Thursday, December 26, 2013

#24 Christmas Day 2013

Without a doubt, the highlight of our Christmas day was Skyping with Elder Kimball Ostergaard, along with his brother Alex, who spent Christmas with Rachel's family. Having us all back together again, even on the screen, was such fun!! Kimball and Alex's antics kept us all laughing, and it was two hours full of lots of fun! Kimball shared lots of information that he doesn't usually broach in his letters, and we got the clear picture that though he loves us, he is not homesick, but wrapped up in and loving being a missionary.

Fortunately he received his Christmas package, including a camera and a pair of batman pajamas. He loved it! (The camera too, I think.) :)


Here is the letter he wrote after our Skype session.

December 25, 2013

Well hey hey,

Isn't this so good of me to write an email as well as to talk to you today? I was debating it, and then I realized that it would probably be a really good thing. Maybe. We are going on faith here.

But this week has been another ride on the roller coaster of missionary work! A lot of lows, some highs -- that definitely makes you cherish those high moments though! We have a lot of investigators that told us this week that they couldn't meet until after the New Year, so that was too bad.

I think that one of the coolest things that happened this week was this big concert that was put on for members and nonmembers. I was asked to play the piano for the choir as well as the congregational numbers (which was rough if anything, but that's okay). Pirro and Nesa came which was awesome and I think they both had a good time ( at least that is what they told us!). Something that I have been able to see so far on mission is how much members can help with missionary work. One thing that really helps is that they can speak the language -- really well -- and that makes a big difference. Also, I mean, as much as we are real people and everything, I am pretty sure we are seen as a slightly alien species. When people can relate a bit better, that definitely opens up the willingness to let something as powerful and incredible as the Gospel to change their lives. Because really, as wonderful and beautiful as this message of truth is that we have, it cannot penetrate an unwilling heart.

But Christmas! What a beautiful beautiful thing! Even though it doesn't get celebrated a whole ton here, it is still such a very special day. So something that I have been thinking about a lot as of recent is why we even celebrate Christmas. And really, we celebrate Christmas because of the Atonement. Two of my favorite scriptures about this are in Alma 7:10-12 and 2 Ne. 33:6. Check 'em out, they are great.

Well I am out of words. It was so awesome to talk to you and see two soon-to-be new editions to the family! Gezuar Krishtlindjen!

Love you so much,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, December 16, 2013

#23 Hey Momma

Hey Mom,

Well, it is the end and beginning of another 7 days here in Tirona (that is how people from Tirana say Tirana, because we are cool like that. I am really hoping to keep some Tironce in my speaking through my mission and maintain a bit of a hold on my mission roots here.). This last week we had a pretty cool experience, and the first one of its kind for me on the mission here -- Nertila got baptized! It was weird, being as I had not seen anyone enter the waters of baptism before this last Saturday, I had a hard time convincing myself that she was indeed ready for it! But, I successfully did so and was able to see Elder Austin baptize her and the covenants made along with that. The next day I was able to perform the confirmation, which I was pretty nervous about. I mean, I was about to be the mouth for a massive spiritual step in her life...and I am not Albanian, or anything close to it. However, I figured that, seeing as how this is within the will of Heavenly Father, He would indeed help me out so that the Spirit would be unhindered in that Sacrament Meeting. And you know what? He sure did.

This week other than the baptism was pretty rough with lessons and investigators not panning out as we wished for. I guess, what do you do other than try harder again this next week, so we are ready to go out and kill it this week.

I actually had a pretty awesome personal experience last night. At about 15 minutes before we had to head in for the night and end our week's work I was standing in the road and thinking about how much we had not done during the week ( never a thought line you should follow if you want to buoy up your self-esteem). I offered a prayer and just told Heavenly Father what I was feeling. I told Him that I really just wanted to feel like I was contributing something to the missionary efforts in Albania during the past week. I wanted to be able to bear my testimony with power before it was our time to head in to the house; I didn't even require them to be interested, I just really wanted to fulfill my part. That prayer was totally answered and as a bonus we got a number from this guy. Our prayers in faith are totally answered. When you feel like you are at your lowest, turn to your Heavenly Father. When you are at your highest, turn to your Heavenly Father. When you are at any time in between the two, turn to your Heavenly Father.

I got to go on two different exchanges this week. It is always a pretty crazy to see how different people's talents make their way into their missionary work. I am so glad that we don't have to fit into some kind of cookie cutter mold to be a good missionary because I wouldn't be very good at that. We are definitely called into our missions for a reason, so we just have to work to try and fulfill whatever that is.

Love ya everybody and I am so excited to talk to you on Christmas!

Keep it kicking out there! The Book is blue, the Church is true!
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, December 9, 2013

#22 Monday, December 9, 2013

Hey Michigan (as this basically-American-but-still-Albanian-lady-by-descent-and-current-residence tells me every time that she sees me)!

So this week...happened...and it sure happened in a very happening fashion. A couple interesting people that we met this week: Spartak Hamiti, the Guinness world record holder for juggling a soccer ball. He is a character. We were also street-contacting on Rr. Myslym Shyri -- a favorite past-time of ours -- and met this guy who apparently was the world weightlifting champion at one point. We are kind of a big deal now having met such famous people.

We tend to meet a whole lot of people. A good portion of that is that we go contact whenever people are late for or don't show up to their appointments which is not an uncommon thing. That is a statistic that we have been trying to raise (lesson attendance), but somewhere between missionary efforts and lessons/baptisms/church attendance is a line of personal agency. We have the guys in R&D looking at ways to poke some holes in that barrier, but until then I guess I will be grateful for the opportunity that these wonderful children of God have to make their own choices and learn and grow from their own experience.

One cool thing that we got to do this week is go rock babies at an orphanage. We have a set of missionaries go over every week and help out with this and it was great. While I was there and after I thought a bit about how those babies got were they were and what would happen to them afterward. I have definitely lived a life blessed by the Lord to raise me in a beautiful and ideal environment. Because I have in my life what I do (support, security, experiences), that has got to mean that there are people out there for me to help -- and by out there I mean right here in the Adriatic South Mission.

