Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas in Gjakova!

Elder Stewart did not get a P-Day on the Monday before Christmas because of Christmas Day. So, our Skype session was the replacement. It was awesome!! It was so good to see his face and hear his voice.

Before leaving to serve his mission, he expressed two main wishes. He hoped he would get to serve part of his mission in Kosovo and he hoped he would get an Albanian companion. In October he got his first wish when he was transferred to Prishtina, Kosovo and the week before Christmas he got his second wish when he got a new companion from Elbasan. His name is Elder Lesi. He doesn't speak any English. So, part of the time, Parker is to speak to him in English to help teach him.

He spent Christmas Day at the Military Base and had a delicious turkey dinner there. In the evening, they had another dinner with Elder and Sister Tooley. Sounds like it was a wonderful Christmas Day and while we missed him here, it made for a fantastic Christmas present for us to Skype with him. :)

His next P-Day will be on New Years Day.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gjakova is Prospering with Proselyting

Cool fact about Albania and Kosovo: Names have a huge impact on
religion.People know what religion others are just based on their
name. For example.. All Pjeters are catholic. There are set Muslim,
orthodox, and Catholic names.

This week we got 12 new investigators meaning we met with them for a
first lesson and they accepted a second! it was amazing. i will tell
you some of my favourites.

We met some cool families this week. We met a dad and son on the road,
and figured out how to get to their house. We took the Tooleys car out
to their house and visited them. It was a family of four. The two boys
were 18 and 14. The oldest boy had dropped out of school on order to
help support the family. The younger boy was brilliant however. He
just knew a ton, and loved to read. He read the bible! They were a
very Christian family. The older boy loved it, and we could tell he
felt great both times we were at hid house. The parents were both a
little bit protective against our message. The mom made a point of
saying that they held onto Catholicism for the past 500 years when
everyone else has become Muslim, and then they survived the war 15
years ago. Both parents really weren't open to our message, but they
liked that we talked about Christ. The youngest son is the only one
who I think really got it. It is cool to think the he is the same as
Joseph Smith was. The same thing will work for him if he asks for the
answer. unfortunately the Dad gave us a very hard drop as we were
walking out of the second lesson, and told us never to come back. I
still have a lot of hope for them in the future.. especially the kids!

This week we were also able to meet another family. We met B and
his family. I called them at like 10:30 to remind them of 11 oclock
church and 5 of them came to church! Elder Schramm and Elder Tooley
taught them a lesson after church, and 2 of them have a large desire
to be baptized. They committed to be baptized so that is fantastic! We
aren't exactly sure of the family dynamics. There are cousins and
uncles and aunts. There are a lot of people to say the least. I think
we have met 8 of them up until right now. It will be great to continue
to work with them.

I will tell you about our other investigators as they progress.

On Tuesday we got to go back to the military base. It was my second
time going there. It was snowing really hard as we drove there. We had
our district meeting in the car as to not waste time. We have a
district full of a lot of characters! Major Jensen met us at the gate,
and we got to eat the American cafeteria food. It was really good. I
love North American milk! Following dinner we had a fireside in their
little meetinghouse thing that they have on base. The other Elders
gave the lesson this time around and shared the talk from that really
young German seventy from the last conference about Approaching the
Throne of God. I think the soldiers really liked it. We grabbed some
snacks from the base and took off. The ride home was really funny too.
Quite the district!

I had an exchange with Elder Holm Tuesday night into Wednesday. It was
fun to serve with him for a day. We worked really hard, and got to
teach a few lessons together. The last time that I taught something
with Elder Holm was the MTC, and so it was pretty great to teach with
him again knowing what we now know.

This Christmas Initiative is really cool. I hope all of you Twitter
people are #ShareTheGift ing. Here we talk to tons of people every day
about it. We have a big sign that we contact with. It has attracted a
lot of attention. I will take a picture with it this week so I can
send one home.

The funnest part of my week continues to be our beginners English
Course. I think it is the best. I wrote down all of their names when
the presented themselves, and that night I studied them really so I
can call them all by name. There are like 15 on average, and we have a
blast with them. They are getting better at English too! It is my
favourite English class just because the people are more relaxed and
talkative, and we can do games and they are less embarrased to try
talking. At the end of one class we were teaching them the parts of
the body and we did Head shoulders knees and toes. They got a kick out
of that.

