Monday, June 30, 2014

A New Companion in Durres

So I don't have a ton of time so this one might be kind of short, and
I can't upload photos on this computer!

This week I met Elder Rasband! He is from Utah. Funny enough I have
heard about him before. I have been on splits with his cousin in
Canada! Hahah. Right before I took off you might remember Elder Hascal
who was serving in Coaldale. He was a bit shorter than me with curly
hair. He has eaten at our house before. Kinda funny. He told me about
Elder Rasband because he was pretty sure we were going to the same
place. Elder Rasband is a great guy. He graduated 2013 as well. He is
ready to work so that is great.

This week we dove into the area. We have one current investigator. Her
name is B. She is 19. She is a referral from a girl who will be
leaving on her own mission at the end of this month. Referrals are
really cool! We hope B can be baptised before her friend leaves,
but she didn't come to church yesterday so we will have to come down
on that a little bit haha. She has been meeting with missionaries for
4 months on and off.

We had a really fun ward party this week. They had some activites to
get ward members involved. I figure there were around 50 people there.
They had a couple minute to win it type deal things, as well as some
question and answer stuff. It was a lot of fun for all ages. We had
Cookies and juice.

A is doing fantastic! However, he did not get baptised. It is
kind of a long story, but in order to stay on good terms with the
Bishop it had to be called off. He will still be baptised eventually.
He is off tobacco. Amazing. Elder Gray will continue to meet with him
until he gets baptised. He continues to come to church.

It is getting pretty hot here! I like it though.

Our new mission pres should be here now. They have a big new vision
for Durrës. We hope to see it grow as we prepare for a second stake in
the not too distant future!

I am loving it out here! Have a great week!

Take Buddy on lots of walks!

Love Elder Stewart

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Transfer Week... Still in Durres but now a Trainer!

Happy Birthday to H!!!! I still can't believe you are 12!

This week has been eventful! It is funny that your week flew by as
well. I blinked and I almost missed this one.

The best part of the week is that A is officially almost done
smoking! He will be baptized on Saturday. I have told you twice that
we will have a baptism and it didn't happen so pray really hard that
this one actually happens. I am pretty sure it will. He has a solid
testimony. He has been to church every single week since we met him on
the road. He has progressed a long way! We had his stop smoking for
sure lesson on Saturday night. We had the super strict church "quit
smoking program" ready for him. We bought all of the stuff. He has
however decided to do it on his own. His willpower is incredible

The great part about it is that both Elder Gray and I will be staying
here in Durrës to see it happen. Neither of us got transferred from
Durrës. I am moving areas though. Both of us will be training new
missionaries starting on Thursday. We are excited, a little nervous,
but totally stoked. We both agree that it does not seem like very long
ago that we were put with our trainers. It makes us feel good that
President Ford trusts us enough to give us new missionaries. Elder
Austin is still in Prishtina. Elder Price from Elbasan is the new
North Zone leader with him. Elder Baldwin is still in Fier. He is
serving with Elder Webster. Here in Durrës we are going to have 8
Elders now. A new area in Durrës got opened. Elder Ashler will be
moving into it with Elder Linderman. Our district leader is Elder
Foster. This is his last transfer. He used to be my Zone leader. I
have been on two exchanges with him. I have told you a bit about him.
he reminds me of Uncle Mark. I really like him. He will also be
training. There are 6 Elders coming in, and 3 of them will be in
Durrës. Elder Holm from the MTC is training in Tiranë. Elder Eliason
from the MTC is training in Vlorë. The other is also being trained in
Tiranë with another missionary. Elder Acheson is leaving us to
Gjakova, Kosovo. Elder Clawson is heading to Shkodër. Elder Watson is
going to Prishtina, Kosovo.

We had our mission conference this week. It was so much fun. Everyone
was there! The thing about having such a small mission is that
everyone gets to know eachother, at least a little bit. I will end up
serving around or near most of the people in the mission so it is
really fun. They put on some really great trainings. Sister Ford is
fabulous. She makes us laugh all of the time. She put on a great
training for patience. She did a great job. She took the Preach My
Gospel paragraph, and broke it down with stories and quotes of her
own. "Patience isn't just waiting, it is what you do while you are
waiting." Obviously missionary work takes a lot of patience. Life in
general takes a lot of patience. Every once and a while things go a
little (or a lot). She is hilarious! The AP's gave us a great training
on the Book of Mormon. Apparently we should use it more in lessons
other than just explaining what it is at the end of the first lesson.
Who knew? ;) Really though it was a great reminder. We have to make
sure that people know that is they read and pray about the Book of
Mormon they will know that God has a plan for them. They will know
that God has called a prophet, and they will be ready to make
covenants with God! I thought they did a great job. President Ford
taught us about the numbers. We want to bring more people to Christ so
that means we go ahead and start with big baptismal goals right?
Wrong. We set goals on finding new investigators, and then
investigators in church, and then those on a baptismal date, and then
finally investigators getting baptized. That made Elder Gray and I
feel good! We have worked our tail off finding, and working with
investigators. President Ford showed us our mission effectiveness
report. It takes a lot of found new investigators to get a baptism so
he encouraged us to keep finding!

