Monday, January 31, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 17

Hello family! This week was... LONG ha. But still good for our circumstances. I will start with the questions:

1. Would you be willing to tell President Neil you think you have parasite so you can get some medical help?

haha It's all good. Parasite is all gone! Nothing to worry about now :)

2. Are things still safe where you are in Albania?

Dandy as always in good old Albania! :) haha Yeah I am safe and sound.

3. Are you allowed to drink the water there? What exactly do you get parasites from?

We drink filtered and bottled water as much as possible but if a member or an investigator gives you a drink of water at their house you need to drink it. It would be completely culturally wrong to not drink it.

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

They are doing pretty well. Here is a little overview.

Aisha and Family: We have come to the conclusion that Aisha doesn't really have much interest in the Gospel right now but her Daughter Gentiana and her friend both have baptismal dates now.

Rimi: He hasn't come to church in the last 2 weeks and hasn't been wanting to meet with us. We are going to try and have a lesson with him this week over Authority of the Church for a last effort to keep him.

Lori and her Mom: these are the two people that we received as referrals. They are AWESOME. Lori came to church yesterday and stayed for the whole 3 hours. We had a family home evening with them last week and it was awesome. The spirit was really strong and we had a great lesson and then afterwards had a lot of fun. I really hope Lori and her mother can continue to progress. They are amazing. We had an activity on Saturday with the whole branch and they came and had a great time.

Lili and Edi: they came to the activity on Saturday, had a great time, felt the spirit, said they would come to church yesterday, but then didn't come. We don't know what else to do to get her to come to church.

5. What is the Zero lesson?

The zero lesson is a lesson that we are encouraged to use when we get in with a family while tracting or the first time we meet with someone. It is a brief lesson that covers the things we believe and covers a little bit from each lesson and we are supposed to leave questions unanswered as directed by the spirit so that they want us to come back. It is really cool. I really enjoy the Zero lesson.

6. Is it still cold there?

It is still freezing here haha. SPRING PLEASE COME!

7. Are you still enjoying working with your companion?

Yeah, Elder Vans and I love each other. We really enjoy each other's company.

8. Have you learned anything new this week?

I have learned a lot of new words this week, I have started learning to read music, I also found out that the dentist in Albania is awesome! haha Yeah, if you are wondering why 60 dollars have come out of my account it is because I had 1 cavity filled and then one filling redone haha. Don't worry, this dentist was AWESOME! Actually, I think the dentist that Pres. Neil recommends is way better than the dentists in America. Her equipment was so cool. I got to watch the whole operation on a TV screen while they did it haha. I didn't want you all to worry about it so I decided to wait til after it happened to tell you that I went to the dentist but don't worry, all is well and it was way less expensive than it would have been in America! :)


So, this week was interesting. It all started out great but then Elder Vance and I got really sick. We still continued to go out and work as much as we could but then we both had really high fevers so we stayed in. I was able to recover within one day but Elder Vance has had a temperature over 101 and 102 for the past 6 days in a row. Kinda scary. We continued to work though because we had investigators and we figured that their salvation was more important than our temporary health haha. Yesterday after Church Elder Vance had a temperature of 103 and so we called sister Neil which is what we are supposed to do when we are sick. She was kinda upset at us for going to church and for working the whole week but oh well haha. She told us we needed to stay in yesterday and today. We obviously had to come do emails though. I hope she isn't mad at us for that. Anyways, we spent the day in Tirana on Tuesday because of my dental appointments, Wednesday we had some good lessons and then that is when I started feeling really crumby and then Elder Vance started feeling worse haha. It was a long hard week for us ha but we ended up having 5 investigators at church yesterday and got 2 baptismal dates. We also may have found a new family that wants to start learning from us. Oh, and we also have this kid named Olsi that we are teaching English and on Wednesday we showed him the Restoration movie and the spirit was really strong and we asked him what it would mean to him if Joseph Smith really saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. I think he is going to start taking the lessons from us too. It was really cool.

Okay, well I don't have too much else to say but I did take a little photo book of pictures that I have to the activity to show people pictures and these are the following things that I have found:

1. All the Albanian Girls think that Evan Baker is the hottest thing to hit this earth. They say Oh wow, He is hotter than Justin Beiber! hahahaha It is hilarious.

2. All the boys want to date Alexis, including pretty much every missionary in this Mission.

3. Everyone says the same thing when they see Ash and JD: He is a giant! hahaha

4. Everyone thinks our family is beautiful. BUT, not as beautiful as Evan.

5. They think that it is weird that Americans take so many pictures haha.

So yeah haha. It's true, We are an awesome family. People think I'm really weird from the pictures though haha. They think American Football is weird, and all of the crazy things we do in America makes them laugh.

I love you guys, I am sorry this email was so short. I just don't really have any cool stories from this week because we spent a lot of the time being sick! :) Hope you all have a good week. Sounds like the Buckeyes are (as usual) being awesome. And mom, the byu player. his name is Jimmer haha. It's not a nickname. At least I don't think so. I could be wrong. I'm glad Derek Benner is doing well! I love that guy. Man, I hope Adam is doing well too. I miss the good ol' Halo2 parties we had haha. Anyways, Let this week be amazing! BYE!