So I just saw a heading on LDS.org that said "Bloom Where You are Planted" and that is actually something that I have thought about a lot within the last several months. It is interesting to be a missionary out here surrounded by other missionaries and all be striving for the same purpose -- even though we are all so very different! I will hear sometimes things about other missionaries who have gone and done great things or are currently doing some awesome things, and that is great. However what really gets me is when they are put up on some untouchable stand of missionary-excellence. It is so important to remember that we are called to the work where we are called and when we are called for a reason. Though it might not be in the plan of Heavenly Father for everyone to have an incredibly number-filled mission (check out Abinadi), but He certainly called us to be where we are for the purpose of serving our Lord and Master with our utmost might and zeal and no language barrier or lack of being in a "golden" area can change that! This is not even just for missionary work at all. No matter who you are, remember who's you are and do your best to exemplify that. When the servant of the Lord of the vineyard in Zenos' allegory of the olive tree asked why a good and fruitful tree had been initially planted in such a poor spot of ground, the Lord of the vineyard responds, "Counsel me not, I knew that it was a poor spot of ground" . You are exactly in the right place and time in existence to fulfill the Lord's plan for you, so do it!

This week I was able to study a bit in Mosiah and I realized again how cool Gideon is. In this part of the Book of Mormon the Lamanites had come to war against the people of Limhi because some of their daughters had been kidnapped and ended getting driven back for the time being by Limhi's people. Gideon, when he learned that both the king of the Lamanites as well as Limhi suspected that the people of Limhi were suspected of this crime came forth and decided to put the record straight. He not only remembered the priests of Noah that were in the wilderness and proposed them as the probable suspects, but I think more than that he looked at their situation in relation to the words of the prophet Abinadi. It made me think about how I look at the world. Do I think about my surroundings and how to act based upon the words of prophets, apostles, and other church leaders? When I must make a big decision do I both study it out in my own mind and turn to the Lord's words to make that decision? I know that it is something that I can definitely improve on and I would really encourage you to turn to the words of the Lord's servants, that is why they are there! He loves you so much and wants to show you in every way that he can that that is true.

Well, I hope that you have a fantastic week and find some great ways to be a better disciple of Christ everyday! I love Elder Bednar's words "The Lord needs all of us...to be...good boys," and I think that relates to all genders.

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Pictures:

Our Mission Conference held on US Thanksgiving Day 2013


Preparation day bowling outing with most of the Tirana Zone

Monday, December 2, 2013

#21 Happy Monday Once Again!

Well hello once again! It is crazy to be here on the computer yet one more time, but yes, here I am still alive in the beautiful country of Albania! Happy late Thanksgiving and -- as Thanksgiving also happened to land on Albania's holiday Festa e Flamurit -- Gezuar Festen e Flamurit! It is kind of a big deal. I say kind of because I am not really sure how big of a deal it actually was. Some people that we talked to did absolutely nothing for this day of independence from Germany and others were celebrating stuff after we were inside our pallat (nothing good ever happens after 9 -- or 9:30 depending on if you have a lesson or not -- so all those people partying were probably actually just reading their scriptures and planning for the next day anyway).

So for Thanksgiving we were able to celebrate at Mission Conference with all the missionaries in the Adriatic South Mission (mostly from Albania, but also in Kosovo and Macedonia). It started out with a training session from President Ford which was awesome as it always is and then on to some other training segments on different aspects of missionary work. Then we ate. That was a good part. Frankly I could have eaten a significant amount more than I did, and I think that I will blame that upon the fact that Alex, Carley, Brigham, and Grant weren't there to try and out-eat. After that there was a talent show where our district did this midget-dancing routine where one in each companionship was the feet and one was the torso and we danced to a version of "I Hope They Call Me On a Mission". (Haha, that just reminded me of that video that we made in our old house of the head, legs, and torso coming together for a family reunion... that was a good video.) Then we ate desserts; I made an apple cake that was delicious. After that the Mission Conference ended with a testimony of all the missionaries that will be leaving at the close of the year. It was way good.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I just decided that I was going to talk about some things that I am grateful for at this time in my life:

-I grew up with the Gospel with parents who loved me, loved each other, and cared enough about me and my siblings to help us learn of and receive the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then to live it.
-I have not been sick since getting set apart. That is awesome. I am kind of planning on that to be the case for the next forever, so here goes.
-I can do hard things. I have been taught this my entire life and it makes a massive difference here! It is pretty dang hard sometimes and it is good to know that I can do it
-Experiences that humble me and help me realize that what I just said isn't true. When times get tough I have learned that with the Lord's help all things can be done.
-The half hour we have to work out in the morning. It is great. Maybe I'll get buff, that would be fresh to death.
-Fasting. It is great. Yesterday I was able to fast for 4 of our investigators in particular that are at a point were we just really want them to make another step, become a little more converted, and come closer to Christ.
-Quiet moments. They area sometimes few and far between, but they are so great and help me to better understand the Spirit and be grateful for everything that is happening and has happened.
-The Spirit. I have thought about this a lot. What could possibly overcome someone in such a way as to have them give us their telephone number after talking to a couple Americans for 45 seconds on the street. I cannot think of any good reason except for maybe feeling the Spirit for that small moment. Without the Spirit this would be a very boring two years because we wouldn't have any people to teach.
-All of the experiences that I have had to prepare me for my mission. They made a difference and someone up there definitely knows what they're doing.
-Warm showers. What a blessing!
-The opportunity to wear a tie every day. Ties are great.
-The Atonement. It is real, it works, it helps me everyday, and it can sure bless your life if you let it!

Well, those are just some of them, but they are things I am really grateful for, so there is my contribution to the table discussion that was had on Thanksgiving.

I love you so much and hope that your week is even better this week than it was last week!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, November 25, 2013

#20 November 25, 2013

What's kickin' in the hizzy back wif da home dawgs? Hey, it is so great to hear that everything is back to normal with the power and everything. I certainly hope that everyone is doing alright back on the home front even with all the stuff that went on.

Well, this week ended in a pretty similar way to last -- with some miracles. During Friday's weekly planning we talked about how we could get more people to church because, well, we have been getting our trashes kicked in that key indicator. And really, investigators coming to church is such a huge, huge thing because 1)the power of God is manifest in the ordinances of the Priesthood 2) it is an awesome to meet members, and members are a lot better missionaries than we are 3) and well, we just like to see them there, they bring a nice ambiance. So we thought about how we could do better with that and the idea that we decided on was to fast for it. So Saturday we started our fast and called a bunch of people. Sunday we had 6 investigators in church which is the most we have ever had so that was definitely an answer to fasting and prayer! One cool thing that happened in relation with that was that on Friday we were contacting and I met this mom and 9-ish year-old daughter (Nevila and Anja) on the road. Nevila said that she was looking for a good place for her two kids to come to church where they could be with other kids. I invited them to come and asked them if I could get a phone number to remind them about it which she said yes to. She came with her two kids, stayed for Sacrament Meeting and then left her kids for the next hour and then came and picked them up. Not exactly sure what the situation was there as I was focused on some other investigators a bit, but it was so cool to see them come and then say that they would see us next week at church!