This week we have begun seriously working with an investigator named
Izmir. He originally found our free English course a few years ago. He
took pictures with some of the missionaries, and has had the pictures.
We met him on the road one day, and it kind of rekindled his fire. We
invited him to church, and he showed up. He has been to church 4
times, and has played soccer with us once. He also comes to English
course, and is in our advanced class because he can speak decent
English. In advanced English we do a lot of speaking because lets face
it we have no idea what we are doing in English. i can barely tell you
what a noun is. We just don't learn English that way ever so we talk
with the students and fix how they build their sentences and teach
them new words. Often we take turns asking questions, and then we all
answer it. His question was "If you had one question to ask God, what
would it be?" We all answered, and there were some fantastic
insightful answers. His was very deep, but oh so simple, and oh so
great. "Why are people here on Earth." We had a lesson with him on the
Plan of Salvation right after. We have also had a lesson with him on
the Restoration. He is a bit skeptical because he feels his prayers
have not been answered. I know he will get an answer if he wants it
bad enough though. God promises to answer all who seek him with faith.
The ball is kind of in Izmirs court now. He was at church again.

I feel like I haven't fully expressed how great our current district
is. I love serving with Elder Gray, but we also see and do things with
the other missionaries here as well. Often times we will eat lunch
together. Elder Gray, Elder Clawson, Elder Watson, and I have taken
the "thrifty and wise money use" thing to heart. We eat together most
days and have saved a ton of money. I am yet to withdraw my money for
the month. We still have some of Elder Grays. It blows my mind how
many times missionaries have run out of money for both elders in the
middle of the month. We have had a good time being thrifty though! All
of the missionaries here in Durrës are awesome!

I hope you all have a great week! This week we remember two of the
finest men to ever live. I hope we can all continue to live in a way
that makes Gerry and Brian proud! While it is very hard, I am very
grateful for the knowledge we have that we can all live together after
this life! The gospel is great, and the best part is that it is true.
Jesus truly did live and die for us so we can live again!

Have a fantastic week! Congrats on finishing exams! Take Buddy on
walks! Let Summer begin!

Love Elder Stewart

Elder Stewart is pointing at the date in his planner. It is June 18, Hannah's birthday, but he said he also realized as he looked at it that it was one year ago exactly that he opened his call. That went by so fast!

Mexican food in Albania. He loved it!

Elder Gray and Elder Stewart

Elder Stewart's "grandfather" at the top, his two "sons" (the Elders he trained, one of whom is Parker's trainer, Elder Austin), and then Elder Stewart, his "grandson".  This is mission lingo apparently!

Birthday wishes for Hannah!

One of Elder Stewart's investigators.

Elder Stewart's district in Durres. They are going many different directions this week. :( He is very grateful for the amazing experience it has been.

Adriatic South Mission Conference June 2014- Pres and Sister Ford will head home this week after completing their 3 year mission. It is a relatively small mission.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Great Week and Transfers on Sunday...

Happy Fathers day to Dad and of you others out there!!

This week has been really great! We have had a great time here in Durrës! We tract most days. The heat and rain seems to drive people indoors! That works well for us because we know where to find them. We have a lot of potential investigators. We have quite a few first lessons. Unfortunately, but very fortunately, we have agency. We don't always get invited back. Our story does sound crazy, but it is true and all we have to do is read and pray to know! I know people feel the Spirit when we teach though. We feel it! People are generally happy. Everyone gets happy when we are willing to talk about their family. Everyone loves their family. I started carrying around a wallet sized picture of our family! I feel as though sometimes people think we are robots or salesman, and it really helps people open up to us. Whether they accept our message right now or not it is good to leave them with a good taste of LDS missionaries! We met two great families this week while tracting! I really hope to get back into their homes and share the Plan of Salvation. So far we have told them the Gospel will bless their family on earth and through Eternity, but they don't really know how yet.

