Monday, April 25, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 28

So what uppppp?! I will start with the questions.

1. Have you started playing your music out on the street yet?

Yeah, We went out and gave it a shot. It was actually pretty cool. We played a few songs together and then Elder Mugleston continued to play some violin pieces that he has and I just started talking to people in the road. People actually came up TO US instead of us calling them over. It was a really cool idea. We had some ideas to make it better but we haven't had the chance to do it again yet. We will probably give it a shot this week again.

2. How are you doing with the people you are teaching now?

It's going pretty well. I will tell some stories about it in the body of the email.

3. I have noticed a few times where you have talked about people going to Greece for the summer. Is this like the popular place for people to vacation – like how Ohio people go to Florida and Hilton Head? And why do they stay so long?

haha yeahh kinda.. but not really. People in Albanian hate Albania. They are super prideful of their country but they always talk about how terrible their country is and how they wish they could get out of this jail cell. There is no work here in Albania, and no way to get out. Until about 4 months ago, people from Albania couldn't leave Albania unless they snuck out or got a Visa which was INCREDIBLY difficult. If they had the chance to get one, they left and never came back. But now, Albania is "kind of" part of the European Union. They are kind of a partial member. They are allowed to go to other countries for only 3 months at a time. In between each time they leave and come back they have to wait 6 months before they can leave Albania again. So people have been leaving Albania a ton lately and Greece is the closest place that costs the least money to travel to. People try to go over there and get a job for 3 months. Even though it is against the law for them to get jobs there as part of the European Union rules. I'm guessing that the European Union is going to kick Albania out after they figure out all of the people taking advantage of the system.

4. How many people were at church this past week?

We had 11 at church yesterday. It was a really great meeting. The senior couple that was in Elbasan came to Lushnje and gave talks. They both talked on Families and Temples. They gave great talks and the spirit was incredibly strong.

5. I know you said they don’t really celebrate Easter in Albania – but would the members of the church celebrate Easter? Or they don’t because their country doesn’t.

They kinda celebrate it. On Saturday we colored eggs as a branch activity. it was pretty fun. It's definitely not as big of a deal here as it is in America though.

7. How is the weather? Are things warming up?

It is getting pretty toasty over here. It was really hot yesterday. I don't really know what the temperature is cause we don't get any weather updates of any sort but it's getting hot.

8. Do you have to drink bottled water?

We either drink bottled water or filtered water. Our main sink in the kitchen has a filter built onto it and so we can drink the water from the filter.

9. What is your apartment like? You said you live in the church? How does that work? It is probably pretty convenient!

We actually live in a house. On the first floor we have a family room and kitchen. Upstairs we have the main room where we have church and stuff. We have a big bathroom and then we have a bonus room thing, and then we have our bedroom. It's a pretty big house. Especially according to Albania standards.

10. When do all of the new missionaries come? I remember you saying that a big group was coming in.

The new missionaries are already here. They got here when the last transfer began. (When I got to Lushnje)


Okay so I will go through some stuff that happened this week.

So I found out that Sister Braha (the woman in Elbasan that I started teaching) is getting baptized on Sunday! Super exciting stuff.

haha this week our mission played a game of mafia over the phone ha. It was really fun. The mediator selected 2 mafia and one detective and then like 7 towns people. Elder Mugleston and I were a townsperson. (we did it in companionships) and each day was a real live day in the game. So we would put in our vote every night and would get the results. Then the mafia would kill someone during the night. We would call each other and talk and stuff during our lunches. It was pretty fun. The detective was killed the very first night by the mafia but the towns people still pulled it out and won! It was cool haha. It made those 5 days pretty interesting.

So this week we were out teaching with one of our members. We went to the family that we have been teaching and it turned out that their sister was in town. She lives in Austria. We ended up teaching her the first lesson and it went super well. She really seemed interested and we hooked her up with the website and how she could find the nearest church building to her in Austria. It was a really cool experience. The family is also doing really well. I don't know their names ha. I should probably figure them out.

We had some success in our English class this week with this girl named Livia. She is a little 10 year old girl and she comes to church pretty much every week. She is getting closer and closer to baptism every week. I hope she gets baptized while I'm here but we will see what happens.

