Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 20

Hello Family! I have some interesting news for you all! ha Une e kam marre nje shok tjeter. Now for English ha. I am getting a new companion! and guess what?! He is ALBANIAN hahaha. Oh man. So yeah. Transfers happened, and I will be staying in Elbasan but President Neil needed Elder Vans to go to Shkoder to be Branch President. Therefore, I am getting a new companion. His name is Elder Marapejsa. He is Albanian. I am pretty excited for this. If I allow myself to take advantage of this opportunity, I will be able to get a lot better at the language. Albanian is probably one of the hardest languages in the world haha. I might just think that cause it's the only one I am learning but seriously. It stinks haha. I'm hoping this can be my turning point. I'm sad to have Elder Vans leave me but he is going to an Albanian companion too so it will be good for both of us ha.

Alrighty, I will start with the questions now.

1. How are you liking your companion?

I really do love Elder Vans. He has been an awesome companion. In fact, I was just thinking about how blessed I have been to have such good companions. And now I'm getting another great companion. It's pretty cool stuff ha.

2. Did you have the baptisms this past Sunday or is that next week?

Yeah we did have the baptisms. We only did 4 of the 5 because one of the girls started her time of the month ha. Yeah.. so she decided maybe she should wait until that passes. One of the girls named Denisa wanted me to baptize her so I did. It was a beautiful baptism service. There were probably 30 people there for the baptismal service. It was AWESOME.

3. Did you get your packages yet?

I did! Thank you so much. Those were awesome. Those foot warmer things looked so cool haha. I can't wait to use those bad boys. Oh and thanks a ton for those eye kit things haha. I don't know if I'm going to be able to use all of them. But we will see.

4. Is it starting to get warmer there or is it still wintery?
It's getting warmer but it's still chilly out. It is probably in the high 40's low 50's.

5. When do you start getting people to sign up for the English class that starts at the beginning of March?

We have already started advertising. We have passed out over 900 fliers so far. Hopefully we get a good size group to come!

6. You mentioned when you were in Vlore that they had shirts and ties at the church for people to wear. Is it the same in Elbasan or was that a Vlore thing?

No.. There aren't many young men but the young men that come already have white shirts. In fact, although we are in a poorer area, I think that people spend their money a lot more efficiently.

7. Do you happen to know what that cement thing was that you were jumping over in one of your pictures from Porgradec?
hahah Dad, I am sorry. I realized once I left the computer place last week that I forgot to answer these questions! haha but yes they are bunkers. You were correct! :)


Okay, So thank you so much Young Women from Pburg! That was a great valentines gift! I loved it! You guys are awesome! It was crazy to see how many of you all are in Young Womens now who I remember being barely born! CRAZY!