We did have one crazy run in tracting yesterday though. We testified at the door and shared a part about eternal families. The lady said she wasn't interested so i gave her a card with our number on it if she became interested or if anyone she knew was interested. A man began yelling in the background. He came to the door yelled in our face swung a hand at me and i quickly backed out of it. He grabbed Elder Gray and just started shaking him and yelling leave and never come back! We made it out though!

This week Elder Gray and I have only been speaking in Albanian. We really like speaking it, and there is really no need for Elnglish because we can both speak and understand now. We continue to improve! It is great! God is helping us out!

B and X are falling off the map. They have no showed for a lot of appointments this week. They wanted meeting out of their home because of their grandparents, and they chose to meet at the Institute center. The problem is they come to us, and sometimes that doesn't happen. They didn't come to church. Elder Gray and I are concerned that they aren't reading and praying on a regular basis. They can't gain a testimony if they don't do those things!

A is amazing. He continues to come to and participate in all three hours of church. He has a great grasp on the gospel. He always has great comments in Elders Quorum. He has a great understanding and testimony of the restoration. He is still quitting smoking! I know he will quit! I will try and get a picture with him this week so you can see him!

Elder Gray and I served that Telhaj family I have told you about! It was great! They really appreciated it. Our lessons fell through one night so we quickly ran home and changed and ran to his house. When we got there he was pulling weeds by himself. He had bee out there for a while, and had made a dent but wasn't even close to being done. We got it all done with him. As weird as it sounds I think God canceled those lessons for us and prompted us to get out to the Telhaj house! It was perfect timing. God knew that brother Telhaj was working alone on a massive project! We met another less active this week named Brother Beleshi. He is about 60! He is very cool.

Elder Gray and I cooked a great dinner yesterday for Elders Clawson's birthday and Father's day.

Durrës is great. Transfer calls come on Sunday so that should be interesting!

Take Buddy on walks!! Thanks for your support and prayers!

Love, Elder Stewart

That chicken looks pretty amazing!!

I think Elder Stewart is turning into a chef in Albania!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Durres is Great!

This week has been awesome. To be honest it is always great out here.

The weather is heating up. We are all sweating like crazy. I think we are nearing the ciesta time of year. It is getting to the point where being outside at midday is killer. It is interesting here. School schedules are different for all different ages of children. Many kinds will have school in the morning, and then spend the day at home, and then go back to school at night. I think that must be super tough. I liked getting it done in one straight shot. School ends on the 18 here. I think everyone is getting quite excited for summer.

This week we started our free English course. We do it as a service to all of the people here. As well occasionally investigators are found through English course as we share a spiritual message with every lesson. 45 min lesson with a 15 min spiritual thought. We start and end every lesson with a prayer too. Elder Gray and I are teaching advanced English this time. All of the other times I have done English course I have been a beginners teacher. It is strange to talk in English around Albanians. We have a really fun time teaching English course though!

A is doing well. We had a great lesson with him this week. We had two male members in on the lesson. They did a great job testifying. Members really help to have in lessons because they can relate to the investigators in a way that we will never be able to. A is quitting smoking. We all fasted together this week. He has a great understanding and testimony. He is ready for baptism, and he knows it and wants it. I can't wait for tabacco to be a thing of the past for him! The members have really taken him in, and befriended him!

X and B are on the ropes again. They have to show their faith, and so far they just haven't. They didn't come to church again this week, and they skipped a couple of meetings this week. As sad as it is we may have to temporarily drop them or at least just back off a little bit. They are scheduled to be baptized on the 21, but that can't happen if they are going to fall away right away. The Bishop made that very clear to us, and I completely agree with him.

That awesome family we met is still awesome, but the thing is they are leaving to Greece this week and may never return to Albania. I don't know how people do it. The parents are just picking up and taking their family with them. It is tough on us seeing them go, but I can't even imagine how it must be on them. Moving to another country and not being able to speak the language. Leaving your friends and everything you have known behind. I am amazed by their bravery. It must be really hard. Both parent have been out of work for the last little while, and this is their only solution to making ends meet. Crazy. I don't think we will ever be able to comprehend.

We had a really cool meeting this week with two very educated 21 year olds. They knew a lot about a lot. They said they haven't found a true church. When I hear people say that it gets me pretty excited. They began to explain how they thought Muslims might be right, but how they had found a bunch of flaws with them. They believe in science, and proof. They told us Mohammed split the moon in half, and their is scientific proof that the moon has been split in half. That was one of their fundamental arguments for Islam. He had a Book of Mormon that he had received before, but he had never read it. We encouraged him to read it. He told us we can't be right because the true church will not consume alcohol. Funny enough we don't drink. They told us we can't be right because praying to saints and to Jesus Christ and saints is a sin. Funny enough we pray to God. They were shocked and amazed at how calm we stayed all of the time. They were amazed how we testified simply, and answered their questions directly but not pointedly or argumentatively. It was a testimony builder. They left shocked, and they each had a fresh Book of Mormon to leave. we read Moronis challenge with them so they know what to do.