I got a little package from the Bakers with some sour candy! It was delicious haha. Thanks!

I also got a letter from my friend Carter from BYU and it was hilarious! I was laughing so hard. He told me about how Jail was. Yes he went to jail haha. It was hilarious.

I ALSO got a tape from Kend. It was also really funny. I was laughing pretty hard during it. It was good to hear from Kendra lou.

Ashley, thanks for sending the birthday messages! And yes I did find that email! I accept your challenge!

Alexis, sounds like you had fun with Sophie over the week. You are soooo close to being graduated. That blows my mind. Craziness I tell you. I still picture you as a sophomore.

Brian Martin- you better write me back! haha. I'm awaiting your letter :)

Well I gotta go but things are going better. Thanks for your prayers. Peace Love and Happiness! and Andrew McMahon!

-Elder Eckel

Monday, April 18, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 27

Hello hello. How goes good ol america?!

I will start out with the questions!

1. How has your week gone? Has it gotten any better?

Yeah things have gotten better. I have gotten to know some of the members here better and they are pretty cool. It's just so different from everything else I have done here.

2. If it hasn’t gotten any better, have you talked to your companion about working harder?

I had a talk with my companion and things have gotten a little better. I guess I will have to take it up a little at a time.

4. How is the English class going? You said 8 people came last week. Has it stayed the same?

English course is going well. The same people usually come. 2 of the people want to get baptized so that is pretty awesome. One of the girls who wants to get baptized said she wants to wait til she gets back from Greece at the end of the summer. I hope she gets baptized before she goes.

5. How was church this week?

Church this week was better than last week. There were 13 people there which was a pretty good number for Lushnje.

6. Do you have the members speak in church like we do here in the states?

Yeah. We normally have 1 talk and then we do a sunday school lesson and then church is over. Church is only 1 hour here in Lushnje. Yesterday I bore my testimony because the girl who was supposed to speak didn't come. It went pretty well though.

7. Did you like the soccer jerseys we sent you in one of your birthday boxes?

Yes! Thanks a ton. They weren't the ones I was originally talking about but I really enjoyed them. Everyone thinks i'm soooooo cool haha. Okay, they don't really. But it's all good.

8. How far away is the city you are in from Vlore?

about 1-2 hours.

9. How was your birthday dinner? Am I a better cook than your companion???

My birthday dinner was amazing! You are a great cook mother haha. You both cook differently and both of the meals tasted completely different but they are both delicious!


So this week was better than last week. I have one pretty cool story to tell. So this week we went out to one of the surrounding cities of Lushnje with a member. We went to go check up on an investigator who wanted to stop smoking. We were pretty disappointed because he wasn't really wanting to stop smoking. He was just all talk. But it turned out that this drunk man was there at the same place we were who wanted a ride home. The member we were with (Rajmond) let him in the car. We took him to his house and he asked if we wanted to come in his house. I didn't really think it would really be worth our time to go in but we went in anyway. His wife was there and she was so happy to see us and was way more interested in religion than the drunk man haha. We started talking to her and she was talking about how she reads the Bible every single day. We talked to her about the Book of Mormon and gave her a copy and she started to cry a little bit. She said "Today is my birthday and this is the first birthday present I have ever gotten in my life." It was so awesome. She gave us huge hugs and said that she would start reading that day. It was a really amazing experience.

I really don't have any other cool stories to tell about this week. My companion plays violin and during our lunches we have been putting together some little songs with him on violin and me playing the melodica. We are planning on doing some street tables and to get people to come to our table we will play songs in between teaching. I think it is going to be a great finding idea. These are some ideas that I have come up with to get him out of the house to find people haha. But hey, I will let you know how it works.

Things are slowly getting better. I hope you are all doing well at home. Your prayers have helped so thank you a ton.

I don't have much else to say. I have learned some awesome recipes and am becoming quite the little chef ha.

-Elder Eckel

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Happy Birthday to Austin!

When did this sweet little face grow up? Today is his 20th Birthday! A lot of you are writing on his facebook wall, which he won't see for another year and a half! If you want to leave him a birthday message (or any message for that matter), please do it on here so I can forward them to him in my next email! He would love to hear from all of you!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUST! We sure are jealous that those Albanians get to have you today :)

Captions from Austin:
The first picture is of most of the youth in Elbasan. Just like Everywhere in ALbania, most of the branch is made up of females. Males are very very hard to get to accept the gospel.