-Elder Eckel

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 16

What a week!

I will start with some questions.

1. Why do you think you have a parasite?

I'm pretty sure all of the missionaries here have parasites ha. It is actually pretty nice. Sure, it doesn't make bathroom experiences that fun, but it does make it so I can basically eat whatever I want and not gain weight! We basically just live with the parasite in us until we go home and take all those pills to clean our system out. I named my parasite Andrew. Yes. I did name him after Andrew McMahon haha I know that Brian, Steve, and Evan, and of course Kendy will appreciate this haha.

2. Do you ever clean your shoes? J

I wipe them down pretty much every day with water and a paper towel but by the end of the day they always end up dusty. I shine them every once in a while too. It's just a dirty place. I am pretty sure the shoes I am wearing are permanately ruined from Vlore. Vlore was the dustiest place in the world and I think that the dust became part of my shoes haha. I just want these shoes to last at least one year so that I can wear the other pair for the second year.

3. Why do you keep that much cash? (You said you lost $500 – but then found it)

haha I don't really keep that much cash with me. It was more like 200 dollars of our missionary fund! 500 just made it seem way cooler!

4. How is Lili and her family doing?

Lili, Not so good. She has been working A TON! and hasn't come to Church in 3 weeks now. Her Daughter Silvana is awesome though. We are hoping to get her mom back to church soon. Probably one of the hardest things to do is to ask these Albanian people to keep the sabbath day holy and not work. If they have an opportunity to work, they take it because you don't have regular hours here. If they skip an opportunity to work, they might not work for another week or two. So it is very hard to get them to not go to work. We are meeting with Silvana tonight and we have a pretty bold lesson planned about how she needs to get her mom to come to church. We are going to talk about how if she wants to be able to live with her family forever, she needs to get them to come to church. Obviously we aren't going to say it like that, but we want her to understand the importance of it.

5. In Elbasan – did you know about all of the rioting going on in Tirana?

Yeah haha. It is pretty nuts. I called Warburton (he's in Tirana) and he was saying that it was pretty wild. It kinda sounded like what happens when Ohio State loses a football game haha. Cars get lit on fire, riots happen, people die.

6. How is Rimi doing? Are you still being able to teach him?

Rimi did NOT come to church yesterday. He was doing really well until we taught him the law of chastity. It was a tough one for him to understand. We are going to try and meet with him as soon as we can.

7. What has been the highlight of your week this past week?

The highlight of my past week would have to be this lady named Alavera. She is probably in her 80's or so and back in communist times she tried to teach people about Jesus and that wasn't allowed at those times. She was taken by the communist police and tortured. Now she is a crazy woman who runs around the streets yelling at people. Whenever she see's us, she starts yelling at the top of her lungs, while pointing at us "Those boys know! They know the truth! Listen to those boys". Unfortunately, she is a crazy woman and nobody listens to her haha. But still, she comes up to us and will kiss our hands and she repeats the words "Thank you God, Bless these boys Lord." She is pretty awesome haha. I always tell her that God loves her and then she closes her eyes and looks up and points in the air and keeps saying "thank you thank you". I might marry this old woman haha.

8. When you told the story of your Branch President’s wife, her last name tells me she is Albanian. Does the branch you are in then have all leadership from Albania – meaning the Branch Presidency? (Your last Branch President was a missionary from the U.S.)

Our Branch Presidency is made up of 2 Albanians and Elder Preston (a senior couple).

9. Have you been using your index cards so you can get better with the language?

Yeah, It has been really helpful. I have gotten a lot better at the language. I pretty much understand everything when people talk to me and I have gotten a lot better at speaking.

10. I noticed you are spiking your hair up. Are you allowed to do that?

Yes haha. I wouldn't do it if I wasn't allowed. Here is pretty much the main rule: The more American/Flashy that you look, the less people think you are a Jehovah's Witness. The less people that think we are J-dubs, The less people that hate us/try and kill us.


So this week was good. The past few days have been SOAKING wet but oh well haha.

I went on an exchange with the new elder from the MTC Elder Carver. We really enjoyed ourselves. It was cool to be able to be better at the language because he depended on me which normally I am the one depending on my senior companion. I realized that I am a lot better at the language than I thought. We talked to tons of people, placed a few Book of Mormons, went into a store and talked to this random old man about prophets and about God's plan for us and then committed him to come to church, and then he came! It was a really cool experience.

We successfully got one of less active members Renato to go on the stop smoking program and he completed the whole 7 days and now has lost the desire to smoke. It is truly a miracle program that couldn't be done without help from God.

We had a training in Fier (a city) which was really good. We learned all about the new "Zero" lesson which is the lesson you do when you get in while tracting. It is awesome. I think it is really going to pick up the work.

