Monday, July 11, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 39

haha Mom.. You need to re-read your email that you gave to me. It was rude! But it's okay. I still love you. And I wanted to say Happy Birthday! You're gonna be a grandma soon!

Here are the questionsss!

1. How are your investigators doing?

We basically are just down to Noj now as an investigator but he is doing well. His little sister Kristjana hasn't been able to meet with us very often because of the Mom. But Noj has been progressing a lot and has a baptismal date for the 24th of July.

2. How did the day go with your new Mission President? Did you find anyone to teach or did you do all street contacting?

President ended up only coming for Interviews in Shkoder because he didn't have a ton of time. So after interviews, he left. Interviews went really well though. I really like President Ford a lot.

3. How was church on Sunday? How many people came?

It was the weirdest Sunday of my life ha. It was me and Elder Platt. And that's it!

4. I couldn’t tell from your last letter – were transfers last week or are they this week?

Transfers are this week but we got our call on Friday night..... here is the big news........... drumroll please...................................... I am staying in Shkoder! haha. So President Ford called me and said that I will be staying in Shkoder and that I will be training one of the new missionaries that gets here this week. He also told me I am going to be the Branch President of Shkoder and also the District leader of the Elders in Shkoder (me and my companion) as well as the Elders in Durres (the 2 zone leaders and 2 other missionaries). So it will be a pretty crazy transfer. So my first Sunday as a Branch President, nobody came. So it was kind of a bummer. But what do you do.

5. Did new missionaries come out last week or are they coming out this week?

They get here on Wednesday and I will taking mine back to Shkoder on Thursday.

6. Did you get to meet Elder Roni’s family? Was Shkoder one of their stops?

I didn't.. They didn't have time to come to Shkoder. But It's all good. I expect to hang out with him after I finish my mission.

7. Is it pretty hot over there right now?

SOOOOO HOT. I hate it haha. It's like 100 degrees out in mid day. It's terrible ha.

8. How do you know that July 4th 2012 will be the last day of your mission? Have they already told you that?

I did know that. It says it on my preaching certificate. It's pretty crazy huh? So I'm guessing if you didn't come get me in Albania, By the time I would be flying over America, it would probably be Fire Work time (with the time changes taken in to account)

9. How is your soccer injury doing? Do you think you have a hernia? If so – do you think you should get it fixed?

It is feeling a little better but I haven't really tried to do any running yet. I'm hoping my new companion will like to run cause I would love that.

10. Do you cut other missionaries’ hair?

Nope. We normally just go to the barber. I have shaved my head a few times but barbers are so cheap and convenient.


So I will start by saying, NO it was NOT against the rules to dye my hair haha. The missionary handbook just says that we can't dye our hair to a color that isn't a natural hair color (blue, bright red, purple, etc.). And President Neil said it was fine. So yeah, President Ford doesn't even know it happened cause the first time he saw me it was brown. But my hair is already dirty blonde again and it gets blonder every day. It looks pretty much like it did before cause my hair was pretty short and the sun is turning it blonde. So you don't have to worry about my hair anymore. I'll send some more pictures though. I actually really liked it brown. But it's blonde again.

This week was pretty cool. We had a few lessons with Noj that went really well. He finally prayed for an answer about the Book of Mormon and received the answer that in fact it was true. It made teaching him a lot easier.

So one night, Elder Platt and I finished a lesson at 8:45 which is in our house and it meant we had like 15 minutes before we were supposed to be inside and it would have been really easy to call it a night and stay inside, but we decided to go out and street contact for 15 minutes. These two boys walked up to us and one of them started speaking to us in PERFECT English. Like he was an American (which is rare). Turned out he Lived in Michigan for 11 years. He is 15 years old and he got deported back to Albania. So it was him and his cousin (his cousin has lived in Albania forever and doesn't speak much English). They were super cool and EVEN THOUGH he was from Michigan I was super nice to him and when I told him I lived in Ohio, he said "No way! I went to Cedar Point right before I got deported"! It was awesome! we were totally loving this conversation. We didn't have much time to talk but we set up an appointment with him and his cousin and we met them on Saturday night. We sat and talked with them for about an hour. It started out just talking about his family and his background and stuff and then religion came up and it was awesome. He has a LONG way to go before he can be baptized but I definitely see it happening. He is your typical American 15 year old high school kid but I feel like we can work with him and get him to where he needs to be. If we would have stayed in for that 15 minutes, we would have never met with him. Same thing happened last night. We got done with a lesson with noj at like 8:50 and went outside to contact for 10 minutes and a guy who is a religious historian stopped and talked to us. He knew quite a bit about the Mormon church and I think it was a great conversation and experience for him. He seemed really interested to learn more from us. Hopefully that will go somewhere.

So tomorrow, I will be going to Tirana and I will be working with Elder Anderson (my MTC companion) in Tirana for 2 days and I will also be getting trained on how to be a trainer and then I will be coming back to Shkoder on Thursday.

I don't have much else to sayyyyyyyy. I did get a letter from Brandon Sharkey! It was awesome haha I love that kid so much. I am going to write him back today. I also got a letter from Brent that I also need to write him back today. Well now, I'm going to send some pictures to you all now so you can get your cool Austins new hair pictures even though my hair is already blonde again. These two pictures that I am sending in this email are from a service project we did up at the Shkoder Castle. There was a tunnel full of garbage that we cleaned up. I will send more emails with photos.

