Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A New Stake, New Investigators, Police Check and Duelling!

 It has been a great week!

Thanks so much for the packages! I received one from Mom this week, and two from Aunt Carolyn! Thank you so much! The other missionaries here love the candy as well!

We have many solid investigators right now. We have some male investigators! Amazing! Six that could make awesome priesthood holders if they will commit. We have three on baptismal dates, but they need to work for it. They have to show their commitment to the gospel.  We found one man last week outside of English course. Elder Austin made up an interesting analogy for him. His brain is full of church knowledge.. only it is very weird. It is like a cup full of dirty water. We don't really know what church or combination it is, but it is a lot of empty ended theories and stuff. Anyway the more church stuff we give him the more comes out. It is like pouring clean water in a cup of dirty water. It is slowing down now though. He committed to baptism. Everything is making more sense to him now. We are certainly lucky to have the truth, and the knowledge that we can pray for answers. 

Two sisters, (11 and 8) are bringing their whole family to the gospel. We have had a few lessons with them. They are great. They read the Book of Mormon a lot, and pray every night together.We found an old investigator of ours this week. She fell off the map there for a second, but she wants lessons again. It was pretty exciting because she was doing so well until she disappeared. A is a different solid investigator. In her prayer (That she gave on her first lesson!!) she thanked God for finally bringing her to someone who could help her find direction. She has been coming to lessons, and actually came with her younger sister to a baptism. Amazing because they live in a village outside of town so that took commitment. 

On that note S got baptized. Elder Bilodo came in from Durres to do it. It was a long anticipated day for her, and it was great to get a lot of our investigators there. 

We explored the Forests of Albania today. These forests just so happen to be the ones that Voldemort lived in. Anyway took some picks dueling and stuff. It was awesome. Adventure is awesome!

We get our Stake here in Albania right away. I am most excited for them because with a stake comes a Patriarch. Most people in Albania have never had a patriarchal blessing before. The few that have had it done in English a few years back when an English speaking patriarch was here. We have our first stake conference on March 9. We are all going into Tirane. Most people will ride buses into Tirane I think. It should be very exciting. To be honest I do not know many details though.

This week I am heading to Tirane for a Police check thingy. Sis Boettinger and I are the only ones who need to go. The others were at the American Embassy last week. The Tooleys also have business in Tirane so we are headed in on Wednesday. I hope I pass!!

I had a girl at church ask me "What are you gaining from doing this? Are you getting paid? School credit? Why are you here?" I gave her a pretty standard answer about blessings and stuff, but I wanted to say "if you only knew." It would have been impossible for me to comprehend before my mission just how much I am getting out of it. I can't even begin to describe how great it is. And the beauty of it is that it was never about us (the missionaries).

The Fords were in Elbasan for a day this week. They said they really want/need more senior couples but there just aren't any to send. It kinda sounded like Mongolia is in the same boat. I know of quite a few in our ward that could do it. I really hope they decide to go because first and foremost it is awesome, and as well the Lord needs them! They have no idea how big of a difference they could make! So dad issue some words of encouragement, and tell them to write on their papers that they want to come here haha.

English course ended this week. They go a couple weeks and then break. We are on a break right now.

Take Buddy on walks!

Love, Elder Stewart 

Elder Austin, S and Elder Stewart

Elder Stewart in the Forests of Elbasan!

Elbasan in background.

Elder Stewart and Elder Austin duelling with "wands" in the forest of Elbasan. No sign of Voldemort though! :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Great Week and Finally an Adventure!

Editor's note: For protection of all the people Elder Stewart meets and teaches, from now on we will just use their first initial rather than their names.

This week went well! We have had a great time!

At the start of this week we had a trainer trainee meeting! I got to see my whole MTC group! That was very fun!  Everyone seemed to be doing well! A lot of them became my really good friends in the MTC. Pres Ford gave us a training on commitments and some other stuff. We then separated trainers with him and Trainees with sister Ford. We said what was going well and what wasn't. I of course said absolutely nothing along with a few others.  I think i scored when I got Elder Austin because we get along pretty well, and we have been able to teach lessons. Anyway that day was fun! We drove to Tirane with the Tooleys. All of the big Taxi wans in Albania have been shut down... Too many accidents. It is going to be a lot harder for us to get out of town now for conferences and stuff.