We were able to go see Aisha and her family and got her daughter to come to Church yesterday. Her daughter and her daughter’s friend came and LOVED it. The Primary here in Elbasan is awesome because the two woman who are in charge of it are AMAZING. They teach the kids songs and about Jesus and everything. It is so cool.

Overall it was a pretty awesome week. We got 4 referrals from members yesterday and tonight we are going to a family home evening at a members home with the new investigators that they have referred for us. The work here is going great. We have a lot of great things planned for this week and hopefully everything goes as planned. Keep praying for me!

Sister Long, thanks for the letters! It was so great to hear from you!

Kendy, I have gotten a lot of your letters! Thank you. And I actually don't think I'm going to be able to send the card.. Sorry. But hey, don't even worry about doing what you were going to do. I promise, they aren't expecting anything.

I don't have much time today because we are cutting our P-day short because we have a lot of work this week and we didn't have room for all of it during the week so we had to cut some of pday out haha. It's all good. It's worth it. Oh, by the way, Alexis, I was laughing super hard when you told the story about BYU-Idaho. You would cry hahaha. And Ashley, don't feel bad for not writing me.It's all good. Being busy is a good thing. I hope classes are going good for you and JD. Mom, thanks for sending the talk. I will see if it works. Alright, I have to go.

Elder Eckel

Monday, January 17, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 15

Okay, Not fair! All of you are ripping me off! haha. One of my favorite things about P-day is reading your email's! You are all making them shorter so that I have more time to write! I would rather hear about you all then make longer emails haha. In fact, for some reason, typing has started to hurt my left hand really bad over the past few weeks. Anyways, I will start with the questions:

1. You mentioned that Elder Vans has really taught you what areas of missionary work are most important to put effort into. What are some of them?

I think one main thing is putting more time into members instead of tracting or street contacting as long as ALL of the work you do with the members leads to referrals. As Preach My Gospel says, anyone who has done tracting before knows that it is not an effective way of finding. The best way to find is through the members. Elder Vans does a really good job of that. We have been going around to all the families in the branch and giving them Preach My Gospels to keep and teaching them about how THEY can do missionary work. Every member is in fact a missionary.

Let me tell you a story real quick. The branch president’s wife, Sister Gjeferaj, was about to go to the Church Christmas party last year and she was walking outside of her house. Her neighbor ilva (a 9 year old girl) was outside playing and she asked Sister Gjeferaj where she was going. Sister Gjeferaj said, "I'm going to a church Christmas Party". Ilva said: "Can I come?" Sister Gjeferaj told her of course! But to go make sure it was okay with her mom. Her mom said yes and so Ilva went to the Christmas Party and LOVED It. Then afterwards, Sister gjeferaj asked Ilva if she wanted to come to Church on Sunday. Ilva came, asked for lessons from the missionaries and got baptized. Then Ilva's mom wanted to take lessons from the missionaries. She got baptized. Then Ilva's mom invited her sister and her family to an activity, now Ilva's mom's sister’s daughter Silvana is now baptized and we have a baptismal date set for her mother Lili and her son coming up here pretty soon. And now Lili's brother's wife is now getting interested in the church. ALL of this came from one woman who decided to tell a 9 year old girl that she was going to a church Christmas party. Pretty amazing. It is so cool to be able to be teaching Lili and her family.

2. Did you get your melatica (don’t know how to spell that) and have you used it yet?

I did! It is pretty awesome haha. Yeah Elder Vans and I use it a lot. It's kept us pretty occupied. Between the Melodica and throwing water balloons at the dumpster cats that look for food outside, we stay pretty busy! haha.

3. How is Lili and her family doing?

They are doing good. Lili didn't come to church yesterday because she didn't get back from a wedding until 6am but we have a lesson with her tonight so hopefully it will go well!

4. Have you ever passed out any of those rubber bracelets that are in the different shapes that we gave you a ton of to give to kids? If you have handed them out – do the kids like them? Do they have those over there or is that an American thing?

Yeah, I haven't passed any out in Elbasan yet but I did in Vlore and they think they are really awesome. I don't think they have them here in Albania.

5. You mentioned you had so many good stories last week but didn’t have time to tell any. Can you tell us any this week?

Maybe haha. I have it all in my journal though so don't worry, someday you will get to hear them :)

6. Do you do service weekly? Like you went to the hospital last week – do you do something like that every week?

We try to do service once a week but it is hard to find a place to do service at every week. This week we are going to try and go to the church and clean the baptismal font. Hopefully we can find more stuff in the community that we can do.

7. When there is a District Leader – is there only one person that is the District Leader, or is there another missionary that is a District Leader with Elder Vans?

There is only 1 district leader for every district.

8. How is the weather? Is it really cold like you were told it would be?

There have been some pretty cold days, but other days haven't been too bad. The gloves have been great though! Some mornings, it is FREEZING.

9. Do you have any idea like what type of mile radius would be the boundaries for your Branch there in Elbasan? Are they really big boundaries – or smaller?

