Monday, January 31, 2011

Well this week was interesting.

Dear Mom,

I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures. They were obviously taken with great care. ;) But I’m glad I got some pictures of the Tirana pallats. They are so awesome. I miss that city. And there are TONS more. That’s just like the norm for apartment buildings on main streets. There’s a lot of ugly ones, too, but I figured I’d spare the memory space on my SD card. And yes, pretty much everybody goes on a death trip. They have to finish the progression program, but most people do.

Oh man, I can’t wait for the newsletter. I love those things. Tell Bro. Briggs thanks for doing them. I don’t know if I’ve told him that before, but seriously that’s like the best thing I get in the mail every month. And man that’s a bummer about the Christmas package. =( I hope it gets to you cause it’s awesome! If it does happen to come, there’s something in there for Kiersten as well so make sure to get in touch with her when it comes. Yes that’s right, I used the word “when.” It’s going to come. I’m putting my trust in the Albanian Postal Service. But I have a history of trusting the wrong people. . .

Well this week was interesting. I was sick for about three days which was a bummer. It is sooooo boring sitting in your house doing nothing. I hated it. We got to go out for at least one appointment each one of those days, but man that was a long time in the house. Yesterday was our first full work day after that and it felt good. It also felt really good to wake up at 6:00 and get a workout in this morning. Oh man, I’m so glad I’m not sick. (I accidentally had typed the “sock” instead of “sick.” I thought that was entertaining.) It seriously is awesome to be able to work hard. Sometimes you complain about it, but man it is such a better option than the opposite.

We started our English Course this week and it was a HUGE success. Over 70 people came the first day and we’ve already had 6 or 7 people come to the YSA center. We’re really looking forward to this course. God must have helped us out a ton with that too because we didn’t have hardly any time to hand out fliers the week before which is when we had planned to hand out the most. Darn rain. On Friday, our religion portion of the class went really well. We did our famous cups lesson about the Great Apostasy and the Restoration of Christ’s church. The spirit was definitely there. I just remember that I was giving my testimony in the end of the lesson and it hit me really hard. Maybe the others weren’t feeling it like I was, but I know that this is God’s church on the Earth. I know the Book of Mormon is true and thereby that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Sometimes you just need a little testimony refresher and I’m grateful that I was able to get one this week. We’ve also got a couple of good prospects from the course. One of which we’re meeting tonight so I’ll let you know how that goes next week.

We also had the opportunity to do kind of a missionary directed discussion for second hour (your third hour) since it was a fifth Sunday. We talked about missionary work. Last year the branch had 12 baptisms and so we asked them what they would like their goal to be for this year. They were coming up with anywhere from 15-25 baptisms in 2011. We had discussed this with President Smith before and he had told us that we could change that to 80 baptisms if we had the members help. After they had decided on a goal of 20 baptisms for the next year, we asked them, “Would you believe us if we told you that you could have 80?” It was hilarious to hear everybody almost simultaneously say, “What?! No way!” Anyway, we were able to have a good discussion with them based off of Elder Ballards talk, “Faith, Facts, Family, and Fruits.” Or something like that. Basically we just armed them with things that they could say when their friends asked them to tell them something about their church. And not necessarily all about our beliefs, but cool facts that most people don’t know. Like for instance how a new church building is built every working day. We explained how when people ask that, they usually aren’t really interested in the church, but just want to know something simple. That’s something that I really hadn’t thought about that much. Probably since missionary opportunities in Alpine, Utah are running kind of slim these days. But it turned out alright. I always imagine things turning out stellar and so I’m always a little disappointed at the end of them when they’re not exactly how I had imagined, but I think it did the job and I think the Spirit was there. We’re hoping to see awesome things from the Vlorë branch in 2011.

It was so dang cold here last week, but today we were out on the beach playing some futboll Amerikan in short sleeves and shorts. I would absolutely love it if this week turned out that way. =) Well anyway, I hope you all have an awesome week! Let me know about anything cool that happens. Thanks for writing me and caring about me and supporting me and praying for me and all those other things you do on my behalf. It’s greatly appreciated. Zoti ju bekoftë dhe ju shpërbleftë!

