Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 34

Oh hey there!? You all should totally check out my Mormon.org profile! :) http://mormon.org/me/4K48/ You all should make some too!

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

I will begin with the questions!

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. How was church this week?

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

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

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

6. How long is church?

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

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

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

8. How many missionaries are in your District?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Life in Albania - Week 33

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

Okay, I will begin with the usual questions!

1. What is Shkoder like?

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

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

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

3. What are your responsibilities as a District Leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Did they figure out the election results yet?

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

9. Do you have any investigators in Shkoder?

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

10. How far is Shkoder from Tirana?

3 hours.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Eckel

Life in Albania - Week 32

Hello hello! I come with some crazy crazy news. I will start with the questions!

1.How were you impacted by the riots and everything happening with the elections?

We weren't impacted that much at all besides the fact that we couldn't go to Fier on Friday for a baptismal interview but it all worked out okay. It was pretty crazy sounding though haha. People were lighting fires in the roads everywhere so that people couldn't travel. Absolutely insane.

2.I知 not sure if you will know the answer to this question but since so many people are upset with the election results and ballot boxes were tampered with, would they do a recall and have another election?

I seriously doubt them doing a re-election. They are doing a recount right now though. There still haven't been results. But if Bosha wins again after the re count people are going to flip out.

3.So tell us what your next assignment is going to be.

Drum roll please............ I will be going to Shkoder! It is the smallest branch in the whole mission. They speak a whole different language there haha. It will be quite an experience. I am excited though. I am going to Shkoder with Elder Roni. I don't know if you remember me talking about Elder Roni before but we have been on exchanges before and I love him. He is an awesome missionary. I will also be the District Leader. There is also some more really amazing things that could be happening but President doesn’t want me going around telling anyone. President has some massive plans for me. Your prayers were answered! There is a really big chance that I will get to be involved in something really exciting that will be happening here soon – but it isn’t for sure. All I can say is that the President is putting a lot of trust in me and I won’t let anyone down if I get to do what he has talked to me about. I am really really excited. I remember a few months ago he was talking about the type ofmissionariesthat would be a part of what he talked to me about and the fact that he puts me in thecategoryof that type of missionaryis a huge honor. It is going to be very very hard though. I was talking to President and I was kinda joking around with him talking about how It will be like Scout Team in football. I told him how getting the crud beat out of me on scout team is my specialty but on Friday nights it is all worth it! My new assignment in Shkoder and the possibility of doing what President talked to me about are like Scout Team in football.

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

They are doing awesome. It's amazing to see the progress of this branch since I've been here. The other day I wanted to go walk down a certain road and as we were walking a guy (maybe in his 20's?) chased us down and asked us if we could teach him English! We obviously said yes. We told him about our course and he came on Saturday! He was in my class and the religion lesson went great. He ended up coming to church yesterday! He said he wants to come to family home evening tonight! Crazy! I don't think it was a coincidence that we walked down that road. I know that God put that idea into my head.

5.How is the English class going?

Excellent as always! More people keep coming!

6.How is the Branch doing? How many were at church this past Sunday?

It is seriously going so well. I am actually really sad to leave Lushnje. Not so sad to leave the companion but very sad to leave the people here. I have grown to love these people so much over the past 7 weeks. I'm ready to take on a new town though.

7.Do the Branch members talk about the things going on with the election?

Yeah they talk about how stupid the government is and stuff. But I guess they haven't said too much stuff about it.

8.When you have to stay in your apartment, what do you do all day?

I have been reading the scriptures a lot in Albanian. I like them better in Albanian than in English. I will probably read the scriptures in Albanian for the rest of my life.


Yeah so I want to go around and meet with some members and investigators today so I don't have much time to say stuff but I got a letter from the Bakers that was awesome ha. I loved it. I guess when Mrs. Baker was at the school selling after prom tickets she gave Sophie a paper and Sophie went around and had people write on it. It was really funny. I loved the things Lucas said hahaha. I miss that guy. Sounds like the song Alexis and Sophie sang was a tear jerker. Glad I wasn't there haha. It's crazy that you are graduating Lex. You are so gosh dang old! I am excited for you all to come to Albania. I know there is still a year left but time is flying by. I don't know. Well I gotta get going. I love you all so much. Dad, I am sorry you didn't get the DVD to work ha. Mom, You da best. Kendy says that she thinks you are hilarious just like me :) haha. Anyways, I'm out! Love you all! Ashley hope you had fun in that crazy place you were at with JD.

Elder Eckel