This week for church we had a Europe wide broadcast from Switzerland. It was done by Elder Uchtdorf and Anderson. They did well. we had some technical difficulties in the middle, but we saw a lot of it.

Durrës is great. We are working very hard as a companionship, and as a district. The goal is obviously baptisms, but we have recognized that baptisms take a lot continued effort. Initially people have to change. We are trying to be in the right place at the right time so the spirit can testify to people through us. The church is true, and we can't wait for people to accept it!

Have a great week, and take Buddy on walks!

Love, Elder Stewart

Elder Stewart and Elder Clawson

They put a photo of the Saviour on their door just like in the episodes of "The District". :)

Cooking in the kitchen in the new Canada apron we sent him. He's becoming quite the chef!

We also included KD in the package we mailed. They shared it for lunch one day as a district and all loved it!! Little taste of home...

Even better with hotdogs! Wonder if they were beef....??

Heinz ketchup - It's universal!

At the barber shop. Elder Stewart says he loves going there and chatting with them! They went as a district all together.

Just before the cut. It actually looks pretty short already! :)
A cool experience!

Monday, June 2, 2014

More Adventures...And a Baptism that Falls Through.

This week has been a good week in Durrës. A is doing very well. He is quitting smoking. We had a very powerful lesson with him this week on the Atonement. The Spirit was so strong. We talked about what the Atonement was, but the focus was on why Christ performed the Atonement, and how we can show our gratitude for the Atonement. He comprehends quickly, and gave incredibly advanced insights on the Atonement. We read many scriptures together. I feel the Spirit very strongly when we meet with him. He continues to come to all three hours of church, and has been well fellow shipped. He is amazing. He learns on his own and brings us knew knowledge. He is fantastic.

We had a baptism fall through this week, and we are still a little bit unclear as to why. X and her Mom were both so excited as we met with them throughout the week. We met them at the church an hour before her baptism on Saturday, and they told us and Bishop Dodaj that they had a small problem and that they needed a different day. We will continue to try and get a better answer. They didn't come to church. We have no idea what the deal is. We can't baptize them if they aren't commited. I think there may be some kind of deep underlying problem, but we really don't know. We are praying for them.. a lot! Fast Sunday fell on a good day.

We met an amazing family this week. It is a mom, dad, two middle school age daughters, and a baby boy. We street contacted the dad D last week. We street contact a lot of people, and often times the numbers we receive are either fake, or the people just want to mess with us.I had the lesson in my planner for a few days, and after a few calls nothing had happened. We felt like we should give it another shot. D was more than happy to meet with us. We met on the road and walked together to his house. The first lesson was only with the parents (D and V), and the second was with the whole family. They are a very Christian family, but they don't have a faith. It turns out the two girls have been to our church once before. They had a Book of Mormon. They all show great potential. The older daughter E gave a flawless closing prayer. She thanked God for the Book of Mormon, and the Bible. She thanked him for Joseph Smith. She ended in the name of Jesus Christ Amen. We had a member (Ersi) with us at their house, and he was blown away. He was baptised earlier this year. He was a very prepared investigator right from the start. He said in Albanian "Her first prayer was better than mine. She got everything. She even thanked God for a modern prophet and Joseph Smith. No investigators do that. She also said in the name of Jesus Christ Amen. I didn't even do that. I said in the name of Ersi Amen." We almost died laughing. we will be meeting with the family again this week. We challenged the family to begin reading from the Book of Mormon. Ersi brought up the fact that he read the whole thing in 3 days when he was investigating. The girl doesn't really seem like the kind that will be beat. She has all tens in a country where grades are all given out of ten. D and V are trying very hard to follow Christ. They just lack direction. They have crosses all over their house, but they don't really know where to go from there. We hope to get them to church this Sunday.

Ersi is awesome. He is a sweet kid. Way beyond his years. he is 15, but he has come through the fire to get to where he is.

This week I ripped my pants pretty bad, and we didn't notice until the end of the night. Up and down appartment stairs takes a toll on pants. I had to take them to a seamstress to get the fixed. The problem was out of my hands.