Me shumë dashuri,

-Elder Swenson

Monday, January 24, 2011

I've been really impressed with the missionary work that goes on here in Vlorë.

Hey Mom!

So I used a ton of time sending pictures today so this e-mail probably won't be as long as usual. I'm sorry I've had trouble sending pictures lately, but I think my flash drive and SD card must have had viruses on them cause this guy here at the internet place got them working. It was awesome. I really like this guy now. But you're getting LOTS of pictures this week. They're all from the death trip or first branch cause I haven't taken any with Elder Knowles yet because my camera charger has been in first branch. But I got that this week too so hopefully we'll be able to get some more pictures as well.

We had a really good week for the most part. We taught a lot of lessons and were able to find some new investigators. I've been really impressed with the missionary work that goes on here in Vlorë. From the members, I mean. We've already met a ton of the members' friends and it's been awesome. We also have two recently returned missionaries in our branch which is AWESOME. So it's been a good experience so far. It's a little stressful sometimes, but that's okay. It's good for me. I definitely have learned a lot of lessons already. Most of them with managing my time. There's tons of stuff to do since we're over two areas and I also have to do Branch Presidency stuff since I'm the second councilor. I'm learning how to organize things and not forget stuff. I'm not very good at it as of right now, but I'm really glad I'm getting this time to learn before I come home. Man I have so much to work on!! It's incredible how much you realize that you're so inadequate on a mission.

We went to a really good training this week about first lessons and how to create a desire to want more in investigators. And when I say first lesson, I don't mean like the first lesson in PMG. I mean the first meeting we ever have with people (i.e. tracting). It was really good. We learned that we should be making it more of an overview rather than going into detail. We focused on taking something from the information that we get from them and applying the different principles of the gospel to their specific needs and interests. It sounds pretty basic, and it is, but you'd be amazed how you get caught up in what you think you're "supposed to say." I know for me a lot of the time, if I don't get a really good explanation of the first vision or the Book of Mormon or other such things, then I am uneasy. But the truth is that we don't want to get into too much detail so that we leave them wanting more. Genius! I really enjoyed the training and we're really gonna try to put that into practice.

As far as Kristina goes, she's doing awesome. The only bad thing is that we have to give her to the sisters now since we can't meet her at her house because she has some friends/a brother that don't let the lesson go very well. It annoys her too. She actually asked us if we could meet at the church before we could get it out. But she has been doing really well. She's reading and praying and coming to church. This week, she told us about how she got an answer to prayer that was really cool. She said she was reading the Book of Mormon and she prayed and felt something really good. She didn't really know what it was, but she knew that it was from God. We're really excited for her.

As far as what to get me for my birthday, how 'bout a "Get Back in the Swing of Things" Kit for when I get home. =) No, I seriously don't know. Because I'm only going to have it here for like a month and I'm already trying to get rid of a bunch of stuff for when I leave. Pictures are always really awesome. =) Oooh maybe a birthday cake mix? Or a recipe for a really good cake? Mmmm. . . .good times. By the way, Chicken A-la-King is awesome and I'm really glad you sent me that recipe. Griffith loves it too. But mostly I just can't wait to see you guys again and hang out with you.

I love you all! I'm grateful for your support! I'm praying for you and I'm grateful for your prayers on my behalf.

-Elder Swenson

Elder "Rocky" Swenson

It worked! Here is one more from when Elder Swenson's district went to a circus in December of 2009. Look closely, it's him in the ring.

Elder Swenson's Amazing Talent from the MTC

I went to lunch with Motra Bentley a couple of weeks ago and got some pictures and a couple of videos from her. I haven't ever posted a video before so I hope this works. This just makes a mom proud.

Jeanne Swenson

Monday, January 10, 2011

Message for the January Newsletter

Hey Y’all!

So I’m in Vlorë right now which is a big change for me. Back on the beach. . .and in the winter again. So I don’t really get to enjoy it that much, but that’s okay. There are only two elders now where four used to be so we do a lot of walking. =) I really like that actually because back in first branch we had just gotten a car and so we didn’t get to walk very much. So maybe, just maybe, I’ll come back whipped into shape.