K bye! I love you all!

-Elder Eckel

Life in Albania - Week 38

I'm super jealous that you were all in Hilton Head this past week! But it's all good. Shkoder is basically just as cool..... ha.

So here are Karen's Q's!

1. Have you met your new mission president?

I have! He is definitely an "English Man"

2. If you have met him – how did that go? Do you all meet together, have personal interviews, or how does that work?

We met him in a group setting. He told us about his family and his background. It was cool though. I like him a lot. He is coming to Shkoder tomorrow for interviews and he wants to have us teach a lesson with him there and so it will be interesting to see if we can get a lesson set up for 12. It's going to be nearly impossible ha. He made it sound like it was so easy. He just said "Set up a meeting with your investigators for when I'm there so we can sit in on the lesson" ha. Yeah. It's going to be tough to get Noj and Kristjana to meet at 12. They work. So basically I think President Ford is going to do some dirty work with us (Tracting and Street Contacting). He is going to get a good taste of Shkoder.

3. How was church on Sunday? Did more than your two old timers come?

Actually only one of the old timers came ha. Zef came. But Noj came and 3 people that we found this week came too!

4. How are the people doing that you are teaching?

Noj and Kristjana are doing great. This week was a great week for Noj. He is really an impressive kid. I will tell more about it in the body of the email.

5. So how will Elder Roney find Alexis? Did you give him her phone number? Doesn’t he leave in a couple of days?

Well I had an idea for this. I dont know her phone number so I am just planning on them talking on facebook first but here is my idea. I was thinking that a good Christmas present for me this year would be a hard drive because I am running out of space to put pictures and stuff and instead of sending a bunch of flash drives a small hard drive would be great. That's what a lot of the missionaries do. There are a ton of things that I didn't have enough room for (videos and photos from Elder Roney) and so if you buy me a hard drive ( I hear you can get a 300 gb hard drive for like 60 bucks these days) and then Alexis could meet with him at BYU and Elder Roney, actually Trevon Roney ha since he won't be a missionary, will put all of the videos and stuff on the hard drive and then you can have Ash or Lex send me the hard drive. He agreed to doing this. It was just a thought. So yeah! That's one way they could meet. Elder Roney actually leaves today! I'm super sad. He is leaving to go to Tirana and his family gets here tomorrow and then he will be heading back to America in a week.

6. Do Albanians go to school year round or do they get summers off like you guys did?

They get summers off too!

7. Do kids go to school for 13 years – like kindergarten – 12th grade?

I believe so. I'm pretty sure that is correct. Well actually, I don't know if they have kindergarten.

8. Did you ever get your package that had your allergy medicine in it?

I did! Thanks a ton haha that was so funny to see my companions reactions when I opened the box. There was SOO much medicine ha. But thanks a ton. I'm feeling much better now.


So I am very sad to see Elder Roney go home. I am also a little nervous because transfers fall next week and I am pretty sure I will be training which means I will know absolutely NOTHING about my new companion until I meet him ha. Oh well. Hopefully he is cool. It will be interesting to see if the new missionaries that come here will be able to understand ANYTHING haha. Especially our investigator Noj. He has such a HUGE thick accent. Shkoder would be a very difficult place to begin your mission.

I got a letter from Mike Eckel this week. It was great! I loved it. His seminary class wrote me messages and stuff. It was cool. I really enjoyed it. It was a nice pick me up. Every time we go to Tirana it's pretty tough to get back in a van headed towards Shkoder without getting a little discouraged but as I read those messages, It was a nice attitude booster.

So this week we went to Tirana for the "meet the Ford's" thing. It was nice to finally know who they are instead of just hearing rumors. They seem like great people. They are definitely going to lay down the law but I think that will be a good thing. They make fun of America quite a bit which is kinda lame but oh well. Then the Zone Leaders came for exchanges on Thursday and it was pretty cool. I was with Elder Johnson. Elder Johnson is pretty much the world's greatest missionary. We went tracting and found this family that had a mom and two daughters. Our zero lesson went pretty dang well for me and Elder Johnson not having planned anything before hand since we aren't companions ha. They told us they would get baptized if they found the Book of Mormon to be true. They also told us they would be living at the beach for the next 2 months which is like 45 minutes away. We committed them to come back for church every week! They came on Sunday. I'm not sure if they enjoyed it or not. They were the first ones at Church which made it super awkward. When your church is in an apartment and the investigators are the first ones there, that must be pretty weird. Especially when the investigators are 5 mintues late. Fortunately, Noj and Zef came. It was still pretty awkward ha. But then Saturday we went to Tirana again because we were told there was a Branch President's meeting. Unfortunately we weren't told that it was canceled. So we drove 2.5 hours there and went to the church building where it was supposed to be. No one came. We figured it must have been cancelled so we went to go pick up some parts to fix our piano (which is STILL broken ha) and on our way, the Assistants to the President drove by and saw us in Tirana. They called and then told us that the meeting was cancelled haha. So yeah. We already knew by that point. They felt bad for not telling us but oh well.