Dad, you are right when you say it's the hardest thing ever (a mission). There are so many different obstacles that you have to overcome. Obstacles with yourself, and with the people you are serving. I'd say one of my hardest obstacles right now is Albanian. Yes, I can understand a lot of what people are saying and I can teach the lessons because I know all of that vocab. But it's hard to teach people rather than teaching lessons. It's hard for me to help these people the best that I can when I can't say what I'm feeling and thinking. Sometimes I will get a prompting to tell a story or relate to them with an experience that I have had, but I physically CAN'T do it because I can't do it in Albanian. It is so frustrating. There are plenty of other obstacles as well that I, as well as all missionaries, face. One other huge one is Agency. As much as I love that God has given us agency, I HATE IT haha. For example. I was on an exchange with Elder Johnson this week and we went to teach this boy who found us on the road. When he found us on the road, he said he had received a Book of Mormon from previous missionaries and he has read the whole thing. So we were pretty excited. We went to his house and his whole family was there. We had a really awesome lesson but the fact that they are "muslim" stopped them from accepting baptism. I say "muslim" because EVERYONE here in Albania is "Muslim" with Origin. But only 5% of the people who say they are Muslim actually practice it. This family doesn't/has never practiced that religion in their whole lives. When the boy said that he prayed and knew the Book of Mormon to be true, We asked him if he would follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the Authority of God into His church. The boy and the whole family started freaking out and saying that they couldn't get baptized because Baptism isn't allowed in the Muslim religion. We used an example with them saying: "If my Dad was a pro soccer player, and my mom was a pro soccer player, but I had never even touched a soccer ball in my life and don't play soccer, am I a pro soccer player?" They said "Of course not, But it's in your blood!" They kept saying that because their blood was Muslim they could not be baptized. It was so sad to me. They don't understand that this (Baptism into the Church of God) is the ONLY way that they can receive ETERNAL joy with their families. There is no other way, no excuses. It is so sad to me that someone’s "Blood" can stop them from following Jesus Christ. Especially after receiving a confirmation from God that the Book of Mormon is true. If the Book of Mormon is true, than Joseph Smith was a prophet. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, than our church has the Priesthood Authority of God on the earth. It is so simple. haha okay, I'm sorry I'm rambling on about this. It's just that I have tried to stay extremely positive my whole mission so far even when I felt like I couldn't take it anymore, I try to keep on smiling and making everything seem alright to you guys back home but finally I decided I should just be honest haha. MISSIONS ARE SO FREAKING HARD! haha. I figured if I came out and said it, maybe you all would pray harder for me haha. I think it worked cause I could feel your prayers extra strong this past week. So thank you everyone who prayed for me!

Jackson, that is so cool that you showed that kid who was boss! You sound like you had some great plays out there! Keep it up man. I'm glad you enjoying yourself.

Estelle, hahahahaha you are hilarious. It sounded like you didn't enjoy your vacation so much.. But hey you did start to enjoy it at the end...... but then you had to leave haha. You are so funny haha

Grace, you are so stinking cute.

Emma , you are a little stinker for not writing me haha.

Sounds like you all had a fun time in Utah. I am jealous of all the family fun you are all having. That is so nice of Kendy's family to have made that for you guys! Kend, tell your family thank you for being so kind to my family. But yeah, I wish I could have been there with you all. Well actually I don't haha. I wish you all could have been in ALbania. It's WAYYYY cooler here haha. Man, I can't believe Brian actually got a beard card hahaha. That is so awesome. I think he told me that in a letter earlier that he has sent me. I sent him a letter a few weeks ago. He should be getting it pretty soon I hope!

Alexis, haha you would go see a Justin Bieber movie. You probably loved it too haha. You freak. Don't worry girl. You are gonna get into BYU. No doubt about it! Sounds like you were the hit of Ashley's class. Or maybe a better way to put it was you were the "hit on" of Ashley's class.

Ashley, I'm glad you enjoyed being a teacher. Mom and Dad said the kids loved you. I remember anytime back home I told someone you were going to be a teacher they would always say: " Oh she would make such a great teacher!" and I guess they are right! haha

Alison Vincent, hahaha that quote isn't fair! You caught me at a time WAY too late at night haha. But fine, I'll admit it. It's a great quote haha. Cheetos. Bean bag chair.. Enough said.

Tif- haha you make me laugh. I can't believe you only wrote your brother 6 times! haha man. You kill me! My sisters spoil the heck out of me! haha

Mom- You the best momma eva! haha Seriously though. you are the greatest. Thanks for always being so great to me. I was pretty dang lucky to have such a great relationship with both my mom and my dad. I feel like most people I meet either have one or the other! I'm glad to hear your work has been going well. Just so you know, I'm still expecting to be the owner of Onsight someday. Just keep that in mind :)

Dad- haha thanks for hugging kend so that she got her fix of hugs. You da bomb! You are so hip hop you and your iphone. haha

Okay, So I gotta wrap this up but this week went a lot better. We had a lot of successes. We met with Lori today and she is doing great. She actually came to church yesterday too! I think she snuck out to be able to come. Also, that other girl that I talked about last week (Marinela) asked US if she could be baptized haha. We obviously said yes haha. Work is going great here. I Love these people so much even though they give me high blood pressure and mini heart attacks haha. I get so stressed sometimes but hey, it's worth it. I'm so happy to be serving the Lord and I know that once I finally get this stinkin crazy language down, I will be way more effective. Thanks for all that you do family! You all ROCK! :) peace out.