We have been doing spiritual devotionals every Wednesday and Sunday.
President Weidmann told us to so them throughout the month of
December. Elder Schramm and I did the one on Sunday. We did two songs
and a talk from the first Presidency Devotional. Everyone loves MoTab,
and it was good for all of the people to see some of the First
Presidency Devotional. We will probably use the other talks on another

I wasn't in on that lesson because I have been doing some translating
for Sister Tooley. There are some situations here that you just don't
run into in other countries. Sister Tooley did a great job of helping
a lady who is in a very tough spot. I was happy to be able to help
because I really do feel bad for a lot of these people here. They been
through and seen and been hurt in ways I struggle to imagine. Each of
us as missionaries take  few turns translating. Sometimes it is little
things and other times it is larger meetings like that one was.

So this is my last P-day before Christmas! We have planned to have
Christmas morning at the other Elders apartment. We will eat breakfast
with them and the Tooleys over there. We will probably walk around or
play games during the day. We have Christmas dinner midafternoon at
the Tooleys house. The Peja Elders will also be coming to that one. On
Cristmas evening I get to talk to you. It will be around 5 our time!
Thanks for all of the packages and cards! You are the best!!

While it is nice to be home for Christmas I am a huge fan of the
mission Christms thing. Our Christmas started in November and is
running right up until the end of the year! I love it out here!

Have a great week! Walk Buddy! Talk to you on Christmas!

Merry Christmas! #ShareTheGift

Love Elder Stewart

Pool fun on P Day

Splits with Elder Penrod

Sis Tooley wearing the Canada socks we sent her. :)

A vehicle in Gjakova

Their "Charlie Brown" tree. :) I think it's perfect.

Bowling from last P Day. Might be a little harder in dress clothes! 

A Christmas display at the mall. Looks pretty good!

Elder Penrod, Elder Stewart and Elder Holm

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas is in the Air...and on the Jumbotron!

This week was good we are getting the Christmas Spirit rolling.

We have had a lot of contacting this week. We have talked to a lot of
people. The church is making a huge push on the "He is The Gift"
program. I am sure you have all seen the video on The goal is to get as many people as possible to
see it. We got it translated into Albanian this week so hopefully we
will ave some chances to use it. We have it loaded on a usb, and we
have a portable dvd player so we can use it in lessons. As far as
contacting goes we printed off a booksized picture of the nativity,
and have been talking about it with people. It has worked really well
actually. We also have these new cards to give out they were made just
for this program. They gave us enough for 10 a day. To be honest we
could use way more, but I guess it is a lot of printing! Today they
brought us a huge sign for the program. I will take a picture with it
for next week. It will be great to contact with. As well Elder McGrath
managed to talk to someone in Prishtina about the jumbotron things
that they have in every city. He managed to strike a deal with them.
The share the gift video will be playing 100 times a day in Prishtina,
Gjakova, and Peja starting tomorrow. Apparently Albania doing a
similiar thing. I know for sure that it is playing on the big one in
Tirana. It will be great!

At the start of this week it rained like crazy. It was very hard to
get people to leave their house to meet with us. The problem was they
would say they were coming, and then not show up. It was tough, but at
the end of the week we got to meet with a lot more people.

We met a nice lady on the road. I would say that she is around 60. She
gave us her number, and we said we would call her. We set up a meeting
with her, and we met her in the park. She brought her two little
granddaughters (6 and 13). When they got to the park we started
walking to their house, and then something came up and they decided
they didnt have time. So we left, but decided to call and invite them
to church the next day. They came, and loved church! We ended up being
able to go and meet with their family in the evening. They are super
nice. However they are leaving to go home to Durrës on Thursday for
the holidays. Hopefully we can get something figured out!

Our English course here is awesome. The majority of them are 10 to 13
year old boys. They are pretty funny. I like teaching it!

We set up our christmas tree and lights. It is begining to look a lot
like christmas.