So yesterday was the last Sunday for Elder Roney. I feel so bad that he had to "die" in Shkoder. He gave his "Dying testimony" to 5 people. 3 of which he didn't even know. He was a good sport about it though. He gave a great testimony. After church we had a lesson with Noj about the 10 commandments. The time before that, we had a lesson about the Word of Wisdom. He didn't understand why he couldn't drink coffee. He is up against his wall of faith, that is, whether Joseph Smith actually was a prophet or not.

Last night we had a July 4th celebration. Elder Platt has an American flag pillow case which we hung from the light fixture. We then played (BLASTED) the Star Spangled Banner, and we did the Pledge of Allegiance, and then sang God Bless America, and then we went back to bed haha. Of course this happened at midnight (it's not against the rules haha I checked). And it was great. But seriously, America is so awesome. It was pretty hard to be living with someone that is going to be there in a week! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my mission and I LOVE Albania, but America is so incredible. You wanna know what's crazy?! Since today is July 4th, it means that I finish my Mission EXACTLY one year from today. 365 days from now. Craziness! It's going pretty dang fast. And I hear the second year goes even faster.

Well I don't have much more to say. Elder Roney just left and we just got back to the Internet to finish. I can't believe he is leaving! Don't worry dad, I gave him your advice! And haha I think Blizzard would love to be "spread" over the Horse Shoe. Plus that is just one more reason to go to a game!

Kendra! I forgot to tell you something. When you get #39, don't look at the pictures until AFTER you read the letter! Okay cool! ha. I also got your tape haha. It was hilarious.

I got a post card from Madison! It was great. It had some pictures in it. I ALWAYS love getting pictures. I think my favorite gift on the mission is pictures. Thanks Madison. You rockkkkkk.

That's all for now folks!

I love you all. peace!

Elder Eckel

Life in Albania - Week 37


1. Have new missionaries come out yet or are you still in a threesome?

We are still in a three some. Elder Roney goes home in 8 days! crazy. I can't even believe it. I don't want him to leave. But it's all good. After he leaves, Elder Platt and I will serve together until transfers happen (2 weeks)

2. Have you met your new mission president yet?

Nope. We have a "Meet the President" thing on Wednesday in Tirana. It should be a ball.

3. How was church on Sunday? How many people came?

Church on Sunday was ballin'. ha yes. It was sweet. We actually took our whole branch to Durres for church. Durres is another city in Albania that has the only other church building (like Elbasan). We went because it was Klidi's baptism and we wanted Noj and Kristjana to see the baptism. But we wouldn't have been able to make it there in time after our church so we got permission from president to just leave in the morning (6:30) and go to the full 3 hour block in Durres. It was amazing. We had Zef (the old man) and Kristjana and Noj (our investigators). They loved church and I think it was an incredible experience for them.

4. How are the people doing that you are teaching?

Kristjana and Noj are doing great. We had a lesson with Noj about the tree of life and how although people got made fun of, the ones who endured through it got the reward. It helped him alot since he was getting made fun of by his friends. They loved church. Unfortunately we have lost contact with Rudolf completely. It's very unfortunate. But I know someday he will find the truth. We had a good lesson this past week too with someone we found in the road. Hopefully we can meet with him again.

5. How was your baptism? Did you have to travel far to perform the baptism?

It was actually a terribly planned baptismal service but fortunately Klidi is the type of person who it didn't bother him. I just wish I could have been the one who planned the baptismal service. We traveled 2 hours for it.

6. Have you done any more Teancum Tracting this week?


7. Did you get to talk to or teach the girl you met on the street last week?

I have tried to call her a few times and she answered once and said she would call us when she has time. So hopefully she calls.

8. When do you start up English Classes again?

Probably September

9. What do the secret codes mean that you put in the emails for Kendy?? J Are you going to tell us?

haha you guys are crazy. You will NEVER knowwww! Muahahahaa.


Well it was awesome to hear from all the family! Is Brian there? I thought you said he was going to go.
Well I really don't have a ton to say about this week. We finished up our English course, did A LOT of standing the street talking to people. But we didn't have very many people super interested. And we had a couple lessons with the Binoshaj family (Noj and Kristjana).
I really don't know what else to say about the week ha. It was a slow one but a good one. Shkoder is getting pretty tough though. It's hard because we don't have people here to love us ha. Like in other cities, there are members that love and care about you and a great atmosphere at church with loving members to bring in investigators. Here, the only two active members are on their death beads (basically ha) and Church on Sundays are difficult for investigators to fall in love with the church. So basically we do a bunch of finding with minimal reward ha. But it's okay because hopefully Shkoder will be as big as Elbasan and Durres someday. It's just crazy to think that Shkoder has been open for 5 years (almost as long as Vlore) and only has 2 active members whereas in Vlore there are about 50 active members. With all that being said, we are working our bums off and trying to do our best to help Shkoder to grow.

I'll send you some photos from the baptism and church in Durres. It was a beautiful day.

Oh haha and a random side note: This past week we were sitting in the apartment one night after planning and we have a "What is EFY DVD" to show the kids who want to go to EFY. We decided to watch it. It was totally worth it. You wanna know why?! There is a 30 second clip with John Lenahan sitting in a class! haha It was hilarious! He looks exactly the same and this video was probably from 2005 or 2006.

