple days before and found out that she was an inactive member. That day, we had narrowly escaped her trying to convince us that she was, in fact, a member of our church by showing us all of her pictures that she or her daughter had ever taken with missionaries or other members. Well tonight we didn’t. Almost the first thing she said to us was, “I told you I was going to prove to you that I’m a member!” She bustled around her hallway for a minute while we were standing at her door and finds a purse that looks pretty heavy. She opens the purse to expose loads and loads of old photos. Awesome. So we end up standing in her doorway for like ten minutes looking at photos of her baptism and old missionaries and branch activities, etc. and I joke sarcastically to myself, “I bet that this woman showing us her old pictures is God’s way of stalling us so Dorian can get back to his house before we give up on him.” Turns out that’s exactly what happened! No less than a minute after I had that thought, a boy comes running into the stairway out of breath. When he saw us, he let out a sigh of relief and said, “I’m glad I caught you before you left!” We were actually able to go up to Dorian’s house and have a good lesson with him. It was just so weird/awesome to actually have that happen. God really does look out for us and, even though He works in mysterious ways, he wants us to have success.

So that was my cool story for the week. I hope you enjoyed it. I love you, mom! I can’t wait to talk to you guys on Christmas. Speaking of which, this could kinda be complicated from my end of things cause there are 17 baptisms scheduled on Christmas right now. . .so I’m going to have to work some stuff out and get back to you next week on a time, but I’m guessing around 6:00 or 7:00 or maybe even later. . .? I hope that would be okay. Oh by the way! I got a package from you this week and I’m assuming that it’s the Christmas one so I haven’t opened it yet. =) So thank you for that! Man I love you guys!!

Have an awesome week! Thanks for your letter!

-Elder Swenson