I don’t really know what to write this month! I’ve just been feeling really weird lately, knowing that the end is coming. Ugh! It’s funny cause I was super trunky and kinda known for it throughout the mission until about three months ago (I’ve always been a hard worker, though, so don’t think I was lame like that) and now I really don’t want to leave. Sure there are some good things about home like family and music and stuff, but then there’s so much to worry about too! Anyway, beside the point.

I just got last month’s newsletter two days ago and I love reading that thing. You guys are so awesome. I absolutely love hearing all your stories and experiences from your missions. Man the mission has been awesome. It sounds like it’s been the same for you all.

Well they always tell you when you don’t know what to say, to testify and so since there’s really nothing new to say that’s what I’m going to do. I love my Heavenly Father and I know that Jesus Christ lives. He is our Savior and He loves us. I’ve felt His love tons during these last 21 months. I’m very weak, but I know that those weaknesses have brought me closer to Him. Repentance is awesome. I’m so grateful for the Atonement. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I always feel good when I read it. Always. I know that it is from God and guides us in our lives today. I’ve received answers from those words and I’ve seen others lives change through them. It’s undeniable.

I hope you know that I love you all and can’t wait to see you again.

“Loud may the sound of hope ring till all doubt departs!”

-Elder Swenson

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Years!

Hey Y’all!

First of all, Happy New Years! I think that was probably the fastest year of my life. I can’t believe I’m going to be 21 soon. That’s really weird. It sounds like you guys had a blast for New Year’s ha ha. We stayed up later than you and we’re missionaries! We were actually at President and Sister Neil’s until the fireworks at midnight and then after that we went back home. It was fun stuff. The fireworks were considerably less impressive this year. Last year they were still going strong at around 12:30 whereas this year they were pretty much over by 12:10. But it was good while it lasted. I got a couple of good pictures. I’m sure President got way better pictures though.

So I did say that this week had hopes of being a more normal missionary work week. Well. . . .that definitely didn’t happen. We did do some tracting towards the beginning of the week, but it was not super effective since everybody was preoccupied with New Year’s preparations and such, but it felt so dang good to get out there and tract.

And actually I should be able to start doing a lot more of that since I am headed back to Vlorë! I’ll be going tomorrow and Elder Knowles from Draper will be my companion. I’m not gonna lie it really really stinks to leave 1st Branch, but I’m sure I’ll be able to have a good time in Vlorë for my last three months. I’m a little hesitant because the Vlorë branch is made up of TONS of youth and it gets pretty crazy sometimes. It’s just known for being pretty irreverent and if you’re not careful, you’ll have the whole branch against you in no time. But I’ve been praying for help and obviously the Lord is not sending me there to fail so I’m counting on His direction. So next week should be the really exciting e-mail! =)

This week most of the visits we did were kind of goodbye visits. Last night we went to see the Deda’s with President and it was an awesome time. The Deda’s also had some cousins over and we were able to talk with them a little bit and make some new friends. They are an awesome family. I love teaching them. And I’ve been able to teach Ajvi (their 10 year old son) piano which has been way fun. He is really REALLY good. I’m really sad to leave because I don’t know if anybody in the new 1st Branch district is going to be able to play or teach him, but we’ll figure something out. We also visited Vasil for the last time which was kinda sad. Oh man he’s funny. He’s just got so many random stories about everything. The branch is really entertained by him. He’s a little slow to grasp things sometimes, but with time and repetition it will get there. =) It’s funny. He calls me Mono because Swenson is almost impossible for the majority of Albanians to say so he figures that Simon is close enough to Swenson and therefore uses the Albanian shortened version of Simon and so now I’m Mono. =) Good times.

It really is sad to leave. I’ve had a lot of good times here and learned a TON about the gospel and just about missionary work in general. It’s been really good. I can’t believe it’s almost over.

Well I hope you all have an awesome week! I’ll hopefully have some interesting stuff to write next week. And I’ll send you pictures next week cause I wont be at the mission home anymore for e-mail so I can just send pictures from wherever I’m at. Have fun at lunch with Motra! Tell her I said hi and also tell her to u martofsh sa më shpejt! She’ll understand.

Love you!

-Elder Swenson