So yeah, to continue on with that a bit, this upcoming Sunday will be Fast Sunday. Fasting is such a cool, cool blessing and principle and something that I know would benefit you to study a bit before, or as you fast. My favorite scripture about fasting is in Alma 17:2-3 about the sons of Mosiah, you should check it out.

Also, coming up on Saturday we looked at our lessons for the week and saw that we had to get 9 member lessons to achieve the standard once again, so we decided to do it again.

I think the coolest story that went with that decision came on Saturday morning. We had two lessons planned around 11 in the morning and had asked Motra Hanci (this awesome, hilarious lady in the branch who loves helping out missionaries and going to baptisms) to help us out with them. However, as we were calling the lessons as a last minute check a half-hour before, they both fell through on us. We called Motra Hanci to tell her not to come, but her friend picked up and told her that she had already left for the church. Well, we couldn't just let her come for nothing, so we started to call people. After a couple calls that didn't work, I said a little prayer and looked at the numbers and decided that we should call a guy named Ariol. He said that he would be a little late but that he could come, so that was awesome. Then we went and hit the street to see if we could get anyone to come in and learn about the Gospel a bit. We found this old xhaxhi who said yes and so we brought him in to have a lesson with Motra Hanci and us. That was a hilarious lesson, especially when he told us we had better Albanian tha Motra Hanci did (she has false teeth that make her speech somewhat incomprehensible...often I just wait for her to say "Ne emer te Jezu Krishtit, Amen" -- in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen -- and then say Amen back because she ends almost every sentence with that.) After the lesson with him our other lesson came and it was a good lesson with him.

But, we ended up hitting our goal again definitely with the help of the Lord. I think the biggest way to see that for me is that the good goals that we have might turn out in the end, but it is definitely in the way of the Lord and not of man.

Well, the Gospel was true last week, still is this week, and will always be...so live it! I love you so much and hope that you have a beautiful time over the Thanksgiving weekend this week and be grateful for a whole lot of stuff!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

#19 Monday, November 18, 2013

I hope you are doing just awesome today! And that the power comes back soon, as fun as it is to have outages, after a while it can become a bit of a handful. The power here goes out a fair bit, but it usually isn't for very long. Usually just when we are walking down the road and every thing is just way dark and quite...it's kind of peaceful actually.

It is a a very well placed P-day this week, for sure. This week started out a bit rough in the missionary work department as everyone except for one of our lessons didn't come and the other lesson that we got we just pulled off the street (we have been getting better at that as of late which is great). However, as the week went on we started to have more lessons and when people wouldn't show up we would go out and find someone on the road to teach. When we got to Friday night we were looking at our week and decided that we were going to hit a certain mission goal for investigator lessons and new investigators that we hadn't been able to hit yet. We needed to get 5 more member lessons and 2 other lessons.

Saturday -- we didn't have much luck with people coming with 4 lessons falling through. But, Saturday night we decided that we were going to hit that standard. Kaq (Albanian for "that's it", or "end of the thought/point"). We were also really pushing for our investigators to come to church because that is something that we have been struggling with from week 1. So we called a ton of people. I don't like talking on the phone -- with the exception of Christmas and Mother's Day -- so this whole calling people for lessons and stuff thing is kind of a trial for me (especially because supposedly it is a good way for me to practice my Albanian and everything which means that I am in charge of the phone 2 weeks on 1 week off, but I'm not bitter). I had so much adrenaline pumping through my whole body starting from Saturday night and going through Sunday because there were so many people that we were really pushing for to come to church and lessons on Sunday. I knew that either I was either going to be super stoked or way depressed depending on what people's agency to choose whether or not they were actually going to follow through on their commitments.

Well, that depression set in as we were waiting there and waiting there for people to come to church. But then, a member's non-member 15-year-old son who we have been trying to teach came to church! Then Nertila came. Then an investigator who we actually had thought was in Greece at the time walked past and we jumped out and dragged him in. We had been especially expecting and pushing for a girl named Enxhi that we had taught a couple of times and is way awesome to come. I called her an hour before and she said that she was coming. After the meeting had been going for a little bit I called her and she said she was close but couldn't find it. We jumped out and got her and brought her in. Then, we were able to have some member lessons with most of them as they had to go. When we met with Enxhi and asked her about how church was she was super excited to do baptisms for the dead for her sister who had died and we were so excited to see her applying the lessons. Then she basically quoted 1 Ne. 1-6 to us and it was awesome.

Well, so we went to lunch and the Winder's house ( they are such an awesome senior couple! Elder Winder actually slipped coming out of the baptismal font about a week ago which means that he has been pretty out of commission for a little bit.) with 3 member lessons down and 2 to go. I made some last minute backup plans while we were there and we hoped for the best. This guy named Memed came and we were able to have a lesson with him at the youth center and then book it over to the church (about 10-12 minutes) for another lesson...who even though they said they were coming 10 minutes before didn't come or pick up their phone when they were supposed to be there. We had Brother Sula there looking all classy in his suit and tie to help us out and both them and another lesson fell through. We needed that lesson! I turned to Brother Sula and asked him if he could wait for 3 more minutes to which he kindly obliged. We went out there with a determination to have a lesson with someone. Elder Austin offered a prayer and we went crazy contacting. After about 3 minutes we stopped this girl who had seen us before and said she had a few minutes to come in and sit down with us! She was Orthodox and interested to learn about our religion as well as to take part in English course.

Prayer is a real thing! When our purpose is to turn our will to the will of the Father's and to do His work, we will be helped! So yeah, that is my cool mission story of the week and it left us wiped out. P-day was a welcome thing this week for sure.

Today we went for a hike and I was able to take a little bit of time to just be quite, watch and listen. I am living in a beautiful place right now. Not only am I in a beautiful place, but I have a divine calling and obligation to help make this country more beautiful in Spirit. Looking out at the massive expanse of Tirana it is a little daunting, so it is good that we are not doing this huge work alone. I think that sometimes the hardest thing to remember is that even though we are in a city of 1 million, we don't have to see all of them baptized to have done our part of the Lord's work. But we might as well try...

Hey, I love you a lot and am hoping that you are having such a beautiful time with everything! Thanks for being so great and supporting me and all missionaries with your prayers!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard






Monday, November 11, 2013

#18 Edhe nje jave! Another week!

November 11, 2013

How is it all kicking back in good old Michigan? I actually met a family a couple weeks ago that had a Michigan license plate, they split time between Tirana and Rockford and so that was a pretty fun thing.

