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

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