Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Work Moves Forward in English... and Albanian!

This week has been good. Thanks for the English suggestions. The
course has been going well. A couple of the girls from our class are
learning from the Sisters right now. We will see how that goes. They
are really nice. We missed one of the classes this week and so the
Tooleys taught it. Apparently there were a couple of boys that don't
usually come, and Elder Tooley said they were nuts. For part of the
lesson this week I had the class translate part of the restoration
pamphlet. That challenged them. I was pretty impressed with how a few
of them did though. Elder Lesi learns with the students, but he helps
me keep them under control. They have been staying under control a lot
better now though. I think they respect what we do. We are their age,
but we just act more mature. We think the maturity might be rubbing
off. :)

The hunt for the Branch President continues. God knows what we need so
he is going to help us make it happen in one way or another. The man
that President Weidmann wants to be President is technically active but he
isn't active if you know what I mean. We hunted him down at work this
week and he told us very vaguely where he lives. After spending a
couple hours looking, we located his house. He hasn't made it easy for
people to work with him. We have talked and prayed about it a lot. We
are going to go to his house one night without an appointment and
explain to him how badly we need him to step up and keep his temple
covenants. We would like it if he would invite us to his house or
accept an appointment, but that hasn't happened yet. He is a super nice
guy with huge potential. Elder Lesi and I get along with him pretty
well so we are hoping to have a breakthrough.

Our appartment is looking good. It got cleaned this week! It isn't too
big. It has a main room, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a drying room. All
we do is study, eat, and sleep there so it isn't too bad.

This week we had two investigators come to church. It was a miracle.
We called a huge list of people on Saturday night, but didn't get any
solid commitments. We prayed really hard before leaving the house that
if God willed it we would have an investigator come to church. We met
one on the road, and one of the guys we called came to church. It was
great! That was a huge blessing.

The funny part of that story is that while I was translating Elder
Tooley's talk, the investigator who we met on the road went out into the
hall, and came in about 5 min later while I was still at the front. He
had gone in the bathroom and smoked a cigarette. That hallway was a
smokey mess. It looks like we can't skip the word of wisdom lesson
with him ;)

The two boys from the part member families are moving slowly. Neither
of them have been able to meet with us this week. They still have a
ton of potential though. They both have awesome families. There is
certainly potential there.

We had a great fireside after English Course with both of our courses,
the members, and some of their friends. It was terrific. Elder Tooley
had the idea to do a fireside once a month. We showed the "Because of Him" video, and Elder Lesi and a member shared their conversion
stories. We sang hymns, and it was awesome. We want so badly for some
of these young people to catch the vibe and get excited. I think the
members were impressed with the whole program. My personal favourite
was the closing prayer by one of my favourite members. She is 6, and
her prayers are the best. Everybody loved it.That prayer though. It
was great.

Elder Lesi is a funny guy, and he is doing very well. We are having a
good time together. He is really into working out in the mornings now.
It is half an hour so it really isn't much, but he says he hasn't
exercised for 3 years. I was like what?? He said.. "yeah I am skinny.
You don't have to excercise if you are skinny." I thought that was

Unfortunately, Sister Vermunt is super sick, and will be catching a
plane home on Friday. It is really too bad. She is super cool, and a
great missionary, and our District will take a hit for sure. She has been really sick
on and off for a couple of months. We all hope she gets well soon. She
really wants to finish out her mission when she gets better.

Well that was our week. Thanks for all of the prayers!

Take Buddy on walks.

Love, Elder Stewart

This is the man who has helped Parker many times with repairs on his clothing. We do not know the stories of why he has needed repairs so often... :)
Elder Stewart says he is the most amazing tailor EVER!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

And the new Branch President is...?

We managed to pick up some sweet new investigators this week. We met
with w 22 year old kid and his 18 year old brother this week. We are
going to get a 3rd lesson with them, and that is very promising!

We are trying to get the branch more involved in the work. The
majority of the members here in Gjakova came in as a chain where one
brought a friend to the missionaries, and then over time they brought
more friends. There haven't been many baptisms here in Gjakova in
recent history, and we are really trying to change that. We want to
get the members to get excited about the work! Our first Branch
Missionary was called on Sunday. That is a pretty big step. She is 19
years old, and will probably help out the sisters a lot.