Thank you so much for the pictures of my man-pris, oh and of opening the door too, that was something that I remember now and again as something that shows how stinkin' easy it is to do service/missionary work/etc. Seriously, all it takes is opening up your mouth, being willing to be awkward for a split-second, and then trying to bless someone's life with what you know or do. You showed a great example of that by asking Jeff to say the prayer in Friday lunch, way to go Mom! You are just rocking that bringing people closer to Christ thing! Actually, a cool experience with that kind of thing happened this week. We met this kid named Enald on the road when it was pouring rain, but he still stopped to talk to us which is really cool in itself. We had a lesson with him the next day and he was super cool and told us that there was this one time he was walking on Myslym Shyri ( a road we contact on a lot) and was eating something and Elder Austin had said "ju befte mire" to him (may it do you well -- it's kinda an Albanian thing) and it had made his day! Seriously, look to do big things, and on the way do little things because those little things might actually be really big things.

Well, this week was one of those weeks where it just feels like you are plugging through and trying your best with little results only to look back at the end and see that we actually were able to do some good! An example of that actually happened yesterday. We had planned out 7 lessons to take place...and all except for two of them feel through (tip:if you are looking to meet with someone in Albania someday, don't try to do it on a rainy day). So we went out to do some street contacting -- we do a lot of that. We had about an hour of contacting with only getting one phone number. We went into the church for a 5 minute break and hit the street again. We were able to get 3 people to come into the church with us for a quick lesson and set up return appointments with them. It is cool to see how the Lord will bless us with little tender mercies when we are trying to do what we are supposed to be doing. It reminds me of Nephi and his brethren going and doing everything that they thought were the things they should be doing to retrieve the Brass Plates. Only after the trial of their faith were they able to finally obtain their goal because that is when the Lord blessed them with success.

Right now we have a couple of investigators who are progressing really well or that we can see a sincere desire in which is awesome! Besjan is pushing well towards his baptismal date on the 23 of November and we are really trying to help him get there. The only thing that we are working around right now is that it can be tough to get him to church, but we are meeting tonight and that will definitely be discussed. he is just too cool and too ready to lose it now! He is 19 and this could be something that blesses his and so many other peoples' lives! Nertila is also pushing to gain that testimony and conversion that she needs ( really, just talking to her she already has a testimony, she just needs to let herself accept it). We also have a lot of awesome other people that we are teaching, but meeting with them is super tough which is a shame.

Maybe this is just because I haven't had a baptism yet, but one of the coolest things that I have seen and felt on my mission is when you have a first lesson with someone and they just seem so ready to receive the Gospel! That is such a cool thing.

As much as being at college helped with getting used to living with new people and everything, it doesn't really hold a candle to the mission. I can definitely see how I will be so much more prepared to be an eternal companion after this! That comes with plenty of its ups and downs that's for sure. I think that the biggest thing I have seen is just making sure that your purposes, drives, and intentions are either the same or understood. I am way different than both companions that I have had in very different ways and I am already seeing myself grow because of it.

My health is doing just great and Elder Austin is doing well enough too though he does have some lingering effects from his parasite.

Love you so much! Have a wonderful week!

Monday, November 4, 2013

#17 November 4, 2013

Well, wow, it is Monday once again. That is pretty crazy! I guess in every stage of life it just seems like things get faster and faster, but that is definitely true here! In fact, yesterday was the 3rd which made it my 4-month mark in the mission and my 2-month mark in the field. Though it doesn't seem I am the missionary I should be for having been here for that long (along with the 19 years that were spent preparing for it beforehand) I think that there is some amount of growth that has happened, and I really do hope so because the work is far too important for that not to be the case.

Well, whether or not there has been any improvement for this guy, that doesn't matter that much, it is the Albanian people that I am hoping see that growth in! I have definitely been able to see some and am always always always hoping to see more of that! It is such an awesome feeling when an investigator or less active member comes into a lesson and has read or comes to church or institute and wants to return! Aaaaah! Po, ashtu eshte (Yeah, that's how it is). But, when an investigator comes in that you can see great potential in and they didn't do anything or didn't seek for that answer that you know they need....Aaaaah! (I understand that it looks, in fact, exactly the same between the good and the bad reactions, however I assure you that it is in fact a very very different reaction. The similarity is drawn from Alma where Alma the Younger is relating the story of his conversion and said that he was "filled with joy as was [his] pain", so they were similar, but really very different, like really different). The day-to-day dropped lessons or unaccepting person on the street is a sad thing, but when I see someone that has received some light and knows some of what there is to gain just not move forward with it, well, it makes me feel like the Lord of the vineyard where he cries "What could I have done more for my vineyard?"

This week was Halloween! That is not a very celebrated thing here actually. There are some kids that dress up and stuff and actually the district put on a party for both the youth and the YSA, but they were very heavily American influenced, and you don't even see Halloween candy on sale here ( I know, right?) We did go over to the Lakaj's who lived in America for 10 years and had a little Halloween party which was fun. Another crazy thing, there aren't any Christmas things up yet here. That is a news flash I am not in Midland, Michigan anymore! Do to the fact that the culture is very much so Musliman and that just a rather unreligious culture in general, Christmas here I guess is not a very big thing. Good thing there a a lot of American missionaries around who can help fill that part of my heart as it comes closer. And Mom, I don't believe that we have anything like Thanksgiving here, however, the mission all gets together and celebrates it, so it's all good. The only holiday that I have really seen celebrated here is Bairam (a Muslim holiday) and all that really happened that I saw was people going around saying Gezuar Bairam ( literally meaning "rejoiced Bairam")

Well, tomorrow at Zone Training Elder Austin and I have to give a training on finding because that is an area of missionary work where we have found a bit of success as of late, so I hope that goes well! Here are some thoughts that I have had while preparing for it that really relate to all of missionary work:

1. Francis of Assis said "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words." What an awesome look at the simpleness of missionary work! All it might take is a smile and looking like you care (and hopefully to accompany that with actually caring). It is amazing how much this is forgotten though! If any missionaries are reading this, hear you me, if you think that mumbling hellos and considering your time well spent if you are just outside, that is so wrong! Be preaching the Gospel in every single thing that you do!

2. Have the Spirit. I guess that this should have probably been written first because it is the most important. "If ye receive not the Spirit, ye shall not teach." Yep.

3. Care. This was mentioned in bullet one, but it is huge. These people are children of God and have real futures in and past this life. They will not receive a fullness of joy without the Gospel. You have the gospel. 1+1= Do everything within your power to help them get that message!

4. It isn't going to always work. Christ was rejected, the only perfect being that has ever lived or will ever live on this earth. He is the Master Teacher and always had that right thing to say that would just have to make people understand that they needed to get baptized and have beautiful in-the-covenant babies with their eternal companion....but they didn't always.

