Monday, February 28, 2011

I did get a new companion this week

Hey Mom!

Funny that you ask about the weather. Apparently it’s been my worst enemy this week. The weather has been really crazy. One day it will be really nice and sunny and warm and then the next day it will be really cold and rainy. Well, that really threw my body for a loop. On Monday I felt a sore throat coming on and woke up Tuesday morning with a burning throat and really not feeling up to anything. Good thing I didn’t have to wake up at 5:00 in the morning and ride in a furgon for four hours to get to Tirana for transfers. Just kidding, I did. And I feel really bad for my new comp Elder Holmes cause his first week here he was basically inside all the time. I really don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve been that sick. It was a pretty miserable week. We also had to go to Zone Conference on Friday and if you look at our picture you can definitely tell I was a little bit out of it ha ha. At least I had a sweet tie, eh?

As I said before, I did get a new companion this week and I’m really excited to be finishing out my mission with Elder Holmes. He is a great kid and is ready to work hard. He’s from Bear Lake, Utah so I think I’m gonna have to take a road trip up there and say hi to his family. Hopefully he doesn’t want to murder me too badly because of our first week together. But we’re ready to get out there and hit the pavement this week.

One of the coolest things about this week was that we met Kujtim outside of English Course. He’s a really nice middle aged man that works as some sort of sailor or navy person or something of the sort. We’ve been really excited about him because he falls right into the category of people we’re looking for right now. We got to talk to him about families and how God has shown us how we can be together forever. We took it back to the five basic steps: faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. He accepted to be baptized on the 27th of March. We’re hoping to meet his family this week. I’ll let you know how it goes!

This other little stud from our English course is called Xhiovani. He is stoked on the Church for lack of a better way to say it. Last week he came to the church for the first time and was really excited to go to the temple! He kept asking us what he needs to do to go there and we said, “Well, we’ve got to teach you a few things and you’ve got to get baptized first.” After that he said, “So how do I do that?” We told him, “You go ask your parents if we can come over after English class and talk to your family about it and then we’ll show you.” This Sunday he came and apparently his family had invited us over whenever we’d like! We’re planning on going tomorrow if they are still up for it. Xhiovani really is awesome. He’s started to read the Book of Mormon and has really enjoyed it. He even gives answers and stuff in young men’s and all that good stuff. We’re really looking forward to working with his family.

At Zone Conference, we learned a lot about working with the members; something that I have struggled with my whole mission. So for this last little while that I have, I’m going to focus on getting them involved with missionary work as much as I can. Coming to lessons, inviting their friends, going on splits, training them, just everything we can do to get the Vlorë branch involved in it’s own growth. We’ve already started going around to different families inviting them to “set a date” for when they will have somebody prepared to hear the gospel. It’s definitely not going to be in my time here that there will be a huge improvement, but I’m hoping to really get a good headstart for them in that aspect. Because it’s so true, that the members are everything in missionary work. When they have ties with the members it becomes incredibly easier to help them progress and stay in the church after we’re gone.

Well I’m outta here! I love you! See you soon!

-Elder Swenson

Monday, February 21, 2011

Today is the first day of my last transfer. . . .holy cow.

Hey Mom!

How’s it going? That’s really weird that Jon’s home. Today is the first day of my last transfer. . . .holy cow. I don’t know how much I really like that. But I just listened to dad’s birthday present and it’s starting to look a little better. ;) Anyway, we go and get new companions tomorrow. I am going to finish my mission with Elder Holmes which is going to rock. He is an awesome missionary with 4 ½ months in the country. Pretty much ever since that group got in the country, I’ve wanted to serve with him or this one other elder so I think it should be a good last transfer. So just letting you know that. I was also really glad to here that the package finally made it there! I hope you enjoyed it. Those pupas really are super nice when it’s cold. Anyway, I’ll get on to the newsletter thing.

Hey Guys!

Well, the days are getting longer as my days here are getting shorter. Crazy. I’ll tell you what, though, we just had a complete turnaround in our area. Basically, last week I finally finished off the last of the investigators that were here when I got here. Not my favorite week in the world. But this week we actually found some really good prospects. Here in Vlorë, the branch is taken over by either young single adults or youth and it is crazy. There’s a real lack of direction and because of that, we’ve been focusing on finding someone who is not a youth and that could be a leader of the branch in the near future. This week at church, we had four investigators. Two of which were not youth and awesome! We are teaching this old lady right now that we call Mrs. Potato Head since she apparently sounds just like her. (I wouldn’t know, but that’s what Elder Knowles tells me.) And even though she’s probably 70-ish years old, she’s really sharp! You don’t find that a lot around here. She is really concerned about her daughter’s family in New Hampshire and in desperate need of comfort. It’s been great to go and teach her about the Book of Mormon and the Holy Ghost. Both of which give us peace and comfort. We were also able to discuss how the gospel blesses families and heals wounds within family relationships. She gave us her daughter’s address and we were able to send some missionaries to her house. I really hope that goes well because this lady is really the sweetest old lady ever. Anyway, so she was at church. And the other one was a large, jolly sailor man from our English course named Kujtim. He’s the nicest guy in the world and I got the chance to get to know him a little better at church on Sunday. I was basically just super happy to see him there because I figured that he wasn’t serious when he said he would come on Sunday. But he came and it was actually a really good sacrament meeting. We’re hoping that he has a family so we can go and meet them soon. This really would be just the guy we’re looking for right now. I don’t know if I should say that, though, cause I don’t want to jinx it. But I’m really excited about him.

You know what’s awesome? The Book of Mormon. It really is. I love it. I love the stories, I love the doctrine, I love the peace, and most of all I love my Savior. I am so grateful for the opportunity we have as missionaries to study the scriptures for at least an hour every morning. It goes by so fast now! I think that might be the thing that I’ve enjoyed most from my mission so far; learning more about the Book of Mormon and getting deeper into it. One of the members in the branch here, Sister Ruçaj, told us how, at her work, they make fun of her because she is religious and studies so much. They’re religious as well, but they tell her that, “it’s not necessary to study as much as you do.” I really liked her answer. . . . . . .and I actually can’t remember exactly what she said, but it was something to the effect of, “If we really love God then how could we not read those words that He has given us to learn more about Him and how to get back to Him.” I have definitely felt that the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to God. I’m really grateful for that. I honestly haven’t seen it have a huge effect on people’s lives here because most of the people that I have taught have just come and gone really quickly, but because of the effect that it has had on me I know that it really does bring us “peace in this life and salvation in the life to come.”

Anyway, I love you all. I really can’t wait to see you guys again! Have an awesome March!

“Oh, may thy soldiers faithful, true, and bold, Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old, And win with them the victor’s crown of gold!”

-Elder Swenson