Elder Paul Austin Eckel

Missionary, Eagle Scout, High School Grad (with a academic award in sports haha), Ohio fanatic, Albanian speaking, Apple freak, BYU student, Music lover.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 19

Why hello there! This week was a really good week of work. It was hard. Very hard. Missions are hard. Period. ha

I will start with some questions! :)

1. In the Cleveland Ohio mission, they have several zones – but when they have a zone conference, we feed about 40 missionaries at a time. (Relief Society always serves the lunch) Since there are only 48 missionaries in your whole mission – are you one zone or are there a couple of zones?

We have two zones. "The Outside Zone" (everything outside of Tirana) and then the "Inside Zone" (Everything inside of Tirana).

2. How many zone conferences have you had since you have been there? Do you have any General Authorities that come to speak and teach you?

I have only had one zone conference but we have one next week. I think there have been general authorities in the past but I haven't had one come yet.

3. Tell us about something you have learned from your current companion?

Hm.. Let's see. I have learned a lot of little language tips. He has also taught me how to be a good cook! haha. Also, he is teaching me piano. I don't know exactly what you want me to say here? haha

4. Do you study from your English scriptures or your Albanian scriptures?

Both. I mainly study from my English scriptures but for language study and sometimes for part of personal study, I study from my Albanian scriptures. I can mostly understand most of the things in the Albanian scriptures. It's amazing.

5. When you are in your apartment – do you speak English or Albanian?

Englishhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We speak Albanian from 4pm to 9pm every dayyy. :)


Okay, Just a few things before I forget. Can you ask Brother and Sister Lenahan to ask Brent if he has gotten the package I have sent him? I really hope he did ha. Thanks. Oh and the ink for my pen is running out. It is a medium ink refill.

Alrighty. So this week Elder Vans's fever finally went away haha. He still has a bad cough but he was okay enough to go out and work. We had some awesome working days. On Tuesday we found a family who was interested in the Gospel. Mondi is the husband, Dje is the Wife. They have two kids and they are the perfect family. We met with them and did a Zero Lesson. They loved it. We have already taught them again since then about the Restoration and they loved that too. We had a lesson planned for Saturday night but they ended up not being able to meet. We are going to try and meet with them tomorrow to talk about the plan of salvation. Mondi smokes and drinks but hopefully that won't be too hard of a problem. The main problem that we have seen so far is that coming to church is going to be hard for them. Not only do they live out in the middle of NOWHERE but the husband has a job that will be very hard for him to get out of on Sundays. It's going to be hard but I think they will be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to have Eternal Life.

There are 5 people getting baptized next Sunday after church. It is a family and they are awesome. Elbasan is growing so quickly. I love it here. It is pretty sad though. The fact of the matter is that the Church is still so small here that if there were no missionaries here, the church would be gone in less than a month. You might think that is crazy/wrong but I'm being serious. If there weren't missionaries here, within a month, the Church would be gone. I can't wait til Albania can run church all on it's own. It's still using training wheels. But it's okay. haha Someday.

So Gentiana and Biana are no longer getting baptized. They weren't ready and we had to make a decision on whether or not we should keep teaching them or if we should use our time elsewhere and we prayed about it and so now we are going to move on. Hopefully someday they will be ready.

We had a problem with Lori this week. It's not her. She is doing great. She has a testimony and wants to get baptized. It's her Dad. Her Dad has also turned her Mom against the church too now. I can't even tell you how many times the fathers of these families here screw everything up. It's no wonder that there are hardly an priesthood holders here in Albania. It's okay though. We are going to try and set up a meeting with Lori at her house this week and meet her Dad. Usually after we meet the Dad and he realizes we aren't here to do anything besides help people come to the Gospel, the Dad eases up a little.