The second picture is of my best friend in Elbasan! Besiana! I love that little girl. She is so awesome.

The third picture is me with the Zeqja family. I love them all so much. I will miss these people!

The fourth picture is me with the Kume Family and then their cousins/ aunt.


Photo 1: District bowling
Photo 2: swinging haha we had fun in Pogradec today. That place is awesome.
Photo 3: District Photo. We have such an awesome district. Period

Life in Albania - Week 26

Oh hello! How are ya'll doing. Oh yeah you are on a cruise doing great haha. Well I'm quite the opposite right now haha. Anyways, here are some questions.

1. Are the Albanian bowling alleys like ours? Is the game played the same?

Yeah haha. There aren't many bowling alleys here in Albania but it is the same as back home. But they don't know how to take care of their alleys haha it's pretty funny. They don't grease the lanes at all. So if you try to put spin on it, you pretty much just go straight into the gutter. It was fun though. Elsbasan obviously won! :)

2. Did you rip a hole in your suit pants during the Saturday Branch activity? You mentioned that you messed up your knee because you were playing in your suit. Just wondered if you needed a new pair of pants now???

Only a small one. I already got it fixed haha. It was on Monday night and we played an awesome game of kick the can. I am competitive in Albania too! haha.

3. Does your mission have a “mission song?”

We do! It's called Consecrate Thy Life. It's a pretty cool song

4. Do you get to play the piano much?

I get to play every once in a while. I have learned one hymn so far. I can play I need thee every Hour perfectly now. I am going to try and start learning a new one pretty soon.

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

Motra Braha: had 2 lessons with her that went extremely well. I actually called them on the phone to make an appointment and they picked up and said that they were in the middle of doing family scripture study would call us back after family prayer. (Awesome?! Yes!)

Jona and Oli- Oli said she wants to get baptized for her birthday. May 22! Bam! Success!

Besiana (little cute girl that I love and that is my best friend here in Elbasan)- Her parents said she can probably get baptized for her birthday. Her birthday is in December though. I hope I can come back to Elbasan for it. Success? Yes.

Rimi- Told us he couldn't make the sacrifices necessary to come to church and said he won't meet with us anymore. Success? No.

Family from KorÇa- Amazing! Came to church even though it's a 3 hour drive!

6. Did I hear Conference yet?

Yes! Well. Only the first session that you guys saw. I loved it. It was amazing. I am so excited for my friend Austin Tyler. I'm sorry. Elder Tyler. He lives in Ft. Collins Colorado! Ballin!

I am hoping to see the rest of it pretty soon. I will probably see it in Albania before I see it in English but I will eventually hear it.

1. Did you get your packages yet?

I did! thanks a ton! I loved the muffins! and best of all was the famous Lenahan Beef Jerkey! That stuff is delicious! I am definitely going to buy that stuff when I get back home! Thank you Lenahans! I also got a package from the Bakers! It was awesome! I loved the cards and letters and treats. And of course the pink bunny slippers haha I think those were from Sophie? I don't know but they were pretty funny. I have been wearing them all over the house. Thanks Sophie haha. You know my taste in slippers so well.

2. How far away from Elbasan is Pogradec? When do you think they will send missionaries there? Is there a branch yet? If not, where would they go to church?

It is about 2 hours. I don't know if they will send missionaries there for a while but there is a city that is an hour past Pogradec called Korca. There are two members that live there. They found the Gospel in Greece and now they live in Korca. President Neil gave us permission to go to Korca to visit them and see how they were doing. We went and met with Alban. He is awesome! He took us to his home where we met his family. His family made us home made pizza. It was delicious. Alban is the only member in his family BUT his Dad started reading the Book of Mormon and wants to take the lessons from us and get baptized along with the mother. They are awesome. Although there aren't missionaries or a church in Korca right now, there is a good chance that it will open up while I'm here. And who knows, maybe since I know that family, I will be sent to open it? I don't know! Guess what?! His family and 2 others came to church yesterday! So awesome!