We are still trying really hard to meet with those two boys from part
member families. I really think they can both get baptized. They could
be baptised net week if they accepted it. pray fro them. it would be
great to have them passing the sacrament. Elder Lesi and I blessed
this week, and Elder Tooley came off of the stand to pass. It was
funny giving him the sacrament first right before he went out to pass.
Sister Tooley said it looked really funny. It probably did... I guess
one of these boys just has to get baptized.

I am teaching the advanced/medium English now. It isn't as much fun as
beginners, but the people are still nice. I have been racking my brain
for ideas of what to do with them. What do you do with a large group
of people who speak somewhat comprehendable English?? It is a little
bit stressful doing those classes and keeping everyone under control
by myself. If you have any ideas.. hit me with them!

We have had quite a bit of tracting success this week. We have been
getting in doors. It has been fantastic! We are looking for the new
Branch President. Elder Tooley told us to tell them he is taking
reumes! We have met some nice guys and some nice families. As
missionaries we can only do our part. It all comes down to whether
they will actually read the book and pray about it. I really hope they
do! We have two return appointments tonight!! We have been using the
"Because of Him" video. It is super powerful! It gives a lot of people
something to think about. It is tough for a lot of people here to
accept Jesus as the Son of God. Members who convert end up with very
powerful testimonies of Jesus as a result because they come the full
360. There are some good potentials from our tracting adventures.

We have been meeting with a lot of the members. The Tooleys hired one
of them as a cleaning lady, and they told us to teach her about
tithing. That is one of the commandments people struggle with a lot
here. It takes a lot of faith to pay tithing when you are supporting a
family and barely making it by. We had a really good lesson with her.
That kind of situation is honestly pretty hard for me to comprehend. I
think of married couples going through school in Canada or the states
who pay tithing. That is the closest thing I have, and it isn't much.
In the end they all have family or friends to fall back on if things
absolutely aren't making it, but these people don't. Some of the
people here look to the church for help which certainly isn't ideal.
Others are really hungry at night. When they understand that Tithing
can really and truly bless them it will be great. Hopefully they take
the leap of faith.

The Tooleys take great care of us out here. They feed us meals every
once and a while, and snacks almost daily. They are a great couple and
they are very personable so members and investigators love them. I am
very fortunate to be serving with them again. Elder Tooley has quite
the sense of humour, and Sister Tooley is the nicest person ever. Our
house (and pretty much every other house) is freezing cold. The
Tooleys made a bunch of bags of rice that get put in the microwave and
heat up. They have been giving them out like crazy. We have two at our
house. Elder Lesi and Elder Tooley have become great friends. They
both like this gross yogurt stuff that went on sale at the local
grocery store, and so now they have bonded for life. All of the people
here love it, but the rest of us all gag when we try to drink it. I
pride myself in being able to eat pretty much anything. The only thing
I really didn't like when I left home was bananas, and now I eat them
all of the time. This Yogurt drink has taken its place as the thing I
don't like. Something about poorly done dairy products... Why do
people do gross things to milk and yogurt and cheese?? Beyond me.

One big benefit of being in Gjakova is that the Tooleys bring us food
from the military base every week. I took some pics of the box they
got us this week. Sister Tooley fills it to the brim. I think we get
more than 4 Euros worth!

The work is going well here. We really appreciate your prayers. It helps a ton.

Have a great week! Take good care of Buddy!

Love Elder Stewart

Elder Lesi

A VERY nutritious meal!

Elder Tooley and Elder Lesi with their "yummy" yogurt drinks.

This baptism finally happened! Sadly, Elder Stewart was not able to be there as he is in Gjakova now, but, was he ever  excited!!!!

Elder Tooley during his photo shoot with "his" statue. :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Joy (and Snow) in the Journey in Gjakova

New Years took a real toll on our investigator pool. In the midst of
all of the parties everyone seemed to be falling off of the face of
the planet. It was extremely difficult to get lessons with people last
week, and as a result this week has kind of been a re-building week.