I gave my first Albanian talk on Sunday. I was the closer so I ended up chopping quite a bit of my talk off. I had a 15 min talk so I wrote one for 20, and then I only had to speak for 10. I spoke on conversion. I thought I did well. Afterwards people talked to me about it, and that proved that I was more or less understood. SCORE! The Tooleys fed us these awesome pancakes for dinner after church! I love their food!

We had 7 solid investigators in church. We just need to get them committed. They all loved it! 

As for lessons...we had a great few with J. Sometimes on his own, and sometimes with friends of his. His friend K comes to most everything! They also have a big group of friends. They would, and with time I hope will make great members!! Todays lesson was super powerful. Because commitments have been hard to get we reviewed everything we had taught quickly. We had a great discussion. We talked about the Plan. We talked about what we need to do. We talked about faith and testimony. We had D and S in on the lesson. They were huge assets. It is great having shqiptare (Albanians) in on lessons. Altogether there were 8 of us at the lesson. 4 investigators. I think they all felt something. Some people shed tears.. first time I have seen that in Albania.

The girl we met on the street.. M. is rocking. We have had two lessons with her.

S and A (S's friends) are both doing well. S seems the most interested, but then A came to church and S did not so I guess it is a toss up. the Tooleys and Pres Kashari have both sat in on lessons with them.

A is a man who is great. His wife died a few years back. He has a daughter. We had a lesson with him this week on the need to be baptized with Priesthood authority. He had a ton of questions and a ton of objections to it, but I think we are on teack now. He was baptized before is the thing. Pres Kashari and Bro Tooley were in on that lesson, but we have had some other ones without them. The fact is though members certainly help with lessons.

We had a lot of other lessons too, but those are some highlights.

We have three potential families. We have had one lesson with two of them, and two with the others. We have been working on having powerfull interactive lessons. It helps me out too because I don't have to speak as much, and I can just listen. Listening is way easier than speaking. We have also met with some men this week. It looks like we might even get a second lesson with some of them. It is so sad with us when we think we have a great lesson with a guy who has such great potential, and then we never see him again! We are trying so hard to get priesthood and families! The one family we got to hike out 45 minutes to their house. It is a long ways out. They have grandparents, and their children, and their children. There are a lot of people. We met a lot of kids. They are some of the most friendly people. Hopefully something good will happen! We also met with a family who lives in an apartment near the center. We tracted them out. We have only ever tracted twice for about an hour a time. There are many more effective methods of finding here in Elbasan! It was a mom and her 15 year old son. There is a 17 or 18 year old son too... hopefully he is at the next lesson. The final lesson we had was with a girl who I told you about in probably my first in field email. She is Hannahs age, and she is leading her family to the church. Two of her friends were the ones at church. They all get found through the English class that we teach. Anyway the spirit was strong in all of those lessons.

There was a move in the mission this week and Elder Acheson got taken from Elbasan, and Elder Richards came here. I miss Elder Acheson because he was a really great guy! We had fun together! He plans to be president of the USA in 2044. That would be totally cool! Elder Richards is awesome though! We get along very well! He has only been here for about three days, but we are pretty similiar. He is 18 as well. His birthday is next week. He is one group ahead of me just like Elder Acheson and Price. 

Today we went on a great adventure. I had been hungering for an adventure so we did it. We hiked up the canal to the river (well like lots of little streams) and followed it for a long ways. We hiked, and jumped over stuff so we were all super happy. Team Elbasan likes adventure!

Good to hear Buddy is well after the operation!

Love, Elder Stewart

A gypsy camp

Elder Stewart

Elder Stewart and Elder Austin in front of the mission home.

Their P-day adventure. Notice the shorts in February!?!?!

The canal they explored on their p-day adventure.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

News from Elbasan...After a Week Hiatus!