Also, One night while laying in bed, We were helping Elder Roney practice talking to girls since he will be going home soon and he doesn't want to be awkward haha. So we did some practice situations. I played the role of Alexis hahahaha. It was hilarious. He is super nervous of trying to find a way to get in contact with Lex. It was great. Alexis, you are probably going to marry him ;) ha

Kendra lou, Elder Roney says that it is very rare that you would have the opportunity to see his cousin Braedon since he is ALWAYS with his girlfriend/lover haha. Are YOU his lover/girlfriend?! haha SKETCHY! jkbs. ha anyways. I have some funny news for you that I'll write in my letter to you today. You are probably gonna freak out. You can tell my family once you get it ha.

Anyways. I'm OUT! I love all of you! Enjoy hilton head. Do pranks, don't get caught, and certainly do not turn yourselves in.

Elder Austin Eckel. (the coolest missionary everrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr)

Life in Albania - Week 36

Okay, I will start by answering Dad's question about where I am on Google Maps. This should be some helpful information. If you can find the "Bashkia" (town hall) in Shkoder, You will see a building right next to/across from it with a food place called "Idromeno". That is where our apartment is. If you travel north east on the road at TV Rozafa and Idromeno and the Bashkia, You will get to Sheshi Nene Tereza which is near Posta Shqiptare, Alb Telecom, and Intesa Sanpaolo Bank. That little circle is where we normally street contact. It is also right by Xhamia e Madhe (the big Mosque). so now you know!

ASHLEY! I'm so happy that you got that job! I have been praying my guts out for you. You are da Seriously.

1. How was church this Sunday?

Church was alright. We had 3 people there. Zef (the 70 year old man member) Prenda (the 80 year old woman who has lost her mind) and Rudolf (our awesome 20 year old Investigator). Everything went okay. Prenda gave the closing prayer for sacrament meeting and when she stood up at the pulpit and we were all ready to pray she said "Good morning, Glad that you all came" and then began to pray hahahaha. It was hilarious. I taught Sunday School on having faith in Jesus Christ.

2. Do Albanians celebrate Father’s Day?

Nope ha. I'm not going to lie. I didn't even know it was Father's day. I lose track of the date these days.

3. How is it going with people you are teaching?

It is going alright. We haven't been able to meet with Rudolf much this past week but he did come to church which was nice. As for Noj and Kristjana, Kristjana is doing really well but Noj was being really weird last time we met with him. We think that kids are making fun of him for meeting with us because he told us he can't meet at his house anymore because the neighbors are all gossiping about us and stuff. He said he was going to come to Church but he didn't end up coming. So I'm kinda worried about him. And because he didn't come to church, his sister didn't come either. So yeah.

4. How is your English Class going? Can your companion help with that at all? Does he speak any English?

Our English class just ended and it went okay. It is the first English class I have done that we didn't get an Investigator from. But no, Genti didn't know any English. He can say "yeah cool" "what's up" and stuff like that.

5. When does your new Mission President come? Do they overlap and will President Neil spend some time with him?

Our new Mission President should be coming within the next two weeks I think. I think President Neil will eat lunch with him once and then him and Sister Neil will be back off to America!

6. Do you know when you will get to meet your new Mission President?

I think we all have interviews with him pretty quickly when he gets here. I also think there is a mission conference right off the start where he does a training and introduces himself and stuff.

7. Where are you in the Book of Mormon?

I just finished Jacob 5. I haven't been able to focus much on my personal reading this week in the Book of Mormon because I was studying for lessons and stuff which I suppose is a good thing!


So that is basically most of my week. On Thursday, we had a training in Tirana which was really cool. I love President Neil so much. I am going to miss him so much but I'm sure that President Ford will be great too. We tried something different this week in terms of finding. We tried doing something called "Teancum Tracting" We go to the buildings that we are going to tract 2 days ahead of time and drop off a little flyer at every door that asks the "Questions of the Soul" (Where did we come from? Why are we here on earth? What's the purpose of this life? Where do we go when we die?) Also it asks How can you strengthen your family? Then it says, " In two days, 2 missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will be coming by to help you answer these questions. It is kinda a cool idea because it get's rid of the awkwardness of people not knowing why you are there when you knock on their door and people already know why you are there. Unfortunately we didn't have very much success. Well actually we didn't get any people to have lessons with us from it. But I know that it was pretty effective in Tirana. I guess it just depends on the area you do it. I have noticed that different finding techniques are better than others depending on the area you live.

Alexis, I love Blizzard.

Ha anyways. She will understand why I put that. I don't have a ton else to say about my week but I will share a quick story. Yesterday, Elder Roney wasn't feeling very good so we stopped back at the house to get a drink and sit down for a minute. He looked awful. His face was pale white and he looked really really sick. After sitting for a few minutes he said that he wanted to go back out and work. We still had about an hour until we were supposed to come back in. So even though he was sick, we went out and did some street contacting. Elder Roney and Elder Platt did street contacting on one side of the street and I walked to the other sidewalk on the other side of the road. I stopped a man and started talking to him about the Book of Mormon and a girl who was walking by stopped and listened in. (that never happens haha) the man ended up not being interested but I started talking to the girl and she was in a hurry but she really wanted to know about the Book of Mormon and so SHE asked ME if she could give us her number so we can meet and talk more about it. haha normally we have to BEG them for their numbers and she asked us. Pretty cool. I have a feeling she will really enjoy our message and be very accepting of it.