This week we got a lesson with a recent convert who has not met with
missionaries for over 3 months. We managed to set up an appointment
with him, and he gave us a warm welcome. He has quite the story. As a
young married man with 3 small children his house burned down with his
son and his wife both in it. He managed to get his daughters out, but
when he went back in for his wife and son he heard something tell him
to get out and take care of the girls because his wife and son were
already gone. He has some scars and stuff on his face from the event.
He was baptised about 4 months ago, and paid tithing even before he
was baptised. Recently however he had a huge problem at work, and has
had to work 16 hour days 7 days a week to take care of it. Although he
didn't say it I think his main question is why do bad things happen to
good people? I feel super bad for him because he honestly is the
nicest guy with the best of intentions. It is super tough to see
people going through stuff like that. His daughters are super nice as
well. They might start learning from the sisters. It was great to get
in and see him though!

We have been doing a lot of finding this week. We met with a boy in
his mid-teens this week. He has been going to all of the churches
looking for the truth. He was super interested and liked meeting with
us. We gave him the Book of Mormon, and he told us he would read. We
talked to his mom on the phone, and she sounded excited about him
learning. It is cool having a kid around the same age a Joseph Smith
doing the exact same thing as he did. I am sure you all remember me
talking about Ersi from Durrës. He did the same thing, and had the
whole Book of Mormon polished off in 3 days. The boy we are meeting
with has some great potential.

We had a good branch activity this week. It was to celebrate all of
those who read the Book of Mormon last year. It was great to see
everyone there and excited about their success  there were some
investigators there as well, and I think it encouraged them to read
the Book of Mormon. There are two boys who are in part member families
that we are trying to work with. The sisters are working with some of
the girls. It would be great to start getting some of these families
all baptised, and then sealed together. The two boys that came to the
activity ended up coming to church as well.  We are really hoping they
will accept to start learning seriously and meet with us. They are two
different families. One is 14 and the other 18.

We went to Prizren today for P-day. Many people here say it is the
prettiest place in Kosovo, and from what I have seen I may have to
agree with them. It has a castle, and lots of old buildings. There are
mosques everywhere, and when the call to prayer went off it was
echoing everywhere. It is snowy here as well so everything just looked
really cool.

Elder Lesi is a great guy to serve with. He is a hard worker. The
Tooleys are fantastic. It is fun serving with Sister Boettinger and
Sister Vermunt. The branch is doing well. We are working on getting
someone ready to step up and take Elder Tooleys spot as Branch

Have a great week! Take Buddy for some walks!

Love Elder Stewart

His snow angel in Gjakova. That's such a Parker thing to do! :)

" I have a pretty funny story about that Christmas package I mailed you.
Well it turns out I shouldn't have doubted the Kosovo mail service.
The address got all washed out and wasn't readable so it got sent back
to the return address. The funny thing is I put the Prishtina church
as the address. The Prishtina church doesn't have an address.
Everything just gets described with words.. not addresses. So I put on
the package... The Church of Jesus Christ- Across from Albi Market-
Road Tringë Smajli- Prishtina Kosovo. (In Albanian) I have no idea how
it made it back there. If it can make it back to the church I know it
can make it to Canada. I will re-send it haha!"

Gjakova in winter. 

Elder Stewart and Elder Lesi

The river through Prizren, Kosovo

Elder Stewart

A church in Prizren

Cobblestone piazza - so European!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Culture and New Calling!

This has been a good week. It hasn't been too long since I wrote so I
don't have a ton to report.

I caved in and bought boots this week. My shoes just couldn't take it.
After quite a few days of not being able to feel my toes I decided I
missed feeling them.

It has been very hard to meet people this week. Everybody has been
celebrating the new year, and it has been pretty cold outside. We have
been tracting and contacting like crazy. One Thursday for example we
spent 3 hours contacting and 4 hours tracting. We find a lot, but this
week we have just had a lot more of it.

I have had the chance to help Elder Tooley a lot this week. We were
dealing with a little bit of welfare buisness this week, and so we
helped him with translation. It is pretty interesting being in on
those kind of meetings. After one of those meetings he said "Elder
Stewart, what do you think I should do?" He has some tough calls to
make. I was called as the Branch Clerk this week. It is kind of just a
formality. I do the tithing and fast offerings on the computer for
him, and translate in his meetings.