Thanks for all of the emails!! I apologize that I did not email last week. Elder Austin was out of commission for Monday and Tuesday and then had to take it slow on Wednesday because he still wasn't feeling well. Do you know any good doctors??

We had our record high last week of lessons. 25 on the week. Elder Austin had never been above 20 before. Mind you it is a different city, but we were happy with it. I am not satisfied, but I am happy. We are gonna break 30 a couple of times this transfer even if it kills me. This week has been a bad week for numbers because of Elder Austins illness at the beginning of the week! We have had some good lessons though.

We had our first baptism this week. He is 8, but a convert. His mom got baptized just before I got into the field. His dad is not at all interested, but he has given them both permission. We have been teaching him lessons, but in the end Elder Palmer our Zone Leader baptized him. It was good because Elder Palmer has a good connection with their family. He was in the area before us! It was the way it should be!

Elbasan has a ton of women, but hardly any men. Two more sisters got baptized this week. The other Elders were teaching them. We have very few count on one hand type deal (no joke) Melchizedek Priesthood holders. We have had a lot of meeting with Males, but they all have one thing in common, and that is that they have a very hard time looking at the eternal perspective when they don't know what or how they are going to eat tonight. Most of them drop us after the first lesson. We really have to rely on the spirit to get them to feel something. Saying that though we have had some really great lessons, and we hope to have a lot more this week!

This week at church I did not have to give my talk. Brother Arben Vogli (possibly the most spiritual man on the continent, he is widely considered the strongest member in the country.. he has been a member since before the war here) came to our ward. He is in the district presidency. He talked at the end, and my talk got canceled. As well my Elders Quorum lesson turned into his lesson. I was fine with that. He is way more spiritual than I am. He has some awesome stories... and he is only 48. He is an amazing sculptor. He has been offered jobs by many large companies in Germany for large amounts of money, but he has turned down money to live a poor life here in Albania, and to help the church succeed. Anyway.. I have to talk next week! Scary!!

On a hilarious note I ordered a pepperoni pizza this week. The titles were in English so I ordered pretty quick. I didn't read the Albanian ingredients. Whoops (see pic) Those are peppers alright! Also a highlight of the week was the three wheeler with a cow in the back, and the two buses that were obnoxious to each other and caused a huge traffic pile up outside the center.

Elder Austin and I made fresh Orange Juice this week! It was an adventure! It was good though!! We are probably going to do it again!!

Also my umbrella broke... haha.

I have met a lot of really great people here in Albania! I certainly have made some new friends with a lot of the branch, and some investigators, and I hope they will accept the goslpel. I also hope that the current parenting genereation will have their hearts softened and let their children be baptized. They have obviously been through some really tough things, and so I think they are just very tentative! They do not want to 'lose' their kids!

One girl who has been investigating for a while convinced her parents to have the missionaries over for dinner last night. She is being taught by the other Elders so they and the Tooleys went. She is so involved in the branch and missionary work, more than most members. Anyway after a 6 hour visit/debate and a really crazy story where they said they could literally feel Satans presence, and then the light of Christ overtook. She got permission to get baptized. We need a lot more miracles like that one! This generation of Albanians is gonna be sweet! Hopefully we get some appointments in homes this week! This success story might give some of our other "waiters" hope. 

Just to get things straightened up our apartment is definitely livable, and if this is the roughest week of my mission I think I can honestly say I haven't had a bad week on my mission... gone stir crazy yes... always had an excess of energy yes... tried to push the pace constantly yes... but I have always had a fun time doing it!

Good to see that Buddy survived the vet! Keep taking him on walks!!

Elder Stewart

Local butcher shop. What's your vote on what animal this is?

His bedroom. Looks not too bad! Cool drapes!

Closet we assume. So nice to see the towel hung up. :)

The "pepperoni" pizza.

They must have wind like we do! This is the fate of every umbrella in Southern Alberta.

The three wheeled vehicle with a cow in back.

An outdoor "grocery store".

Homemade orange juice. Notice the counter tops...we don't even have granite! Looks pretty ok to me! :)

Inside the church building. The Elders help clean it every Saturday. Those floors look pretty shiny! Nice job Elder Stewart!