They are really big because the closest church to Elbasan (besides the Elbasan church) is in Tirana. All of the suburbs of Elbasan are technically in our area. We try not to spend time teaching people in the surrounding cities because it is a lot harder for them to come to church and to have consistent lessons with them. We are teaching one boy right now from outside of Elbasan but he is AWESOME. I will talk more about him later.

10. Do you ever have to get on public transportation to get around – or do you only go as far as you can walk?

I wish I could explain this to you but you all will NEVER understand this haha. Elder Vans and I walk to church when we go to church on normal days but on Sundays, there is a Van Taxi that comes to the center of town and picks people up for church because if the members had to walk to the church, they quite frankly wouldn't come. I know that sounds hard to believe since from where the vans pick people up to the church is only a 10 minute walk but I promise you, NOBODY would come. I wouldn't have believed it either before I came here but It is truly a different world over here.


Sooooo yeah. Elbasan is awesome. I love it here. Just a few things I want to say real quick so that I make sure I have time for this. I want to first tell Kendy that I sent the Ensign so she can send hers whenever she wants to. I was only able to do 8 or 9 talks. Sorry. I also got 2 more packages! I got one from Grandma and Grandpa Martin! It was awesome! There was an Ohio state colored tie in it which happens to be the same colors as Albania's flag! I wore it the first day I got it and EVERYONE here loved it. It also had some really good candies and stuff. Thank you so much! I also got a package from the Bakers! Man, it was awesome. It had a mini football in it, which has been fun to play with in the apartment, and it had all of the usual baker candies in it! I think the last time I had a nerds rope was at the Baker's house! I loved the singing card and the family update and Evan's letter. hahaha Evan I loved how you put a sticker of Jasmin from Aladdin and said "she looks Albanian" haha cause she does!

Okay, I think that I have a parasite. But It's okay, I kinda like it! haha

I will tell you a little bit about this past week! But I technically only have another 15 minutes to write! AHH okay I will try to be fast.

So we are teaching this boy named Rimi and he is the boy from that village outside of Elbasan. He goes to college here in Elbasan and goes home on the weekends. He didn't come to church last week and so when we met with him on Monday, we got the real reason out of him of why he wasn't coming to church. We thought that it was because it was expensive to get a taxi to Elbasan but we found out it was because he was getting made fun of by the kids in his village. We were able to talk to him and I shared a lot of stories with him about how it was hard being one of the only members in the Church that went to my school and the spirit was really strong. Elder Vans grew up in Montana so we both were able to share some experiences we had back home. Rimi committed to coming to church for the next week and guess what?! Yesterday, he CAME! He stayed for ALL 3 hours and participated during Priesthood class. Then after church we had a lesson about the word of wisdom and he was totally cool with it. Man. He is a solid guy.

We taught the family that we found on that very poor road last week. Aisha is the mom's name and Gentiana is the little girls name. We think Gentiana is more interested than her mom. But still the mom seems kind of interested. We taught them this week but it was so hard to have the spirit there. Her little boy is a little crazy haha. He comes in and out of the house slamming doors, smacking his mom and his sister in the head, throwing the Book of Mormon and all sorts of other stuff (during our lesson). It makes it hard to be able to focus on what we are teaching. Oh well.. Hopefully things get better with their family. They are good people.

Oh Mom, I have a question, do you still have any of those glasses fixing kits (mini screw driver with the little screws) That would be awesome if you could send those over here. So many people have messed up glasses with tape holding them together. There is a man in our ward who is really awesome and he has a tooth pick holding his glasses together because he doesn't have a screw for it. I would also LOVE to get that talk you gave and to translate it because we are doing a HUGE push for member missionary work. That would be awesome to get that as soon as possible. If you could email it, that would be pretty amazing!

Alexis, keep talking to Sejdi and Alseda haha. They are pretty funny people. I heard that someone in Vlore said some really terrible things to Alseda from the missionaries that are there now and they said that she didn't come to church last week. Make sure she is doing good!

This week we went to an Orphanage and gave diapers and baby solution to these kids. It was a very cool experience. I have some pictures I am going to send on over. These kids never have anyone to play with them and we played with them for like 15 minutes. They all started crying when we left. It was really sad. Right when we got there I bent down to talk to the little kids and one came running up and gave me a huge hug! It was so cute haha. Anyways, I gotta get going.

Keep doing the little things and big things will happen. Keep doing missionary work. EVERYONE deserves to hear about the Plan that God has for them. I miss you and love you and pray for you all every day! Keep on keeping on!

-Elder Eckel

Monday, January 10, 2011

We love the photos!

Caption from Austin: Okay, the first picture is Lili's kids. They are sooo cute. yeah haha they are wearing our name tags. and then the other picture is trash on the road here in albania. It is very typical. Elder Vans is taking out money and there is a trash can RIGHT next to the bank machine and everyone throws their receipts on the ground! hahaha It is awful.

Looks like he is absolutely loving his mission so far. We're so happy for him! We love and miss him tons!

New Chapel...and disgustingness.