The District here is pretty awesome. I really like serving here! The
Tooleys are great! We ate at their house on Sunday, and on Friday.
They spoil us!

This morning we ate this cool stuff they have in Gjakova. It is some
amazing bread with sausage, an egg, and cheese. I will send you
pictures of the place just because it is so cool.

We had Zone conference in Prishtina this week, and I got a couple of
pictures that I missed taking. I will send them all. The members, Albi
market, and the bakery!

It has been a good week, and I hope your was as well. Take Buddy on walks!

Love Elder Stewart

The local butcher shop...YUM! This is in Prishtina.

The Prishtina Bakery where the competition was held between the Elders. This does look YUMMY for real.

The local grocery store in Prishtina

A fun dice game they play with the Tooley's

Not sure what it means, but maybe its a good roll!

These are all behind the scenes at the bakery. They became good friends with the staff there. Guess thats what happens when you frequent a place all the time! :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Looks like Gjakova for Christmas!

This week has been a most eventful week. Sister Tooley said she filled
you in on most of it so I will just take the week right from the top.

Last Monday after leaving internet we walked down the Boulivard only
to see 200+ American flags strung up down the boulivard. There were 10
strands of 20, and then some. They were blasting American country
music, and there were people everywhere. None of my pictures from the
night really did it justice, but you can see how big it was in the one
picture that I snapped. It was quite the event. The signs all said
"Thank you USA." The people here are all super grateful to the US for
saving them. We didn't end up contacting much on the Boulivard on
Monday because it was crazy there! We decided to contact at another
place closer to the church. We ended up finding a really cool guy who
had been taught two lessons about a year ago. He had a great
personality, and said he was ready to learn more. He is a photographer
and studies agriculture. I am really hoping for him!

On Tuesday we had a slightly compressed District Meeting because the
Zone leaders were away on some special buisness and because we had a
mission conference this week so we only had to cover the bare minimum
to make sure Prishtina was doing well, and ready to hear from
President Weidmann! It took under an hour, and then we did road
cleanup service until lunch. Apparently the reason a lot of people
littler here is because it is a sign of freedom and not being
controlled. We met our super cool 60 year old investigator in the
afternoon, as well as met with another man for a second lesson, as
well as the poorer man who committed to baptism. It was an amazing
afternoon and evening.

We spent most of Wednesday contacting on the boulivard. Hopefully you
get to see it and experience it in person sometime because a picture
just can't do it justice. I really like it. I don't know why walking
boulivards aren't really a thing in North America. We got two cool new
investigators on Wednesday too. We cooked our cake for mission
conference on Wednesday as well, and ran through our Talent\Skit for
mission conference at lunch. Elder McGrath did a good job on the cake.
He did pretty well all of it. I was getting some of our other stuff
ready for mission conference.

We woke up at 2:15 on Thursday morning for mission conference. We were
all ready by 2:50, and then caught a taxi to the bus. We were plenty
early for the 4am bus. I slept pretty well, and we made it to Tirana
in about 4 hours. We then jumped on a city bus to the mission home,
and met all of the missionaries. It was good to see everyone. 2 times
in 1 month! Score! Elder Baldwin is doing good in Elbasan, Elder
Austin is doing good in Shkodër, Elder Gray likes Vlorë, Elder Rasband
is great in Durrës, and all of my other friends are doing good. They
are scattered around the mission.

President and Sister Weidmann gave great trainings. President Weidmann
filled us in on the Christmas initiative. The church put out a new
video so we watched it. Elder and Sister White filled us in on some
daily stuff (Health and finances). They are the new office couple
because the Andrews went home.