Also this week we had a funny problem with the phones. We were without coverage for a whole day because our carrier was switched. The whole mission including Pres Ford was off the map. It was weird. we had no way of confirming our appts, but it all still worked out in the end. i think we all realized how dependent on technology we are. We wondered how people used to live without cell phones.

This week we have continued to do a lot of finding, but also we have tried to find some more inactives. We have a lot of members here in Durrës, but unfortunately many of them are not in sacrament meeting. We have found some! Thanks to the Atonement they can come back. President Ford said something that struck me. When people Understand the Atonement they will have a desire to change. I guess it just makes sense.

Have a great week. Take Buddy on walks!!

Love you all!

Elder Stewart

Poppies he found in Albania!

Elder Stewart's birthday celebration in honour of his sister, Sara! Looks tasty!

The hole in the pants...

Good thing he could find some help for the repair!

Cell phones are only so helpful...How did we live without them??

The baptismal program. Everything was ready to go. :(


Warming up in Durres

(Editor's Note: This post is a week late. The week got away from us... It should have been posted May 26 - Aunt Carolyn's birthday. He doesn't mention Sara's birthday which was the next day May 27 because he told us later, that in Albania, it is bad luck to acknowledge a birthday until the actual day - never before!)
To start off Happy Birthday to Aunt Carolyn! Thank you for being such a great aunt, and supporting me out here. I have a lot of really great memories with you! I hope your birthday is great!

This week we haven't done anything too out of the usual, but we have been working super hard. The weather is warming up, and we peel our shirts off every night!

We have been working very closely with X and her Mom this week. X is getting baptized this Saturday. While her mom does not want to get baptized yet she is very excited for X. We teach them together, and her mom comes to church with her, The Young Womens program has really taken X in. We are very excited for her.

Our friend A is quitting smoking. We are praying for him, but we don't know exactly what to do. V Balla came to his lesson. V Balla had that crazy history with cigarettes, and he effectively quit on his own. We don't ave an addiction recovery program here so in the end it is probably going to come down to Astritis testimony vs his craving for smokes. If anyone has a good suggestion we would love it. A is awesome. He really gets the gospel. He just gets it. I feel like it is over a lot of peoples heads. For some reason religion is just such a distant concept for them that even when we explain it clearly they just don't seem to get it. He gets it though, and then on top of that he is willing to keep all of his reading assignments, and then some. He is a divorced man moving through life. I think he has had a tough life, but he has a big heart, and the Ward loves him.

This week we tried our special trick. It is called calling a bunch of random numbers that we have got on the street, and never been able to meet with, and just invite them to church. once again it worked, and a lady named D came to church. Some ladies really took her in, and she had a great time. I think I forgot to tell you, but last week we did the same thing and a young family came to church. I really think some people feel as though you a;ready have to be "in" with the church crowd to go to church. I think a simple invite to a stranger goes a long ways. That is what Elder Gray and I have been finding anyway.

Our companionship focus is families. Every day we pray multiple times that a family will be placed in our path. It is kind of a new thing. We have been trying to say very specific prayers. It has worked. The Lord has put a number of families in our path. While none of them have taken any huge steps yet we hav a lot of hope and faith. Our most recent find was a 11ish year old boy. while walking away from an appointment that fell through we heard the classic Albanian young boy English "Hello my friend" type thing. We started talking to this little guy. He and his friend were just hanging out in the road. We talked to them for a little bit, and got to be acquainted, and told them we would see them around. Yesterday we heard the same kid yell at us from across the street. He was with his mom and two sisters this time. We walked over to them, and had a great converstaion. They are quite the family. They have a lot of personality. We have their phone number, and we are supposed to have a visit to their house later this week, and then they said they will come to church.

We met with one other family this week. They could turn out awesome as well. It is a dad, a mom, and three little boys. It is a Jeff, and Lindsey type set up right now. They are great as well. One day this week we had to make a run back to our house in the middle of the day because our heater air conditioner was being installed. We have been living in our house illegally for the last two months according to mission rules. On the way back we literally ran into them. We gave them a quick run down on who we are. The dad was fascinated, and we got an appt with them two days later.

I went on an exchange with Elder Ashler this week. He is from Croatia. He is really funny. He speaks perfect English because he used to play a lot of online video games. It turns out video games are good for something. We had a good time together.

I got my interview from pres Ford this week. He is a great man. Sis Ford is so funny!

Have a great week. I love you all! I am out! Take Buddy on walks. Sorry I didn't have time to send pics this week. We went to Berat today for pday, and it cut into our email time. Sorry for any emails I didn't respond to!

Love Elder Stewart