So Daddio. Fathers day happened! So I just wanted to thank you for being such an amazing father and friend to me. You have always been such an incredible example to me in everything that you do. You have taught me pretty much everything I know about how I'm supposed to act and be. I have always looked up to you and have always wanted to follow in your footsteps. I have been so blessed to have you and mom for my parents. I love how you are always so willing to serve others and fulfill your callings in the church. You live a consecrated life and have taught me a great deal about how I should live. Even when Ohio State is playing Iowa or Penn State or Wisconsin during Priesthood Session of conference. I love you!

hahaha Kend, I will talk to Elder Roney for ya. We will see what he says. Thanks for texting my cousin about that stuff. you da besttttttttttttttttttttt. 2.4. I.F.

Speaking of Elder Roney, Lex, you need to date him! You just gotta get to know him. He is so awesome.

Something I have really come to understand is that there is NOTHING more important than fulfilling our duties as members of the church and especially our duties of the Priesthood. Serving a Mission is such a blessing. I have learned so so so so so much stuff. It is hard. It's painful. And it is stressful. But I can't imagine not being here.

Well that's all I got for now!

Elder Austin Eckel

Life in Albania - Week 35

Some crazy stuff happened this week. I don't know if you are ready for the big news!? haha okay fine. It's not that big of news. But I'll get to it during the questions part.

1. Are you still in a threesome or is it down to two? Will Elder Roni be ready to go home when the transfer is over?

Man, I am super impressed with Elder Roney. He has been working SUPER hard. A lot of the other missionaries in his group have "died" (they have kinda been slacking off since they are pretty much done). Elder Roney has been holding strong ha. But actually we are no longer in a threesome. We got a "mini" missionary from Vlore. He is 26 years old and is actually someone that my father (Warburton) baptized at the beginning of his mission. His name is Genti. He originally was supposed to go with Elder Platt and Elder Roney and I were supposed to end this transfer together but after President Neil set him apart he pulled me aside and told me that he thought it would be better for me to train Genti and to be his companion. So yeah ha this is my second Albanian companion so far. Except this one has only been a member for 7 months. It's pretty tough ha. Now, it's not so much the language that is hard. It's just the fact that he doesn't really fully understand and know the doctrine. And some other stuff too but it's all good haha.

2. I loved the pictures you sent. Were you surprised by my mad art skills?! that thing took me forever! The one with the electronic keyboard out on the streets was cool. Is it plugged into the big pole? It looks like a telephone pole. Is it common to have electric outlets like that outside?

I'm glad you liked the pictures. haha We don't know exactly why there was an outlet hanging from that light pole but there was. It is not common at all. When I walked past and saw it, I decided that we would have to bring the piano out for a spin haha.

3. Dad asked this question last time and you didn’t answer it. Are the days longer this time of year for you in Albania? Like right now here at home it is light until 9:30 p.m. Is it like that there?

The days are getting longer I suppose. I don't really notice it too much but I guess now that I think of it, It is lighter until 9 or 9:30

4. Who is the Branch President in your branch?

Elder Roney

5. How was church this past Sunday? How many came?

Church was good. I gave a talk on Charity. We had a total of 9 people (including us 4 missionaries). Rudolf came and the Binoshaj kids came. So we had 3 investigators there. It went pretty well.

6. How are your investigators doing?

They are doing good. This week we talked to Rudolf and asked him to take the step of faith and get baptized. He said he wanted to but we didn't really come to a exact date. I'm pretty sure he will be getting baptized in the near future though. The Binoshaj's (Noj and Kristiana) have a baptismal date for the 2nd of July. They are so awesome. I love that family. The older sister would get baptized too but she is going to Italy. We told her to get in contact with the missionaries in Italy.

7. Have you seen the man again that was going to kill himself?


8. Have you gotten to talk to Rudolf or do you need to wait until he contacts you again?

We have been meeting with him again. He is doing great.

9. When will you baptize Klidi?

The 26th of June.

10. Have you done any more fun street contacting with music?

No haha. It was a huge pain to carry that thing down to the place where that pole was. I think that was a one time thing. Definitely fun though.

So yeah ha. I have a new companion! I'm not going to lie, I was extremely stoked to "kill" Elder Roney. But oh well. Elder Platt now has the honors of doing so. It has been a good week though. We went to Tirana on Thursday because I had a training on Friday morning and Shkoder is 3 hours from Tirana. Elder Platt and I stayed with Elder Warburton and Elder Carver. Elder Roney stayed with the Zone Leaders in Tirana. It was awesome! I was reunited with my Papa again! (Warburton) haha. So we just did a bunch of finding in Tirana and we also had one night where we went to the center of the park and sang church hymns while Warburton talked to people. It was so cool. Not that we had a ton of success receiving numbers or anything but TONS of little kids came and just sat down in front of us and just smiled. There were SO many of them. They all just sat down and listened. It made me think about how much the little children loved Jesus Christ. Hopefully we planted some seeds to those children and one day they will talk to the missionaries when they are older. Friday, I had the training from Elder Cosea of the 70. It was a really cool training. I was asked to give the spiritual thought and I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared out of my mind to give a spiritual thought in front of a General Authority haha. It was good though. After the training I went and worked more with Elder Warburton because Saturday, Elder Roney had a Branch President training in Tirana so we just stayed from Thursday to Saturday. It was a good time though. It was cool to be able to work with Elder Warburton now that I can actually speak Albanian rather than making him do all the work. Then I got my new companion and we came back!