Austin is loving Elbasan! This first picture if of him with the chapel there (which he loves) and the bottom picture is of him doing service at a local hospital...GROSS. It gives me the shivers even looking at that picture. You can check out the email below for more of an explanation on the photos.

Life in Albania - Week 14

Okay, I have SOOOOO much stuff I want to say today but I don't know if I'm going to have enough time. I will try and hurry. P.S. This keyboard I am using is super gross and greasy. And some of the keys don't work well. Too bad ha.
Okay I will start with some questions!

1. So tell us about the new area. What is the weather like there?

I LOVE Elbasan. SOOOO MUCH. It is a city that seems about the same size as Vlore. Maybe a little bigger. It is supposed to be the coldest here in the winter and the hottest in the summer. I hope I will be here for a lot of time. I LOVE the people here and love the area.

2. How was it going to an actual church building?

It is so amazing. Such a blessing. We are so spoiled in America to have church buildings everywhere. I always kinda thought it was weird when people would pray and thank God for the beautiful building we got to meet in back home but I completely understand now. I'm guessing that the people who prayed for that were return missionaries from foreign countries because you have NO idea. This building here is so beautiful I will attach a picture of it with this email.

3. How many people were at church today?

I think it was about 75. We had 7 investigators show up!!!!

4. How is your new companion?

I love him. Elder Vans (Vance) is so awesome. He is from Montana and has 6 months left here in Albania. he is the District leader too.

5. Have you gotten any more of the boxes? If so – how many and who were they from?

I think I have gotten the rest of your boxes! Thanks a ton! I got the flash drive and the shirts, stuff. and more candy! Ha, it was great. I also got a box from the Pumphrey's which was awesome! Thank you SOOOO much! I am wearing those big wool socks right now! they are so warm. When I opened that box, it smelled like Christmas in it! I don’t know how you did it, but it was awesome! ha And I got the beef Jerky from the Lenahans! THANKS A TON. IT was AMAZING! I also got a package from Kendy's family! It was hilarious! I LOVED the card and the candy and the taste test haha I still have no idea what those things were but oh well ha. I also loved the juggling balls haha. My companion knows how to juggle so he is going to have to teach me. Thank you all!

6. Where did Elder Warburton go?

Elder Warburton is in Tirana in the same area that he was in before he came to Vlore. He is loving it.

7. Do you do the same thing where you get a lot of contacts from the street?

We actually have a lot of progressing investigators. 3 of them were here already before I got here but we just found another family on "the road" this week that are now our investigators. They are AWESOME and came to church this week.

8. Do you teach English classes in that area?

Yes, but we are on break right now. We will probably begin teaching more english classes near the end of January

9. On the map, Elbasan looks like it is close to Tirana –how far away from Tirana are you?

We are about an hour drive from Tirana. In America it would probably take 15 to 20 minutes max to get from here to there though. There aren't good roads here.

10. How many missionaries are in Elbasan?

There are 4 of us. One is the Elder straight out of the MTC! haha It is kinda nice to see that I actually have improved A TON at Albanian since I've been here. His name is Elder Carver and it's funny because the word Car is really bad in Albania and so he might have to change his last name. People kinda laugh when he tells him his name. He is cool though. Yesterday we both bore our testimonies and it went well.

11. What the coolest Albania thing you learned / observed this week?

Well, hmmm. I don't know. I think the most humbling thing I have seen this week was on "the road". We call it "The Road" because in the last month of tracting on this certain road, the church has had a few baptisms and a ton of investigators from that road. That is the same road we found that family we are now teaching. It is humbling because the people on "The Road" have absolutely nothing. It is the worst I have seen since I have been here. The people are SO nice and so welcoming to us. It sounds weird but that road has a special spirit to it.

12. What is the coolest spiritual thing you learned / observed this week?

I think this week I really have learned that bearing testimony is one of the best things you can do to bring the spirit. That sounds kind of stupid because they shove that concept down your throat in the MTC and at church and stuff but this week I have had a few experiences where I wasn't planning on giving my testimony but it just happened and it brought the spirit into the lesson very strong.


Okay, So I have loved this past week so much.

One weird thing about Elbasan is that the language is WAY different here haha. It is super weird. They use tons of words that no one else in Albania uses. It took a while to get used to but I think I am finally starting to get good at speaking like a person from here. At first everyone could tell that I was from Vlore. People here use different greetings and they drop tons of endings to past participles. It's crazy! but a lot of fun!

I don't have a ton of time to write so I will hit the main points pretty quick.