3. Do you know if they will open up Kosavo (sp?) for missionaries?

They will open it. It's just a matter of when. There are already members there and a senior missionary couple. I am sure that eventually missionaries will go there though.


Okay. Transfers happened. Everyone was positive that I was going to stay here in Elbasan. I was hoping that I would stay. I love Elbasan so stinking much. I have made so many great friends here and care about and love the people so much here. I have found out that I am going to be transferd to Lushnje with Elder Muggleston. Lushnje is a city near Vlore. I dont' know if you remember but I have served there for one day. I went on an exchange there. To tell you a little about this place, the house that I will be living in is also the church. There are hardly any members there. In fact, Church only happens once every other week in Lushnje. Weird I know. As for my companion, I don't know him very well. Anyways, I am sad to leave Elbasan and my little girlfriend here haha she is super cute. I will send you all a picture of me with her today.

I hope you all have fun on the cruise. I pretty much talked about my whole week in the questions. I leave tomorrow for transfers. I hope I am not wanting to kill myself by next week when you hear from me haha. I love you all. Have fun, and live it up in the sun. Thanks for the pictures you sent. You all rock.

Kendy - I am going to try and get you a decent size letter today but there are tons of stuff I need to do before I leave Elbasan and I can't make any promises. Well I can make one haha. All the free time I have, I will be writing you okay? But besides that, I have to apologize for the 2 weeks of short letters in a row. The good news is that I have heard there is nothing to do in Lushnje which means my letters are about to get a lot longer haha. Anyways, hope you have a great week. Tell Garret to bring on the questions. I will give him all the advice I can. I don't know if I'm the best person to ask for advice though haa. He should ask Greasy Greg for advice.

Well I will send some pictures but besides that I'm gonna go!


Elder Eckel

Life in Albania - Week 25

Hello there family! How the heck are ya'll!? I will start out with the questions!

1. You mentioned that nine missionaries are coming pretty soon. That is a lot – do you have 9 leaving or are you going to have more missionaries than you have had in the past?

Actually only 1 is leaving this transfer and so yeah we will be able to open a few more areas this transfer. But next transfer 14 missionaries are leaving! We find out about transfers this Saturday! I hope I stay really bad. I love Elbasan!

2. Do Albanians celebrate Easter? I’m guessing not since there are so many Muslims.

Eh.. Not really. And by not really, I mean no haha.

3. How is Arjeta’s Mom doing with her lessons? Is she still planning on getting baptized?

We actually just had a lesson with her about 3 hours ago. She is doing awesome. Her baptismal date is now for the 23rd of april. We are so excited for her! The lesson today was awesome.

4. How are Jona/Oli doing?

They are doing well. They didn't come to church this week either but they are progressing and continue to have great questions for the concepts which we teach.

5. When you got the package from Baker’s – were there pictures in the package of when all of you were really young?

There were only a few pictures. I was only in 1 of them but there was one of Ash and Colin when they were young. Good stuff though! ha

6. Oh – I can’t forget the big question – how is the language coming? Have you learned any new phrases, words, etc.?

Of course! I learn new words and phrases every day and from what I hear, my language accent is getting better. I have progressed a lot this transfer.

7. Did you do a Family Home Evening yet for the branch?

Yep! We have done one every week for the past 3 weeks. In fact, we just finished one an hour or 2 ago. It was awesome! Besides the fact that I busted my hand and my knee open, it was a blast! haha. I guess that's what happens when you try to play kick the can as if you are in gym clothes when wearing a suit haha.

8. Are their 4 missionaries in your branch?

Yep! But we think another area might be opened here this transfer. Elder Merepeza and I are leading the mission right now in numbers every week and Elbasan is the strongest branch right now. President will probably take advantage of this time and throw some more missionaries here.

9. How is Olsi doing?

He's doing good. He came to a branch activity we had on Saturday night and I think he really enjoyed himself. His dad isn't too up for the idea of him coming to church yet but hopefully things will change.

10. Do you know where your new Mission President that will be coming in July is from?


11. Will you get to watch General Conference next weekend?

We get to watch it online from what I hear. I'm not sure


Okay. This week was way awesome.

I will start with the fun stuff!