After the training it was time for Thanksgiving Lunch. We had a ton of
food there. All of the Senior couples got into Tirana a day early to
start preparing things. Following dinner we had my favourite part..
the Talent Show. The acts were great. We put on a morning excercise
thing. The Sisters woke up and did their morning workout. They
pretended to be lazy missionaries, and to go to the TV with a new
workout video. They had a bunch of chocloate and stuff, and pressed
play on the video. We were the Book of Mormon workout video. I can't
send it because it is too big, but maybe you can have Sister Tooley
get it to you or else I could maybe get it on a disk and send it. I
thought it was pretty funny. We had everyone laughing really well. We
won! So that was really cool. There were some other hilarious ones
though too. Gjakova did a Hypnotist act where Elder Tooley
"Hypnotized" the Elders. First ward was hilarious. Third ward did that
on land synchronized swimming thing. Durrës did well with a funny
telephone thing. It was a telephone call, but it was like that Harry
Potter Harry Potter.. Duuuuumbledore... Ron ron ron Weasley thing. It
was super funny! There were a lot of other great ones. Those were just
a few of my favourites. I hope I can find a way for you to see all of
them. Apparently the mission home is going to compile the video and
make everyone a copy of the whole thing. The hosts Elder Holm and
Elder Price were pretty funny as well.

After that they judged the Desserts. Ours got best cake! There were
some good foods there. We then went back to the main room and listened
to the testimonies of the missionaries who will be leaving in the New
Year. We then took off. I drove with the Macedonians back to
Prishtina. They are some funny fellas. Elder Barber and Elder Prince
stayed at our house for the night so that they didn't have to do the
full drive in one night.

As we got ready for bed on Thursday night the phone rang. I picked it
up, and it was President. He said "Thanks so much for your great work
in Prishtina" I said.. "Thanks President.." He said " I need your
help, and I will be moving you to a different area. You will now be
serving in Gjakova." I was pretty shocked. I didn't see that coming at
all. I was definitely sad to leave, but I am pumped to be serving here
in Gjakova now. Apparently some stuff happened and President had to
shuffle some things around. I know it will be great here though!

My new companion is Elder Schramm. He is from New Mexico. He is a
really nice and funny guy. I think we will have a great time! So far
we have been together for about 3 days and things are going great.

Gjakova means "I Bled." These people have been through a ton. There
are some terrifying stories from the war around here. They had some
terrible things done to them. Many of them had families slaughtered.
There are monuments and memorials all over the city. They have first
hand experienced a lot of things that I can't even imagine.

The branch here in Gjakova is pretty small, but I really like them. I
met a lot of them at an activity on Saturday night where we watched
the full Joseph Smith movie, and then again on Sunday at church. I
gave a talk in church on Tithing. I like small branches because we get
to know the members really well! I know I am going to have a great
time here. Elder Schramm and I have already taught a couple of lessons
together, and it is going great. After church the Tooleys fed us
leftover dinner from Tirana. It was great.

Today we have already had a really cool day. This morning we hit up
the big grocery store and got a small Christmas tree for 8 Euro. We
got some little lights as well. Last night while contacting we met a
man on the road who told us to meet him at the Catholic church at 11am
in the morning. We went there, and we met his friend inside of the
church. He was the Head Priest. He brought into a lounge area in the
back. We talked about who we were with him for about half an hour. We
didn't have a full lesson with him, but it was really cool to sit down
with a Catholic Priest. He had seen Elder Eyering at the convention on
marriage a few weeks ago that you told me about so that was a cool way to be able to relate to eachother.

My mind explodes daily when I think about how awesome serving a
mission is. I am loving it!

Hope you have a great week! Thanks so much for the prayers, and
support, and packages! Have a great week, and take Buddy on Walks!

Love Elder Stewart

This is what a 2:15 wake up looks like before heading to Mission Conference. :)
Ironically, with all the ping pong we've had around our home these past weeks, Elder Stewart has been partaking of a little pong too with some of the members.

The American flags dis[played in gratitude for Americans.

The winning cake!

En route to Mission Conference on the bus.

Downtown Tirana

American Thanksgiving dinner thanks to the Sr Couples.

Elder Stewart and Elder Austin

Elder Ashler, Sister Favero and Sister White

Elder Holm and Elder Price - MC's Extraordinaire!

Elder Baldwin and Elder Stewart - former MTC companions (Love the Christmas ties - not sure where they came from!)

Flags in Prishtina

So long to Elder McGrath...

Dishes of welcome in Gjakova. :) He laughed and said he went to work cleaning up. How about that stove????

Elder Stewart and Elder Schramm in Gjakova