I got a package from the Robbins! It was AWESOME! It had so much crazy cool stuff in it. It just kept coming out! I swear it was like a Mary Poppins bag. Thanks Donna and Brian! You guys are da bombbbbb! Hey Aunt Donna, remember when you passed out at my house that one time?! That was crazy ha.

I'm gonna send some pictures. I love all of you all back in the states. Especially all you in the Burg who I haven't talked to in forever. Have a great week. I love you Mom, Lex, Dad, Ash, and Blizz. oh and of course Evan Baker and Steve Sobanski!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 34

Oh hey there!? You all should totally check out my profile! :) You all should make some too!

I have attatched two photos and there are more to come after I do this email. The first photo is from Lushnje. His name is Klidi. I found him about 5 days before I left Lushnje and he called me up and asked if I could baptize him! Pretty exciting news! The second photo is of me and Elder Roney, and Elder Platt playing piano! I will send more photos after I get done with this email.

I will begin with the questions!

1. How are your investigators doing? How about Rudolf?

Our investigators are doing okay I suppose. I have some sad news about Rudolf that I will get to later in the email. We have a couple other Investigators that are doing well though.

2. How many people do you have in your English classes?

We have about 12 in the intermediate class and 7 in the beginner class.

3. How did your Family Home Evening go last week? What did you do and how many people came?

Only two people came to FHE last week but both of them were non-members. We watched "Finding Faith In Christ". It went alright.

4. How was church this week?

It was okay.. haha Fast and Testimony meeting is a little awkward with 10 people at church having 3 of them being missionaries, 3 of them members and 4 investigators. 2 of the members that were there are above 70 and 80 years old. The old woman stood up to bare her testimony and said a prayer haha. It was so sad. All of our investigators started laughing. We need youth or else it will be impossible to make this branch grow. Shkoder Branch has been open for 5 years now and only has 2 active members. It's pretty sad.

5. Is the church in the apartment? If so – is your apartment bigger?

It's a pretty big apartment. You will see a picture of the main room in the picture of me and Roney. It's nice.

6. How long is church?

We do Sacrament and then a short sunday school lesson. It goes for a little over an hour.

7. When you are in a threesome – are you in an apartment with two bedrooms or how does that work?

We have two bedrooms but we all have to sleep in the same room. It's crammed! haha but we should be getting a mini missionary this week for Elder Platt, that way we won't have to be in a threesome anymore. It's really hard to teach in a threesome.

8. How many missionaries are in your District?

Right now it's only us 3 haha. It will be 4 of us soon.

9. Do you get to hear how the missionaries are doing in Kosovo?

They are doing awesome. I am so jealous of them! There is McDonalds there!!!! ahhhhhhh. I miss burgers haha.

10. Where are you in the Book of Mormon and I will start reading with you?

Today I finished 2nd Nephi 25. I normally read anywhere from 3 to 6 chapters a day depending on how long the chapters are.


So yeah. This week was SUPER hard and very fulfilling. I don't know how many hours of street contacting we did. But it was A TON. We had 22 lessons this week. I guess that is the most Shkoder has had in a long time. We worked our tails off. We also did a pretty cool street contacting idea one night just to change it up! I will send pictures of it for you! It was actually really effective. We got tons of numbers that night. I have a really cool missionary tan line :) oh yeah. So as I have told you, Klidi from Lushnje called me and asked me to baptize him which was obviously a great part of the week. We talked to TONS of people in the street and had TONS of lessons this week. I watched the Restoration movie about a hundred times this week! It is just as good every time. And we had some great lessons with Rudolf. We had a baptismal date for the 25th of June. Unfortunately Rudolf called us one night and told us he couldn't meet with us. We asked why and he explained that his father was totally against our church and our beliefs. He said he can no longer meet with us. It was a very sad night. I remember being so upset because of how prepared Rudolf was. How could God let this happen? Why would God stop someone from being able to meet with us about this incredible message? Well, I didn't let it get me down for long. I prayed a lot and I fasted for him and for Ashley yesterday. He didn't end up coming to church like he said he might be able to. I felt defeated. I felt as if my faith wasn't enough or as if it just wasn't meant to be. But as we were street contacting last night we got a phone call from Rudolf asking if we could meet. We met with him and had a lesson about faith. We talked to him about how Nephi had the faith to do what the Lord had commanded. We might not have been as bold as we should have been when we talked about baptism again. But he said that he might be moving to England pretty soon. We told him if he goes there he should meet with the missionaries. He agreed. He also said that if he doesn't go he may be able to meet with us again. It was an answer to my prayers. I felt calm and peaceful about Rudolf. I have no doubt that he will get baptized. Whether it's while I'm here or not, someday he will get baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ.