On Wednesday, we had a training in Tirana. President told us to wear t shirts and jeans. We were all a little confused but none the less we followed the orders haha. So we get to Tirana and have the training which was awesome. I have come to find that I am way better at the language than I thought. And we learned a ton about how we can be better teachers. We were still confused as to why we wore these clothes. At the end, President said: "Okay Elders, this may sound weird, but I had an Idea in the shower the other day that we should go bowling" hahahaha I love President Neil. He is so awesome. So bowling we went! And then he treated us to lunch. It was awesome. But then we made it back to Elbasan to do our English class. It was a nice stress reliever though!

Today we took our district trip to Pogradec again! I love that place. I can't wait till missionaries get to go there! I hope I can serve there! I got some awesome pictures but I don't have time to send them now. I am gonna make a CD of all my pictures and send them to Kendy and she can shoot them over to you all!

Now for some bad news... So for the last week and a half we haven't been able to get in contact with Marinela (the perfect investigator). We got a little worried and so we went to her house. We knocked on the door and saw that someone came up and looked into the peep hole and then walked away. We left and then called one of the members in our branch who is really good friends with her. We came to find out that Marinela's father freaked out that she was getting baptized and won't allow her to come to church, get baptized, or even hang out with her 2 best friends who are members of the church. Lame.. Pray for her. I'm hoping that someday when she is old enough to make her own decisions, she will still be in a position to accept the Gospel.

We had an amazing turn out for our branch activity on Saturday. Man.. I can't even tell you how fast this branch is growing. Actually, yesterday the other Elders had 2 baptism's. President says that he puts his hardest working missionaries in Elbasan. That was a really nice compliment to hear.

Tonight we taught the second part of the plan of salvation to Motra Braha (Arjeta's mom) and she is so awesome. She has so much faith in the church. Some of these members hang on to the church like it is all they have in the world. That is how it should be. It's amazing to see Motra Braha put her faith in the Book of Mormon and just allow faith to fill the gaps of her questions and confusion.

This past week the Zone Leaders came from Durres to do an exchange with us here in Elbasan. I was with Elder Roney. His dad owns Nuskin! He is a way awesome missionary and It was really nice to be with him because since I wasn't with an Albanian people understood me so so so much better and it just helped my self confidence a ton. He told me my accent was really good for how young I am in the mission. I guess I have Elder Merepeza and Heavenly Father to thank for that ha. But Yeah, I really enjoyed my exchange with Elder Roney and people are saying that he is probably going to come to Elbasan which means that I might get to be his companion!

So I hear the world is coming to end these days? Ha well if that's the case, I can't ever say I love you enough eh? I love you all. I mean even if the world "ends" I have faith that we will all be fine and together but still it's nice to say I love you ha. Alexis, I did love that story you told about Sophie! That's awesome that she stuck up for our church. Sophie. You rock haha. Anyways, I hope that all is well with you all but I need to get going. Elder Merepeza and I still have some work to do tonight. I am sorry for these short emails but I know the work we are doing here is more important. Okay wait haha you are all more important but It's not like I didn't email you at all! ha

Kendy, I am sorry but my letter to you today is SUPER short. Shpresoj qe nuk u merzite shume! S'kisha kohe fare.

I love you all! Keep on Keepin on. Evan Baker, You are my lover. :) Steve Sobanski. I want to hear from you man! Hook me up with your address and I'll send you a letter! Brandon Sharkey- I sent you a letter.

aiofjweoifjaweoifweaj I always leave the internet cafe without saying something that I wanted to say and then I realize it once we are back home. So I'm sorry! ha I will start writing down things I want to say. Mom and Dad, I love you! You rockkkkkk!

Life in Albania - Week 24

Well hello everyone. This week has been a wave of emotions for me but what else is new? haha
I will start with some questionsssssssssssss!

1. Ta da . . . . how are your language skills coming??

Ha they are coming. Avash Avash (slowly slowly) but they are coming haha.

2. How often do new missionaries come to Albania?

Every 3 months. There are two week intervals in between each in group in the MTC

3. How many usually come and when will the next group be coming?

It changes every time. Last time only 2 missionaries came but this time 9 are coming.