We are really working to get priesthood holders to come to church or
to find people that can be priesthood leaders. This week I translated
for an interview where a relief society president was called. There
are some good female leaders in our branch, and now we just need some
male ones.

It has been super nice having sisters here in Gjakova. As a District
we are trying to strengthen the branch both internally and externally.
The Sisters will do super well working with the female members, and
they can teach all of the females. It is kind of different here in
Kosovo. Girls don't really talk to guys they don't know. It is just
the culture. Often it is also hard for sisters to teach guys so I
think it is going to work great. Sisters Boettinger and Vermunt are
super cool as well so I think we will have a great time with them.

Elder Lesi is a great missionary. He has a super solid testimony, and
is great at relating to the people. It has been great working with him
and spending time with him. His English is really coming along now.

That is about it for this week. I will write more next week, and send more
pics when I have more time.

Love you all. Take Buddy on some walks!

Elder Stewart

A family their District drove out to spend time with at Christmas.

The view from his apartment at Christmastime.

Elder Stewart and Elder Lesi at the Military Base on Christmas Day.

The Tooley's at the base.

Christmas Dinner!!

Elder Penrod, Elder Stewart and Elder ? at the base for Christmas dinner. (I'll have to ask him who that other Elder is... :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year's Day Marks One full Year!

Happy New Year everyone.

We had transfer calls on Sunday. Elder Holm and Elder Penrod both got
moved out of Gjakova. Elder Holm went to Elbasan to serve with Elder
Baldwin, and Elder Penrod is in Tirana serving with someone else. We
now have sisters here in Gjakova. We have Sister Boettinger and Sister
Vermunt. It should be a really fun time. The Tooleys are still here so
it will be great. Elder Lesi and Elder Tooley get along great. Elder
Tooley is learning Albanian, and Elder Lesi is learning English so
their conversations are pretty funny.

It got really cold here. We got  ton of snow on Saturday night, and we
don't get chinooks here in Gjakova. Everywhere is white. Between the
snow and having the two Canadian sisters up here it feels a lot like

Yesterday we had a trainee trainer meeting in Tirana so Elder Lesi and
I drove down to that. I got to drive and it was awesome cruising down
and back from there. Tirana traffic is nuts. The training thing was
really good. Elder Lesi has been working hard on memorizing D and C 4
in English for Pres Weidmann, and he got to say the first 3 verses as
part of the training. That was really cool. President Weidmann is a
very spiritual man, and his training was great he talked about a talk
given  called What is a Preach My Gospel Missionary. The stps were. 1.
Understand you serve and represent Jesus Christ 2. Be worthy 3.
Treasure up the words of eternal life 4. Understand that the Holy
Ghost is the ultimate and true teacher 5. Understand teaching is more
important than talking and telling. President Weidmann did a great job
expounding on all of them. I also liked a quote he had. Missionaries
will get along if a. They are both obediant or b. They are both
disobedient. He said if ever there should be contention take a little
while and think because likely there is disobediance involved.

After the training we drove back to Kosovo. We took Sister Zollinger
and her new trainee Sister Riley with us. We had to be in our houses
by dark las night so we had to stay in Prishtina. We stayed with Elder
McGrath and Elder Rasband. It was fun to see them. Elder Rasband is
now serving there in Prishtina with Elder McGrath. We woke up at
midnight to see the fireworks. They were husge. The whole city was
exploding. The downtown must have been nuts.

Well.. thats it for today. Our next p-day is monday so I will be on
the computer again then Today I don't have a ton of time.

Have a great week and take Buddy on some walks.

Love Elder Stewart

ps sorry for not responding to or sending individual emails. The
internet cafes are all shut down so we each have a small amount of
time on the church computer.

Elder Stewart and the Tooley's. We are so grateful for their service and friendship to our son!

The result of Google Translate. :)

Elder Lesi and the first big snowfall in Gjakova.

Elder Rasband and his New Years treat. :)