On Wednesday we had an Exchange with the Zone Leaders. We did A TON of tracting. Elder Klein and I found some less active members and committed them to coming to church next week. It was pretty cool haha. I was doing the door approach and the girl stopped me and said, "I believe you! In fact, I am already a member of your church!" haha It was pretty funny. Elder Vance and Elder Roni found a girl and a mom who are now our new investigators! They came to church yesterday and LOVED it. We are going to teach them tomorrow I think. The girl even asked "What is Seminary? I want to come!" haha It was awesome. When the members are friendly to investigators it changes everything. PLEASE be really friendly anytime anyone new comes to church that you don't recognize. It makes their experience so much better.

This week was super hard. We walked more than I have ever walked since I have been here. It has been really crazy and tiring but I know that it's worth it. I actually had a day this week where I was just thinking to myself that it was too hard. I got really down on myself and it just wasn't good. But I said a prayer, and thought about what I was doing here in Albania and then read a quote that I got in a letter from Kendy that says: "A Missionary: Someone who leaves their family for a short time so that others can be with their families forever." I really needed that. I just have never been so physically, mentally, and spiritually tired before. It is hard when you are worrying about people's salvations. It is really hard. It's good though. I don't regret going on a mission AT ALL. Some days just get really hard and it's a good thing because it makes me humble myself and helps me realize I can't do ANYTHING without God's help.

No I haven't gotten any packages yet. Hopefully at the zone conference next week I will get mail and packages and stuff. Thanks for sending me stuff!

Well. I believe my time has come to an end today. I hope all is well with you. I pray for you every day! Please keep praying for me. I need it :) Sorry this email was so short. I can't wait to hear from you all next week :)

oh p.s. Kendy- I haven't gotten your Ensign yet but I'm sure it's in Tirana. Thanks a ton!

Life in Albania - Week 18

So, how the heck are you all?! It sounds like you are all doing great from the emails. This week was another kinda slow/boring week but today was a TON of fun. I will start with the questions!

1. Why do you think you no longer have a parasite? I would like some pretty good details! J

I'm not sure ha. It just disappeared! But seriously, I haven't had too many problems lately, therefore, everything is great! :) Thanks for being concerned though!

2. How did you know something was going on with your tooth and that you needed to see the Dentist?

I was having tooth aches and so we went and saw what the problem was and she was an awesome Dentist. For real. Plus she spoke perfect english (which was nice since I don't know the vocab for cavity and other doctor words haha). I really think she is better than the dentists back home. I had no problem with any of it. It was actually kind of relaxing!

3. Are you both feeling better this week?

Well Elder Vance's fever didn't go away at all this week and so we once again were ordered by Sister Neil to stay inside. It was super boring haha but it's okay because I was able to do more language and scripture study.

4. How is Gentiana and her friend doing? Do they still have baptismal dates? If so – when will they be baptized?

They said they were going to come to church this week but they didn't. We are going to go visit them tomorrow and hopefully they are doing good. Their date is for February 19th I think. Whatever the closest Sunday to that is.

5. Did you ever get to teach Rimi again?

Right now is Exam season for all of the college students and so they have a 2 week break from school to study for exams and stuff. Rimi lives outside of Elbasan and he hasn't been in the city so we haven't been able to meet with him. We hope we can meet with him at least one more time to talk about authority because he just doesn't "get it" if you know what I mean. Like, If it was true that Joseph Smith really did see God and Jesus Christ, then it would be a HUGE deal because that would mean we have a LIVING prophet today who leads God's church. He doesn't really understand that. We have tried to explain it. Hopefully he will get it someday.

6. How are Lori and her Mom doing?

Lori and her Mother are AWESOME! One of the only lessons we were able to have this week was with Lori. It went really really well. Lori said the closing prayer and it was beautiful. I always love hearing people’s first vocal prayers because it has no repetition qualities to it. It is just them talking to God the way they want to talk to God. It was amazing. The Spirit was incredibly strong.