4. If you were an office elder – do they really keep you in the office for 6 months?? That is a long time.

Yeah you stay in the office for 6 months cause you are in the "small desk" where you learn how to do the big stuff for 3 months and then the person who has been there for 6 months leaves and you take the big desk for more months and teach the person in the small desk. But yeahh ha it is a long time. We will see what happens.

5. If your MTC companion is an office elder now – was that where he started?

No.. He has only been there for about a month now. If I get put in the office, I will get to serve with him for 3 months until he leaves! That would be the cool part (that I get to serve with him again)

7. How many miles do you think you have walked since you have been out on your mission? J

a ton haha. I don't know.. Maybe 1000? I don't know

8. Do you like when we ask you questions??

Yes! ha Keep em coming!


Okie dokie! So this week was a good one.

Last week during family home evening one of the members (Arjeta) came with her mother. Her mother is not a member but she has been coming to church lately. We talked to Arjeta and asked her if she thought her Mom was ready to take the lessons. We thought that she was and so when we asked Arjeta, she said she agreed with us that her mom was ready. So, we have started meeting with her. We watched the restoration film last week and it was awesome. The spirit was really strong. Sister Braha said she was ready to get baptized! So now we are going to continue doing lessons with her. We can only meet with her 2 times a week though because her husband doesn't really like it when we come a lot. Success? I think so.

Rimi- Didn't end up coming to church this week but he claims he had to stay home to watch his nephews because the parents were gone. Because he lives in town outside of Elbasan, it might be a legit excuse ha. Anyways, we are going to give him one more chance to come to church this week and if he doesn't come we are going to have to discontinue lessons with him. He is a great kid but unless he comes to church, he can't get baptized or progress in the road of the Lord. We have been keeping up with him and seeing how he's doing and he has been reading and praying so that is good.

Jona/Oli- We had 2 lessons with them this week and we talked about the plan of salvation with them and gave them Alma 40 to read. They said they are going to make a list of questions for us to answer this week and they are loving reading the Book of Mormon and feel the spirit while they do it. They are progressing very well too. Church seems to be the issue for everyone.

Marinela- we are having to move her baptismal date to the 3rd of April but things are going great with her. She is truly one of the elect that was waiting to be found! She accepts all invitations we give her and she comes to everything that she can. She has had some problems with her father and extended family the past few weeks but we hope it won't put a dent in the work.

Olsi- He is the boy we met in English a while back. He is a great kid. His dad told him he wasn't allowed to read the Book of Mormon but then one night Olsi went to his dad (without us asking) and talked to him about how he really wants to read it. So things are going good with him. This week we will be teaching the plan of salvation with him.

That is just about all of the investigators that we have.. I think haha. I don't know. There are little ones that come and go sometimes. But yeah. We went back to that family from Greece this week but they are already back visiting Greece. We won't be able to meet with them for a while. I hope that they come back while I'm here.

Anyways, I was sad to hear about the product but hey. I'm just happy that Michael is okay. That is a scary thing.

Yesterday, we had District Conference in Tirana. District Conference is kind of like stake conference but since we don't have a stake, it's called District Conference. All of the members in Albania were there and some AWESOME talks were given. We had 2 investigators there and it was a massive success. It was cool because I got to see all of the people from Vlore. Unfortunately Alseda wasn't there so that was kinda sad. The missionaries have said she is kinda having a rough time right now. I Hope she can stay strong in the church. It was funny though cause I never realized how much the people in vlore liked me until yesterday. When I got there, they were all going crazy. One of the girls (she is 12) haha saw me and started sprinting at me. I knew a hug was coming and I couldn't avoid it so I just put my hands straight up in the air (the It's not my fault type of hands in the air) and said in albanian "S'kam faj fare" (I have nothing to do with this) haha it was funny. All the missionaries were dying and my face was bright red. Once she realized that her hug was a one way deal she stopped haha. It was pretty funny though.

I'm glad things are going well back home. I got a little package from the Bakers! It was awesome. It had some really sexy pictures of Evan in it. (His senior pics) Dang that kid is hot. I better hide them though cause if the Albanian girls see the pictures, they might attack me for them. Plus, I want to keep them to myself haha. Go Bucks and Cougs! That would be awesome if they played each other.

Well that is all the time I have to write today. I hope you all enjoy your week. Live it upppppppppp!

-Elder Eckel