5. We are called to teach those that will accept us, which in turn means those that will repent and hence those that will meet with us and keep commitments. Search for those elect. However, in the midst of searching for the quality, you will have to wade through the quantity. I remember Dad saying that Abinadi was the greatest missionary in the Book of Mormon other than Christ himself. He had one known convert. One. But in order to find that awesome golden one that was Alma the Elder, he preached to the masses! There is a section heading in PMG that says "Talk to Everyone." Do it.

So yeah, those are some of the thoughts that I have been having about missionary work lately. I hope everything is going just awesome at home and that the entire city of Midland ( though especially you Mom) gets over that whooping cough. Love you so much and hoping to do you proud out here!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, October 28, 2013

#16 October 28, 2013

Happy Monday (Gezuar e hene) from Tirona 4th Branch!

It sounds like things are just going awesome back home, except for the sickness and stuff, but you are definitely keeping busy with good things, and that is awesome!

This week we went in and did some work to get our leje qendrimi (allowance to stay) at the American Embassy. Albania has a law where basically anyone with a passport can come in and be here for 90 days without problem. After that though you have to go pay like 50000 leke ($50) and fill out a form to stay longer. That went by without a hitch, so it looks like I am going to be here for a bit longer!

Well, this week we had a mini-transfer ( they happen in the middle of every 3-month transfer) and usually not a whole lot happens, but this time there was quite a big change around. I am still in the same place with the same companion, so not a whole lot of anything is changing in my day-to-day routine here until January. I think that I found that I really tend not to worry about changes as much as other people do. Maybe I should...but I guess I kinda just figure that whatever happens happens and the work has to be done no matter where we are or who we are with.

One thing that I have really been noticing over the last two months, we teach the Restoration lesson a lot. Like, a lot. I mean it is fantastic doctrine and everything and is what really sets the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apart from every other religion in the world, however, it would be so awesome if those people who received that lesson would understand the importance of continuing on! I totally feel like Alma felt as he proclaimed his desires to be an angel and share the message of Christ with the entire world so that they could not miss it. I think however, what is something that I should be striving for more however, is to strive to be like Nephi ( the one at the time of Christ) where it is written that he spoke with the Spirit so much that people could not not believe his words. I might have mentioned that in a letter before, but that is just something that I really strive for.

Last night we were teaching Pirro, a 72-year-old xhaxhi (old man) and trying to get him to commit to baptism. He loves church and in the lesson he told us that he knows the Book of Mormon is true, that we have a living prophet named Thomas S. Monson, and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. But even after that he will not commit to be baptized! He's orthodox and he has always been orthodox, and his parents were orthodox...TRADITION! (dadadaada dadadaada dadadaada dadadadadaaaa) We have tried to explain it in every way with the scriptures and such, and last night in our struggles ( it was a 2-hour lesson...don't do this at home children) we even had President Kashari of the Mission Presidency help us out and that was awesome, but right now he just has to get that answer and use his agency. We had him commit to ask the simple question, "should I get baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?" in a prayer last night, so we are going to call and see how that went. Oh Pirro, you need to see this need! This is eternity we are looking at here!

We do have some other investigators that are doing really well though. Besjan (19) and Ina (20). We are just plugging away at the lessons with them and really trying to help them repent and come unto Christ through Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. Sker and Pamela are also great. We are going to be teaching them the Law of Chastity here pretty soon, and they are an engaged couple, so that could be rough. I would really appreciate some prayers on their behalf, and so would they, they just don't know it yet.

Well, I love you and pray for you back home! Keep busy doing the best of things!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, October 21, 2013

#15 October 21, 2013 (pictures too!)

Well, it is the start/end of a another week here in the field! We were able to have a more number-wise successful week than we have yet which was great. I mean, numbers don't matter and everything...but if we could have 1 investigator in church or 2 investigators in church, well 2 is a lot better. Even though we were able to do better though, I feel like there is still so much more that we could be doing! Aaaah, it seems like there is always work falling through the cracks of our inabilities! We are pretty good at finding new people to teach, but then actually meeting with them regularly...well that is something that definitely needs improvement. So does working with the members. I guess I just feel kind of kot going and visiting those that already have the Gospel blessing their lives...though they do also need it too especially here in Albania. Everyone can use spiritual boosts, but in trying to fill the bucket with the big stones first (the best things to do in missionary work), it is pretty easy to forget that once those have been put in, there are also the littler good stones that can fit in the cracks afterwards. I guess we are just going to have to get better at it!

Exciting story of the week, we had our phone stolen! This guy called us and was like, "Hey, me and my buddies are interested to learn about your church." They met us at this park, and we sat down on a bench to teach them a bit. One of them said that their friend was a waiter in the restaurant at the edge of the park and he was going to go get him because he was also interested. He was gone quite a while, so the other guy asked to borrow our phone to call and see where they were and walked over to the restaurant while doing it...and when he was out of sight we realized that we were not going to be seeing that phone again. The sadder but wiser missionary for me I guess! We are no longer supposed to let anyone else use our phones -- but that wasn't going to happen again anyway.

So, we do spend a fair bit of time with the Winders. They are the senior couple called to the Tirana 4th Branch as BYU-Idaho Pathway missionaries (the online study program for BYU-I). Elder Winder is also the 2nd counselor in the Branch Presidency, and since President Beleshi can't speak any English and Elder Winder can say just about Pershendetje (hello), faleminderit (thank you), and si jeni (how are you), missionaries are needed for translating in meetings and when he speaks in Sacrament Meeting. In their assignment as missionaries though, they are mostly working with Albanian young adults who can speak at least a good bit of English, so they are able to do that without too much of a hitch. They are great and we love the Winders a lot!

We found this 19-year-old cun (boy) on Rruga Durresit (Durres Road) about a week ago and we brought him into the youth center to have a lesson with him right then and he wasway cool. His name is Besjan and we had another lesson with him a couple days later with Elder Winder there with us. We committed him to a baptismal date and then got him to come to church which was great. He came to 2 hours with us and then left (I think that he thought it was kind of boring), but I really hope that we can help him to get a testimony of the Book of Mormon and then work down a road of conversion. We need more active, tithe-paying Priesthood holders here! There is a Halloween party here in Durres this week for the YSAs, so we really want to get him to that. We have also been meeting with some other really cool people and need to get them to act on the good feelings that they are having and meet with us more and then get baptized, etc.! I might have said this before, but I am so grateful for agency and everything, but sometimes I just really want to make others understand that when they fik us (turn off the phone when we call), there is something great that they could be having and experiencing!