We met with this family. The mom's named is Lili (Lilly) and she is the woman who was Elder Vans's investigator before I got here. She has a son who is not baptized and a daughter who JUST got baptized. We were meeting with her and she is so so awesome. She has a baptism date for the 23rd of January but we might need to move it back. We will see, But her main problem was that her dad was totally against the whole baptism thing (Her whole family lives with her dad). The reason he was against it was because some crazy man came and knocked on the door of their house while Elder Vans and his previous companion was visiting with them and came in and started saying he was a member of the church. To make a long story short, the crazy man screwed up the whole lesson and made the grandpa (lili's dad) freak out. So the next morning after we had met with them this week, we were having companionship study and we were talking about how we need to meet with her family again and have a good lesson. Right then, the phone rang and it was Lili. She sounded really happy and asked us if we could come over right then! We obviously grabbed our stuff and booked it over to her house. We sat down with the family, and started talking. Things went really well and there is a funny story about the cake they brought out/ tons of food they brought out for us to eat but I will save that for a different time. The point is, we ended up sharing a message and then getting the whole family/extended family (about 10 people total) to have a kneeling prayer that Elder Vans said and then we had another kneeling prayer right after which Lili said. It was AMAZING. and then we committed the entire family to pray every morning and night. The grandpa now loves us and is okay with her getting baptized.

We also did service Friday morning at a hospital here. You wouldn't believe how nasty the hospital here is. I really hope I never have to go to the hospital here haha. We cleaned the courtyard in the middle of the hospital. There were needles EVERYWHERE! It was so nasty. I have a picture of that too. There were diapers everywhere too. Gross. Anyway, it was fun and we handed out tons of pamphlets and pass along cards. Our district is awesome.

AHHH I have so many more stories but I don't have time. I Have to go! I'm Sorry. I love you all and can't wait to hear from you next week. Go BUCKS!
Enjoy the pictures.

-Evan, i haven't gotten your letter yet! I am stoked to get it though!
-Kendy, I am almost done with the Ensign, I will probably send it late this week or early next week. and yes, I have written you every week too! haha So we must just be having dumb luck with the mail system. It doesn't surprise me. Albania is crazy haha. and I am not sure If i will be sending the memory cards or not. I will let you know next week. Alrighty! Peace out everyone! I love you all.

Monday, January 3, 2011

More pictures from our favorite missionary!

Here are some more pictures Austin sent us this week. Here are some of his captions:

The first picture is of me Warburton and Nollz doing our imitation of the first presidency picture. It's not perfect but hey! It's pretty awesome. No Teeth smiles!

The second picture is me with this kid named Donald in our Branch. He is sooo awesome. He only knows how to say a few things in English and one of them is "I am very busy because I am a lawyer" hahaha It's so funny. He is a really good kid. He almost has his Duty to God done! I am wearing the Ohio State tie i bought. It's pretty awesome huh?!

The last is of the threesome in front of the Vlora Church. It's pretty ghetto looking haha. The metal gates are necessary because the little kids in the neighborhood destroy everything in sight haha.

Life in Albania - Week 13

Hello everyone! Well I have some crazy news for you all today! But I will start with the questions first.

1. Have you gotten anymore packages? You should have 6 more coming from us, one from Grandma and Grandpa Martin, and one from the Pumphrey family. I think you may have something coming from Kristie’s family as well.

I will hopefully get those packages tomorrow when I go to Tirana. Nothing actually gets sent to Vlore so I don't get things unless we go to Tirana or someone comes from there.

2. Are you enjoying your last bit of time with Elder Warburton? Do you think you will be changed up at transfers?

Yeah, We had a very fun week. We were in a threesome this week and it was a ton of fun. We were LOADED with work though because we had both North Vlore and South Vlore’s work since we were in the threesome. We also had Branch work since Warburton was filling in as first counselor this week. and yes haha I do think it will be changed because we actually know now. I will get to that later though.

3. Since the church is so new there – I was wondering if there are a lot of inactive members after they are baptized or is the retention pretty good?

There are quite a few inactive members which is why we do so much retention work. It is kinda sad how many people are inactive.

4. Do you think Elder Nowlls will stay there in Vlore too – but just get a new companion?

Yeah Elder Knowells is staying here in Vlore and he is getting a new companion.

5. How was New Years? You said it was supposed to be dangerous and that you had to stay inside. What were you able to see out of your window!?

New Years was AWESOME! There were fireworks EVERYWHERE in the sky. It was absolutely beautiful. It something you have to see in real life to believe. I took a video of it but it doesn't show even half as cool as it was.

6. Was that Elder Warburton’s first Christmas away from home or was he in the MTC during last Christmas?

This was his first Christmas away from home as well. He went to the MTC in January of last year.

7. Do you know how many baptisms the Albania mission does all together in a given month? Do you set goals based on the number of people that are being taught throughout the country?

I'm not sure exactly but I think we hit somewhere near 85 this year as a total in Albania. We set goals based on area but There is a "Standard of Excellence" for the country.

8. Are you supposed to have goals for the number of lessons you teach, service hours, etc as well?

We set goals every night during nightly planning for the next day and then we also set weekly goals every week for weekly planning.

9. Have you gone to any more interesting sites on your p-days?

Nope. haha. Just chilling here in Vlore!

10. When do you start up new English classes? Is that what you do – have them for a certain number of weeks and then start them over again with a new group of people?

I'm not sure when English classes will start again but I'm guessing it will be somewhere around the end of January. I won't be here in Vlore for it though.