I want to read a section out of my journal for you. "June 2, 2011. We did some more street contacting tonight and I wasn't having much success but there was a man walking down my side of the street and I was prompted to talk to him. He looked like your typical Albanian man. I hesitated to stop him but I had the feeling again. I stopped him and he came to talk to me. His name was Antonio. He had the look of hopelessness and emptiness in his eyes. I don't know how to explain it but he just had a deep sadness in his eyes. While talking to him, he said that he had lost all hope in his life. He had no hope for anything. He said he had lost his family, work, house, and everything.He talked about all the people in the streets that night and how they would be gone within a few hours in their own homes and how he would be left alone with the dogs to wander in the streets. I felt the love that God has for him. It was a crazy feeling. The feeling of love I had for this man that I did not know was incredible. I tried to show him and explain to him the love that God has for him. I told him how Christ has been through all of the hardships he was going through. He told me that before I stopped him, he was on his way to the mountains to go and kill himself. He said he had nothing left to live for and it would be better for him to be dead. I had tears in my eyes as I tried to help him feel the Love of God for him with my simple imperfect testimony. I invited him to come to church and he replied by saying that he didn't know if he would still be alive by then. I again bore my testimony to him and gave him a hug. I told him that I would see him at church on Sunday. I'm not sure whether or not Antonio is still alive right now. But I do know that God loves his children. Each and every one of us. I felt Gods love for Antonio through the spirit as I testified of the divine love of God..." I prayed for Antonio a ton that night. Antonio was the first one to walk into church on Sunday. I don't know how much he got out of church but I hope he felt peaceful and the Love of God. I don't know exactly why I chose to share this with you but I think it's important that we take the time throughout all of our busy schedules to say hello to those around us. Even just a smile. We are surrounded by our brothers and sisters. Some people need to feel the Love of God through others.

On Saturday, We went to go visit a member named Zef. He lives SUPER far away. As we left for his house the sky was a bit gray and we decided we would probably be okay without umbrellas. MISTAKE! haha we weren't too far into our journey when a crack of thunder and a bolt of lightning started a sprinkle of rain which turned into a downpour. I have NEVER seen it rain this hard in my life. I don't know if you all remember this past year in Hilton Head when it was pouring but it was at least 3 times as hard as that! We got SOAKED! haha It then started to hail. It hurt so bad but we couldn't stop laughing. We were running through the streets to Zef's work. We were to the point where we couldn't be any more wet at all. It was pretty funny. I will send pictures of us after it.

Well I don't have much more time to write but just know that I'm praying for you all! I love it here in Shkoder. The work is difficult and very tiring but it's great. This is the best transfer of my mission so far. Alexis should totally date Elder Roney. He's the man. I'm sorry that this email is pretty short. Ashley, there is something you could send if you wanted to! The blue medicated chapstick! Not too many just 2 or 3 would be fine. Thanks Ash. You da bestttttttttt. Alexis, You should go to the Jack's Mannequin concert with Lucas! You need to experience the greatness of Andrew McMahon!

Kendra, I have a nice big fat letter coming your way today haha. Peace outttttttttttt girl scout.

Bye everyone! Love you all! Evan Baker is the man. P.S. Evan, Trash Stash is still in my contacts at home. We will give him a call when I get home :)

Life in Albania - Week 33

I LOVE SHKODER! The work is stressful, hard, tiring, but freaking amazing.

Okay, I will begin with the usual questions!

1. What is Shkoder like?

Shkoder is beautiful. It is a little bit bigger than Lushnje but still relatively small compared to the other cities I have served in. I absolutely love it here. Although I have heard that it is a "harder" area, I don't believe it. I love the people here. It's amazing. Tons of beautiful trees lining the roads and nice big parks with grass!

2. You mentioned it is the smallest branch in the country. How many members do they have? How many were at church on Sunday?

They have 20 members I think but there were 2 huge families that were only in it for the money and so once they stopped getting help from the church they stopped coming to church. The average number of people at church have been around 5 and 6. But you have to keep in mind that 4 of those people are missionaries. So 1 or 2 members. BUT, we had an AWESOME week this week and we worked super hard. It helps that me and Elder Roni and Elder Platt (I am in a threesome right now because of a lack of missionaries) all just came off of a transfer with companions that didn't work hard. Because now all three of us have fire in us to get working hard. We had 12 people at church on Sunday! It was a miracle. 5 investigators came! I guess it's the most that Shkoder has had in a while.

3. What are your responsibilities as a District Leader?

As a District Leader, I pretty much make sure that everyone in our District is doing well and I also keep in contact with the Zone leaders on our weekly numbers and the well being of our district. I am supposed to lead by example and work extra hard.

4. How long has Elder Roni been out and where is he from?

Elder Roni is from Provo Utah right by the Temple and he goes home in like 5 weeks! He is an awesome companion. He works hard and loves Albania as much as I do. He is super humble too (which is awesome) cause his Dad is the owner of Nuskin and you would have NO idea if you met him that he was from a family in that class. Elder Platt has 3 months more than me in the country and for right now we are working in a group of three. Elder Platt is from Utah and he is a really cool guy too.

5. Did your old companion – Elder Muglesten stay in Luschne?

Yes he is still in Lushnje. I heard all of our previous investigators are doing well so that is good.