Happy Monoversary Mom and Dad, you are great and I love you so much! I hope you get feeling so much better here and soon Mother dearest and that you can be able to do all the things that you want to be doing. Oh, and I would love to know what all of the songs were that Brigham played for Showcase (or rather waved his arms around in the air for)! I am sure that it was ballin'! I saw that they did Coldhearted again ( thanks Dad!) and that is a way good song. Sounds like Grant is doing just great and that is way cool that Tyler and Colleen were able to come out and stay with you the last couple days!

Keep it real and keep the faith! Kisha eshte e vertete dhe ne duhet t'ua tregojme ate atyre!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard
This is a look at Shqiperia (Albania)from Krui. Tirana is off to the left, but you can't see it from here.

Apparently Kimball proving he is a wise man who has built upon a rock. :)

The Tirana 2nd and 4th Branch Mission District.

These are suflaqes, yep, I will probably be talking about these at home.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

#14 October 14, 2014

Hello, how are you my friend?! (The greeting from just about every Albanian who thinks they know English -- kinda like a red-headed American kid trying to speak Albanian...)

Well, it has been another week already, crazy crazy stuff! If I were back in the states, we would have already had a transfer cycle. Here in the Adriatic South Mission transfers only happen every 3 months, but this one is a month longer than regular because the new missionaries come in on January 3rd I believe. This week has been a lot better for us numbers-wise. With us white-washing at the beginning and then the hospital stuff, we haven't been able to do as solid with our numbers. This week though, we have really been able to dig into the work a bit more than we have been able to to this point and it has been good. Pat on the back and everything...but still there is so much more we can be doing! We were able to get a lot of new investigators and we will still work to keep that teaching pool up while we help all of these people walk that path towards baptism and covenants afterwards.

One thing that is kind of tough about the work out here is getting members to come to lessons with us. I never really thought about that too much in the states. But really, most of the people who are willing to come to lessons here are girls, and whenever we have a lesson with a girl we need another man there. I guess this problem is all over the globe probably, that whoever is just an awesome member missionary or someone that would be good for a lesson, is also really busy. All those good people just seem to have things to do all the time! But hey, it's cool, I guess we are just going to have to reactivate a ton of Melchizedek Priesthood holders and baptize some cuns (boys) so that we can take 'em to lessons with us.

Our zone had interviews with President Ford this last week and that was really awesome. He is a pretty incredible man and I am so glad and blessed that he is my mission president (well, for the first year). The thing that really stuck out to me from his interview with me was that he was happy with the work we have been doing as a companionship. I tend to be pretty hard on myself when it comes to expectations, and at nights most of what I can think about is what I could have done differently. So when he seemed pleased with our efforts, it caused me to take a step back. We aren't perfect. And not only are we not perfect, we won't be perfect ever in this life. When it seems that sometimes I can only do my best or that I can't even do that, I, as well as every other missionary in the world, was called to my mission not as a perfect being, but as a flawed creature who is totally reliant upon the Savior to do anything of great worth. Those people who I just can't seem to get the right words out fast enough with, I didn't just kill their one chance of receiving the Gospel. Everyone will receive the Gospel in the time, place, and way that they need to. If we are doing our part as missionaries to do our best and rely on the Spirit, sometimes it might even be with us (those are my favorite times).

Well, that is just about it for this week! Go be a member missionary even more than you already are. If there is something that I regret from before the mission, that is it. Be a great example, and don't be afraid to be more than that too! This is the greatest message in the world and we are so blessed to have it -- but there are a whole lot of people that we love that don't.

May you pass well.
Love,
Elder Ostergaard

(#13) Week...I have no idea...I have already lost count...maybe numbers aren't my thing

October 7, 2013

Happy Monday after Conference weekend! What I have seen and understood so far has been so good! There were three sessions that we went to at the 2/4 Branch building that were translated in Albanian --so comprehension was...limited -- but then for P-day today and probably next week we are listening to parts in English. One of the ones that such out to me that I have listened to is President Monson's Priesthood Session address on Home Teaching. I had a lot of thoughts , so here are a couple:

1. I really regret not being a better home teacher. Like really, Home and Visiting Teachers, today is the 7th of the month, that is not too early to call up and make an appointment and see how you can help. In fact, better today than tomorrow and better tomorrow than the day after. That little part of the vineyard that the Lord has granted you to watch over is crazy important and you need to always remember that.

2. I thought a lot about being an Elder's Quorum President last year and the massive emphasis that we put on Home Teaching. That was a huge learning experience for me, and the times were I really tried to take the needs of those who I had stewardship over and treat them as I would treat my own needs, that is when I felt the power of heaven really come in and make a difference.

3. Albania...doesn't really have home or visiting teaching. I don't know what I can do to help this, but I am really going to see what I can do to help at least the area I am in with this. It is a powerful way that Heavenly Father watches over His children and takes care of their needs. I was talking to a guy in his early twenties on the road who asked the question why God would allow people to suffer if He was really there and He really cared. He is really there and He does really care, and that is often shown through the deeds of other of His children. Let Heavenly Father work through you and try to be the answer to someone's prayers. It will bless you as well.

We had two investigators come to Conference which was awesome! One of them is this xhaxhi named Agim who was initially found by the APs and then given to Elders Racine and Lee who were previously in this area. I guess they had had a lot of trouble getting him to church because they would offer to come pick him up and he would be like, "no, I know where it is" and then wouldn't come. So, we didn't really offer--we kind of just told him that we were going to be there to walk with him to conference. When we got there, he came out and answered the door and said that he would be over in half an hour. We told him that we would stay and wait to walk with him, but he didn't let us, so we went back and started to watch conference...and he came! As much as we can't impose on people's agency, it is our duty to do everything in our power to bring people to Christ. I think the more and more we do this as missionaries, the more people will recognize the Gospel's importance and draw unto Christ.
I have been getting better at contacting! That is actually really good, because the usual percentage of numbers to first lessons is...well not very good. People here often won't tell you if they aren't really interested or, by the time that you call (usually the next night), the excitement of you being American has worn off. We are probably going to have to start calling earlier...

I hope you have wonderful time in Utah, Mom! That is going to be a really fun thing I am sure! Tell Alex and Carley I say "hey" when you see 'em! I hope the Hales' was tasty and that the discussion was enlightening.

Well, I love you so much and think about you when I allow myself the time to! Keep doing great things back there in the states!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, September 30, 2013

#12 September 30, 2013

Well pershendetje another time from Albania!

Another week is in the books...weird. So, Elder Austin got out of the hospital, and then the next day the APs told them that he was going to be with them for the next few days until he recovered from his hospital stay, so I was back on a split again for the next few days. On Friday we rejoined with orders to keep it easy so that I don't kill him. Well, more or less.