7. You mentioned something about a boy name Olsi in English class – how is that going?

Yes, we have a private English class going on with a boy named Olsi. It is going really awesome. We showed him the Restoration video and the Spirit was really really strong. There is no way that he could deny feeling something. We had a really good conversation with him afterwards and then the next English class that we had with him, he didn't want to talk about the church. It was really weird.. I don't know why but we do know he is really into science and we think that might be the problem.

8. How many people are in your English class?

We currently only have the private english class with Olsi but we are advertising for an English class to start for March 1st with whoever wants to come. Hopefully we get a really good turn out.

9. You mentioned that you are learning how to read music. Do you mean so you can play the piano? Does their music look different from ours when it comes to the notes?

I am just learning how to read notes so that I can play piano. I have gotten a lot better. I can't sight read perfectly but with practice, I wouldn't be surprised if by the end of my mission I could sight read pretty well/ play all the hymns.


Okay, so I don't want to forget some things so I will come out and say them first haha. I got another Dear Elder from Sister Long. Thank you so much for sending me those! It's great to hear from people from home! Also, I got a package from the Bakers. It was AWESOME! There were Warheads in it!!!! haha yessssss. Mrs. Baker, how do you just know? you just always know haha. Thanks a ton for the Valentines day gifts! It is very appreciated. But Mrs. Baker, I don't think you want to adopt that little boy haha. He is a little DEVIL! He destroys all the toys there haha. Although, you dealt with me and Evan and we were no different than that. I was just thinking the other day about one time when Evan and I were shoveling the snow off of the front yard (along with an inch of the grass and dirt beneath the snow) so that we could play football! haha you came outside and weren't too happy but then Marty came out and you two just kinda shook your heads and then let us keep going so that we could play football! You all put up with me and Evan so well! haha You must have known how much backyard/frontyard football meant to Evan and I. I don't know about Evan, but for me playing football at the Baker house is one of my fondest memories. So yeah, thank you for the package! ha

Alexis- CONGRATULATIONS! that is so awesome that you got one of the lead roles! I'm stinking ticked that I don't get to see you in the play. I'm sure mom and dad will purchase one of the 2 million dollar movies they make though haha. So I will eventually see it. I was actually just thinking about something. You should take all of the videos of you from when you have sung live and in plays and stuff and make a youtube account. People would love hearing you sing. You might be the next Justin Beiber and get picked up off of youtube! ha Anyways, that is awesome that you got a good part. hahahahah I think it's hilarious that Dayna gets weather updates from Tirana Albania! haha that is great!

Ashley- Sounds like you are having a ball with those 6th graders! hahaha why would you put Isolated out of all of my songs onto your CD!? My newer stuff is way more legit! haha oh well. You are hilarious. I can't believe you teared up while listening to it haha. Oh sister bear. I heard a rascall flats song on the radio here in albania and it made me think of driving to seminary with you freshman year. Can you say Shockwave?! hahahaha Wow. We are so hardcore.

Kend- Don't worry about sending any sort of special letter! I have gotten all of the letters you have sent now I think! I hope you have gotten mine. I have sent one every week so you can figure out which days you haven't gotten. I hope they eventually get to you if you haven't gotten them yet. Keep up the good work in track! It sounds like you are doing awesome! And thanks for texting back my dad who randomly texted you haha.

So today, we took our district trip to a place called Porgradec. It was BEAUTIFUL! We are definitely going to spend a day there when you come to Albania. It was incredible. I will send some pictures if I get a chance. It was probably the coolest city I have seen in Albania so far. I loved it. We just skipped some rocks at the shore and then walked around and then ate one of the rarest fish in the world! It's called the Koran fish. You can only get it in 2 cities in the entire world! It tasted like salmon. It was really good.

Like I was saying, On Tuesday we had a lesson with Lori and her Mom. It was a really awesome lesson. It's cool because we do it at a members house. The same member who we got them from as referrals. They help the lesson a ton and make sure that the investigators feel comfortable. We always tell the members what we will be teaching about and what they should talk about before hand so that they don't have to worry.

I don't have any more time to say anything because we gotta go! But I love you all! Thanks for being such an awesome family. Peace, Love, Happiness, Misisonary work.

Elder Eckel