6. Do you have any idea when Kosovo will open?

Yes ha. Kosovo is going to be opened on Wednesday! Elder Klein and Elder Norris will be opening Kosovo. I am SO excited for them! It is absolutely amazing that we are able to go into a whole new country with mission work. Unfortunately, missionaries will only be staying there for 3 months at a time because they are on a tourist visa while they are there. Elder Klein leaves at the same time as Elder Roney and so they will be needing another missionary up there by July. I am not sure whether or not I will stay here in Shkoder and train, or if I will be going up to Kosovo with Elder Norris. The way President talked to me about Kosovo last week makes me think that I will be going up there at some point but then again, he will be leaving soon and I'm not sure what the Ford's have in store for me. Either way, I LOVE Shkoder and I am actually glad that I won't be going to Kosovo right now because we have found some amazing people this week that I want to stay here with and teach. I would love to stay in Shkoder forever. It's amazing.

7. Since President Neil only has one more month left – what happens if he doesn’t send you there before he leaves?

Well I'm guessing he will leave notes for the Ford's but either way, I really don't care if I go there or not. I have loved all of my areas that I have served in so far and I'm guessing that is how it will always be.

8. Did they figure out the election results yet?

I think that Bosha won but I'm not sure. Shkoder is a Democratic city and so they all want Bosha to win. So if he did win, there won't be any riots up here ha.

9. Do you have any investigators in Shkoder?

We do! This week we were out street contacting and we had a lot of success. We also do 4 English Classes a week because now that we are a 3-some, we have both sets of missionaries English classes. But while we were street contacting we met a boy named Rudolf. He is such a stud. We set up a lesson with him and did the zero lesson. Afterwards, he asked if he could stay longer and talk more about it with us. We obviously agreed. We assigned him a chapter to read in the Book of Mormon and he did it. He loved it. You should have seen the way he held the Book of Mormon after we gave it to him. He held it as if it was the most precious gift he has ever been given. Little did he know, it probably is. In fact, when he went to tie his shoes, he was about to set the book on the ground and then you could tell that he didn't want to put it in the ground so he awkwardly tried to balance it on his leg as he tied his shoes. He is so humble and awesome. He is totally going to get baptized. He came to church yesterday and loved it! We also had another lesson with him yesterday! He wants to meet with us pretty much every day. We have a meeting with him tonight too! I'm super excited. We also have a couple other people who are semi interested. But for now our main focus is Rudolf. He is 20 years old and just absolutely prepared by God. This week in District Meeting I talked about how we needed to have faith that we would find an investigator this week. I talked about how although this is a "hard" area, we could find those who were prepared if we had faith. All of us prayed extra hard to have faith to find. We did it. Success!

10. How far is Shkoder from Tirana?

3 hours.


So yeah, as you can tell I LOVE Shkoder so much. The Language here is SO cool. It is way cooler than normal Albanian. It's taking a little bit of time to get used to but I love it. It feels so good to be a missionary again. You have no idea!! I got an Email from Brother Herd my teacher in the MTC! It was great. It made me think about how far I have come with the help of the Lord. His email to me was in Albanian and I was just thinking about how 1 year ago, I would have had NO idea what that said ha. But now I read it as if it is English. Crazy what the Lord can do when you are in his service on his time. It was great to hear from Brother Herd though. I am super excited for him to come to Albania. From what I hear he is coming next summer which still gives me one more year to perfect my Albanian ha. I need to make sure that he is not disappointed with our group ha. Brother Herd was an awesome example to me in the MTC and he got me so excited for Albania because you could tell how much he loved this place. It's not hard to find out why. The people here are absolutely amazing.

I also loved the pictures you sent of Alexis's graduation! That is so crazy. She grew up way too freaking fast. That isn't fair. Her and Evan should get married. They look so cute together hahaha. okay fine, I just want Evan as a Brother in Law. So anyways, this week we did tons of work but we also had a TON of stuff to do because we moved Churches. The old church here was absolutely terrible. We now have a new apartment and we also have church in the apartment. So we had to move tons of stuff to the apartment to make it look like a church. It looks beautiful now and everyone loved it yesterday. Tonight we have a lot of people coming over for family night too. I can't even explain to you how much I love Shkoder. It's so awesome. I can't wait for the Church to grow here.

Mom and Dad, I had a question for you. I started reading the Book of Mormon over again a few weeks ago. I am focusing on the Savior this time through the Book of Mormon. I have been highlighting all references to him and a bunch of other stuff about him but I have been having trouble figuring out when it is talking about God the Father and then when it is talking about God (as Jesus). It is unclear to me sometimes. Can you help me?

Kendra, I am the coolest Eagle Scout in this entire world. Period. ha Deal with it.

Ashley, I hope you find yourself a job! I'll be praying for you. Oh and it's pretty crazy. Elder Roni is seriously just like JD. They are pretty much carbon copies. Personality wise. Cause Roni isn't 6 foot 7 with blonde hair. But he is pretty much just like him besides that. Basically what I'm trying to say is that Roni is the man.

We had a Zone conference this past week. It was awesome I'll attach the photo of it to you guys. It got me pumped up to do missionary work. I am going to miss President Neil a ton! But I know that the Ford's will do an awesome job too.

I am about out of time but I hope you all have a great week. Live it up! Love you all.

Elder Eckel