Okay so I'm sure you are all wondering what the news is that I have haha. Probably not. I was trying to build it up and make it seem really cool but I probably did a lame job ha. So, we had transfer calls this past week. Something happened that neither Elder Warburton or I was expecting. We are BOTH leaving Vlore! There is a shortage of Missionaries here in Albania right now and they needed to close an area and since Vlore has two sets of Elders, they closed our area. I am going to be spending the next little while in a city called Elbasan. I am very excited. My new companion is Elder Vance. I have met him a few times and I think that we are going to get along great. He is very funny and he seems like a very hard worker. I am excited to start a new chapter of my mission in Elbasan. Elbasan actually has a real church building! SO that is pretty exciting and fun to look forward to. I am sad to leave Vlore though. I have made so many great friends here and have grown to love the people here in this branch. I leave tomorrow to go to Tirana and get my new Comp and then head to Elbasan. I hear it is FREEZING there in the winter and BURNING HOT in the summer so it's a good thing I am getting the warm clothes haha.

This past week was pretty fun. We had some lessons with Irma again. We taught her the 3rd lesson (The Gospel of Jesus Christ). It is a little different trying to teach with 3 people but it went well. I think she really understood things. It is sad though because she still hasn't come to church. She says that God isn't answering her questions in prayers and we have told her that one place that is great for hearing answers is at church. Hopefully she will come this next week. Elder Nollz and I had a lesson (while Warburton was doing Branch presidency work) with a girl named Kristina who is 11 years old. Her father died when she was 4 years old. We taught the plan of Salvation to her. You should have seen her face light up when we talked about how she can live with her Dad again. It was a very cool experience. She has so much faith and desire to come to church but she lives with her Grandpa and he won't let her come to church. It is a really far walk from her house to the Church and so we think that might be partially the reason. We have asked if we could come pick her up? The Grandpa is still stubborn about it. It was Tithing settlement time here and so that ate a lot of our time too but it was a fun/busy week. New years was amazing. I still can't get over how many people were shooting fireworks out of their windows haha. It was hilarious.

Alexis, Congrats on getting into BYU-I! that place was awesome when I went to go visit. I think you would love it there. I mean, you obviously would want to go to BYU Provo first, but seriously, BYU idaho was awesome. Good job on getting in Motra (Motra means sister). I'm glad you added Alseda. Alseda isn't the older sister of Eva. Alseda is in a different family. It was really funny though cause I told her to add you on facebook and then she came to me pretty much devastated that you denied her friend request thinking that you hated her or something hahha. I told her to add you again and tell you that she knows me. I'm glad you added her. Practice English with her. She is pretty dang good at English. Do facebook chat with her and try and keep up with her how church is. I really don't want her to fall away from the church. She needs some good Mormon friends. Just talk to her every now and then and see how she is doing. I already told her that you are going to hang out with her for a little bit when you come to Albania to get me haha. She was so exicted. She thinks you are very beautiful ha. Talk about Jack's Mannequin with her. I tried to get her hooked on Jack's Mannequin and she loves the song Dark Blue haha. It's hilarious. I am still spreading the good music joy even over here in Albania. Anyways, hope your Christmas was awesome. I miss you girl.

Aunt Donna and Uncle Brian! Thank you so much for the Christmas gift! I love hearing from you guys. I hope Tony isn't killing you too bad in P90x haha. I still have nightmares of that 60 year old man. Europe is pretty awesome! It's weird to think that we are actually relatively closer to each other than I am with anyone else. Thanks again! Hope you had a great Christmas and New Years.

I'm sorry if anyone else has sent me something if I haven't mentioned it yet. I haven't gotten anything else yet but hopefully I will get things tomorrow on my way to Elbasan when we stop in Tirana!

Baker Family! How the heck are you all?! I hope your holidays went great. It was weird not spending new years with Evan at waffle house haha. I remember one new years when evan and I were so pathetically bored that we spent it at Waffle House hahaha. It was hilarious. I learned something really cool that day though. Waffle House is the safest place to be if there is a Hurricane because the windows are Hurricane proof! Well, At least that is what the drunk guy there was telling us. I saw a picture of you when you went to eat with my mom! I miss you guys. It was like seeing both of my mothers in the same picture!

I'm sad to hear the Big 10 isn't doing too hot. I bought an Ohio State tie that I can wear for the occasion tomorrow. GO BUCKEYES! I hope we win! AHHH. OH!

Sounds like you all had a great Christmas Holiday. I'm jealous that you all got to be together. Dad, I'm glad you bought some fireworks for the occasion. You would freak out if you knew how inexpensive fireworks are here in Albania. We aren't talking the little kind either. People were shooting full blown HUGE fireworks into other peoples apartments from their balconies haha it was awesome. Don't worry thought. Only 15 people were hospitalized from fireworks in Albania this year which I guess is good compared to normal haha. Mom, I bet you were a great ice skater. I want to see pictures of you ice skating haha.

Alright, well I need to get going cause I need to pack up so I can leave tomorrow. I will be in Elbasan next time we talk! Thank you for everything you all do. I love you and miss you all. Tell the Lenahans I said thanks for the Jerkey! haha I will try and send some last minute pictures now! Peace out!