We are really wanting to be working with more less-actives. This is good for several reasons. First of all, a baptism that isn't retained is a waste of time because the most important part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the enduring to the end. Second, we are really pushing to get a stake here in Albania and right now the biggest hindrance to that is active, worthy, tithe-paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders. If we can re-activate the members that are already there, that would be an awesome way to fill in that need. Third, there are a whole lot of Less-Actives, like a crazy huge amount. Fourth, the more lessons we teach, the faster I learn, and also the more lessons we teach....the more lessons we teach...and that's awesome. This is actually a bit harder of a task than it would seem though for a couple reasons. There really is not an address system here, so finding people is an art form. Along with addresses is phone numbers, we do not have a whole lot of them. So it is going to be a bit of a task to accomplish this, but hey, we're missionaries, we can help!

We have also been working to get investigators that we found contacting as well as one that we were passed down from the last Elders towards committing to a baptismal date. I think one of the hardest parts of this is that the people that we are teaching are not missionaries which means that they have lives outside of the Gospel. It is kind of a pain when trying to schedule lessons and get people to Church. Well, I guess once they recognize how awesome our message really is, those will be easier appointments to schedule. So, we need to be teaching with the Spirit and letting them feel the power of the message. I think it is an Albanian thing to talk about unrelated things during lessons, or at least things that aren't important to the lesson. This has been a bit tough for me as I have really been trying my hardest to invite the Spirit in and testify boldly to be met with a comment about something else, but I guess we need to be focused on bringing others closer to Christ and that is a step-by-step process. This happened a bit while we were trying to get Lidi to commit to a baptismal date and I think she was a bit focused on my broken Albanian. I am okay with the fact that I will learn in the Lord's time as long as I am putting forth the effort, but sometimes I think I let some impatience sneak in when it seems like it is interfering with the work. But that's okay, I will grow, it works out.

One thing that I realized that I haven't written (at least I don't think I have), is that everyone smokes here. It is crazy actually. It almost helps though from our standpoint, because there is no little automatic judgement because of it. I feel like in the states I would have a lot easier time talking to someone that wasn't smoking and here I realize that everyone can receive the Gospel. The other Elders in our branch are actually working with a guy right now who is down to like 3 or 4 cigarettes instead of 70--the Gospel has power and it will just keep getting better!

Well, it is good to be able to say hello and see how things are going down back on the homefront! Congratulations to Brigham on Homecoming Court, that is way cool! Also congratulations to Grant on winning his soccer game 3-2 as the wounded goalie (though I do hope that his achilles feels better). I also hope that you are feeling so much better today, Mom! Headaches and congestion are not the funnest thing, or even the second-funnest thing. I do not remember that exchange with someone at the MTC , by the way mom. Well, go have another crazy week, because it wouldn't be very fun any other way!

Me dashurine nga nje djale i kuq ne Shqiperi,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, September 23, 2013

#11 Jave tre ne Shqiperi! (Week 3 in Albania!)

Hello from Albania!

It has been another crazy week out here in Europe as will be every week I am sure! Elder Austin has spent the last 5 or so days in the hospital which means that I have been with Elder Macen whose companion Elder Hald is in the bed adjacent to Elder Austin. Hopefully Elder Austin is getting out today though, so here's hoping! But it's okay Mom, I have already decided that I am not going to get sick here, so everything is under control for me.

We went and taught this lesson about the Plan of Salvation a couple of days ago to some recent converts and that was an interesting experience. We didn't have the Plan of Salvation pamphlet on us as we had both given ours away that day, so comprehension wasn't as great as it could have been. After on of the ladies we were teaching was not understanding why we weren't talking about Mary at all and there was quite a bit of loud talking (it is kind of an Albanian thing...especially on the phone), I just had this thought to look in the cabinet right next to us as we were in the Church. In it I found these Plan of Salvation pamphlets which we gave to them, bore testimony of the truth of what was written in them, and asked them to read them at home and that we would meet with them again about it. I don't think Elder Macen thought it was as cool as I did, but I was like, "Elder, that was definitely the Holy Ghost that gave me the thought to look in that cabinet!" Even with the small things, the Holy Ghost helps us do what we need to do and it is pretty cool!

Something that I have been learning here even more is that the gift of agency, while one of the greatest gifts ever given to us by our Heavenly Father, it allows us to make our own choices--what a pain! Just sitting there in Sacrament Meeting and hoping every creak of the door is an investigator, I am thinking, "Come on! Don't you know how much happier you could be with this in your life?" And I guess most people don't, but that is why we are here. I wish that every time I was saying hello to someone on the street, talking to someone form the hallway of the pallat they live in, or training to explain things in lessons that they could just -- know. They could feel what I know they could feel with the Gospel blessing their lives and the lives of their children. I guess that is why we need the spirit though. Elder Bednar says that being a missionary is "a whole lot more about who you are and what you do than anything you ever say." And I guess I sometimes get a little impatient with myself because I don't feel like I can afford any time as a mediocre witness of Jesus Christ, but at the same time, He knew what he was doing calling me to come here at this time. I have a lot to learn and a lot to do, but that's okay, that's why I am here.

Well, love you so much and I will be thinking about you this coming week!

Elder Ostergaard

P.S. Just got a call from Elder Austin and he is actually going to be out of the hospital in the next 2 hours or so!


Here is a picture of a Turkish toilet...that was a pretty interesting experience...


A Saints and Soldiers shirt in a dyqan here! This and Imagine Dragons was playing in a store...Mormons are everywhere!


L to R: Elder Austin, Elder Hald, and Elder Macen in the Greek Hospital.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Photos September 16

Alright, here are some pictures:


Elder Hald, Elder Macen, Elder Austin, and me in the church after coming through a ton of rain.

















Elder Austin and I in front of Skenderbeu, the national hero.






A bunch of the new missionaries the first day in the country in the Mission Home.

#10 September 16 2013

#10 September 16, 2013
Well hello hello!

Another week has come and gone in the country of Albania! It seems, as usual, like everyone is pretty crazy busy out there still! School out here actually just started today which is pretty crazy, but hopefully that doesn't impact our YM and YW numbers in church and activities. It is good to hear that everyone is doing well though and that Dad made it back from his trip finally!

