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.