-Elder Eckel

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rain, rain go away!

Captions from Austin: The picture of the large group of people is a picture of all of the people from Vlore who came to Tirana for the Christmas program. We have WAY more youth than adults in our branch as you can see haha. Then there is a picture of me and Warburton after it started pouring rain out of nowhere.

Eva's baptism photos

Caption from Austin: These are some pictures from Eva's baptism. She is so stinkin cute! AHHHH haha the pictures dont show it so well but she is a really cute girl.

Life in Albania - Week 12

I wont be using good grammar in this email because i am at an internet local that has a stupid albanian keyboard haha and it is a pain to use the shift and apostrophe buttons. So anyways! It was awesome to talk to you all on saturday! I will start with the questions.

1. When will Elder Knowles get a new companion? I’m assuming he comes and lives in your apartment until he gets one?

He gets a new companion at transfers which is in 1 week! Yeah, he is living with us for this week.

2. Does this mean that you have a new batch of missionaries coming out to Albania? If so – how many?

We have one Elder and one Sister coming from the MTC at this transfer! Pretty cool stuff.

3. Did you get the box with the stocking in it?

Yes ma'am! Thank you so much! I loved the packages that I have gotten so far!

4. Are you teaching any new people?

We are teaching both areas of vlore now because we now have Elder Nollz people too. So we haven't been doing too much finding anymore cause we have more member and investigator work from the other elders now. In fact, Elder Warburton is now the first counselor of the branch for the next week and a half since Hikson left. So we have a lot of branch work we have to do now too (the senior couple that is the branch president doesnt speak albanian and so we have to translate a ton)

5. If we come to Albania – would it be a long way to go over to Italy too?

Italy is about an hour boat ride from Vlore. I would be down to go to Italy but I refuse to go to Greece. Greece is the Michigan for Albania.

6. When are the next transfers?

1.5 weeks

7. What temple would the people in Albania go to?

Right now the closest temple is in Frankfort Germany but soon will be the Rome Italy temple.

8. Is President Neil basically over the church there in Albania? Like normally you would have a Stake President over a stake –but I think Albania is just like a big district. Is he considered the District President too – or is there someone else that serves in that capacity?

We have a district president here in Albania too but I am pretty sure President Neal is somewhere up there. I really am not sure how it works. I will get back to you on that one.

9. About how many youth members are there in Albania?

maybe about 250. thats just a rough guess

10. Has the weather stayed warm or did it get cold again?

It was a little colder today but not too bad. It gets pretty cold when it rains but the weather here is unpredictable.


I dont have too much to say today since we just talked about two days ago. It was pretty awesome being able to skype each other. I am sorry that the quality for you wasnt that great. I think it was just the mix between crumby camera and internet connection because i was able to see all of you perfectly and it was moving perfectly smooth too. Looks like i got the better end of the deal. There isnt much else to say though. Things are going good. I am excited for new years! I hear that new years here is absolutely crazy. I will take pictures for you all. Ashley, You asked if it was okay to send me pictures. Yepppp. Do it! I love seeing pictures. So yeah,

You all heard the highlights of this past week from me on Saturday and we are going to make this a short internet time so that we can go do some other fun stuff today. Sorry that this email is kinda lame. Evan, I got the message that you wanted to talk to me. I wish I could have talked to you too man. I miss all of the stupid stuff we would do haha. dont worry though. There is plenty of time when I get home to do stupid stuff! I dont know, maybe something to do with shopping carts and some place back in the country? Anyways, I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas. Christmas was good here. Yesterday at church we got to watch the Christmas broadcast for the second hour of church. It was really good. It was in Albanian. I like it in Albanian and I can understand most of it but sometimes I just wish I could hear the apostles and prophets real voices instead of their translator haha. Oh well. It was good.

Elder Nollz family sent little christmas gifts for all of the kids in the branch. It was really cool. All of the kids were going crazy. I am pretty sure that it was the only gift that most of those kids got for Christmas. They were all so gosh dang happy. It made me realize how blessed I have been. When we got to go to Tirana this past week, so many members came that dont normally come to church. It was cool to see how many people are actually in the Church here. It is a little sad though to see that a lot of them are inactive. I think that is a huge reason that member retention lessons are emphasized as big as they are here in Albania. The church is so small here that checking up on members often is very important. They dont have alot of member friends to turn to. One of the little boys here in the branch named Geri has told me quite a few times that i am his best friend. He always follows me around ha. He is really cute. It is a little sad to think that I am his best friend though.

I had a lot of cool experiences this week with prayer. There were a few times where I was able to see my prayers answered within moments. I know that Heavenly Father is listening to us always. He cares about us so much and I think a lot of times he is just waiting to bless us. He has so many blessings just waiting for us if we would only just ask him for them. I will stop ranting on now but I am going to send you all some pictures from the past week. Have a good week! I love you guys so much. Keep on Keepin on.

-Elder Eckel