Alright, so one thing that I have been struggling with this week is that on the first 12 weeks training program, we are inside like all the time and it seems like we have very limited time out there actually finding, teaching and baptizing. But, I guess I need to just take a chill pill and study because that is what the Brethren set up. This week, though we did have a ton of lessons fall through, we brought 3 investigators to District Conference which was great! Lidi and Sokol are a mom and son that we met on the street. Lidi is a teacher which means that work started today and Sokol is probably 27 or so. They are way cool and seem really excited about the Gospel. We actually met the dad on the street randomly too, and though he is way nice, I guess he isn't super interested, but we will still work on that... We also brought Pirro who loves coming to church and that was cool. However, the first half of the meeting I was basically just sitting there praying really hard that all of them could feel the Spirit so my comprehension level was way down. We had an area seventy speak (I don't exactly remember his name, Elder Charles or something like that) and that was way good.

We are starting to get a little better hang of the branch and are doing some work with less actives which will hopefully go up this week. Right now we do a lot of finding, which is just great, but finding is only one of the things that we are supposed to be doing right, so we are really hoping to broaden that spectrum a bit.

Elder Austin has been having stomach problems for the last 3 or 4 months and we have been going over to get tests done a fair bit this week, but on Tuesday he has his last consultation (we hope) and hopefully he can get back to feeling normal again!

I have been thinking a lot about being bold as of late. It is a balancing act that I am trying to learn and implement. I don't want to be overbearing, but I definitely don't want to be swept under the rug everywhere or else no one will know how they can find the road to eternal life. I guess I just really want to be an effective missionary, or else what am I doing in this place that is definitely not America but I obviously am? No way am I willing to settle with doing what will get me back from my mission, or what is considered pretty good. There is so much more that I think could be done. And maybe I just don't understand the limits of missionary work...and I guess quite frankly I am okay with that.

Well, I guess I will talk to you next week! Love you so much Mom, Dad, Alex, Carley, Brigham, and Grant and I will so you in a while probably with an exciting assortment of ties.

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

#9 First Week in Albania

#9 September 9, 2013
Dearest Mother and whomsoever you share this with,

Happy Monday and hello from here in Albania! I hope you are having a wonderful time back stateside! It sounds like everything is going just great with everybody and that life continues out there without me...that is probably a really good thing. Congratulations to Michael for booking it out to the MTC on Wednesday! I hope he has a great time.

Mom, I was actually just reading Jacob 5 not too long ago as well and that was cool to see that you also had a really cool experience reading it. It was actually pretty cool, Elder Linderman's family has an orange grove and he was telling me about it and I was thinking about how similar it was to the olive tree parables. I guess there are olive groves out here in Shqiperia, so that is something that I would love to go out and learn about and visit sometime.

Well, I am in Albania. Weird. But really, it is pretty crazy here. The first day that we got in we went out and did some contacting with a missionary in Tirana and then had interviews with President Ford. I was actually surprised that my communication was better than I thought it would be (that is not to say it was good, but I was expecting a lot worse!) . We then spent a night in a hostel and came back the next day to the mission home. I was assigned to be with Elder Austin from Idaho Falls and we are going to be serving together in the Tirana 4th branch for the next 4 months or so. He is great and has been in Albania for 6 months which is pretty young for a trainer, but that's cool. The plan is to work the city like it is 2013, and well, I think we can do that! We have done a fair bit of street contacting because that is what he has found to be the most effective form of contacting here, and Albanians are just funny so I have a good time with that! I am able to at least get a point across to people but quite a bit of the time he has to do the listening for me because my comprehension is not where it could be yet, but I am working on it! Here in Albania at night people just kinda go out onto the streets and walk for couple hours so it is perfect for contacting people. People confuse Elder Austin for an Albanian all the time, but that is not going to happen to me...ever. I think that almost plays into my hand thought because I stick out and that draws peoples' attention. I really am trying to become good at the language too because when Americans (who Albanians love) learn to speak Albanian (something Albanians also love), well, Albanians love that.

I have never been to Mexico, but from what other missionaries are saying, Alex and I are going to have some stories to swap when we get back. Addresses don't exist here and everyone lives in these 8 or 9 story cement pallats. Police here are kote fare and don't do like anything, but the roads run incredible safely in the totally crazy way they do for it. I don't really know how to explain it, everyone just kinda drives everywhere that is open and you only look out the front window of your car. your horn is a warning to other people that you are there rather than a signal of anger, it is just different. I can already tell that I am probably going to walk in front of a car and die in a couple years back in the states, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it! Bread here is bought at these bread stores and it is only like 80 cents a loaf (800 old leke or 80 new leke...it is the same money but they just call it different things...it is pretty crazy) and that is pretty great. Other than that I had my first 2 sufllaqes the other day which are a big thing here and are basically a pita with a shaved beef and some other stuff in it all wrapped up in a paper with fries on the top and kos (this milky cheese stuff that I guess is everywhere).

Because of the craziness of this last week (me coming in, my comp is the District Leader, and we are whitewashing Tirana 4th) we only had 3 lessons this last week. One was with Pirro Dilo, a xhaxhi (an old man though it literally translates to uncle) who doesn't get why he would need to be baptized again so we are working with him on that. Another was with some non-members that were brought to church, so that was good because we also had several members there. Another was with Ada who is 16 and her mom just got baptized but she I guess has not been super active. Two of the Markaj kids were there with us on that one. They are ballin' and I am huge fans of them. They are these three siblings who are 16, 19, and 21. Their parents aren't members and live about 2 and a half hours from church but are there every week. They are so cool and I am so grateful for their examples.

Well, I think that is it for this first week in this crazy but wonderful place that they tell me is Albania!

Love you,

Elder Ostergaard

Friday, September 6, 2013

Arrival at Mission Home

Kimball arrived in Albania on Wednesday, September 4. President and Sister Ford are pictured here, as well as an Elder that we presume is his first companion, Elder Austin. He has been assigned to serve in the Tirana 4th Branch for his first transfer.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

At the Airport September 3, 2013

On their way, these three Elders are departing from SLC airport today and plan to arrive in Tirana, Albania tomorrow late morning.


Elder Kimball Ostergaard, Elder Jonathan Hald, Elder Chase Acheson

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pictures!

The other day, Elder Ostergaard's mom and Elder Acheson's mom contacted each other and realized that they had common friends! Since Elder Acheson has taken photos and sent the memory cards home, and since their friend works at the MTC and takes weekly pictures of the missionaries, they sent some on to us to enjoy as well. I will share a few here.

Elder Kimball O eating lunch al fresco:

Elder GQ Ostergaard:

Elders from the Adriatic South Mission holding up the flags of the four countries in their mission:

Elders Acheson and Ostergaard with some Sister missionaries:

The companionship points to their mission on the world map:

Elders like toys too! Obviously from a fun care package.

That's all for now. But FUN! isn't it!

#8 August 29, 2013

Hello, hello, hello! For the Last time from the MTC!

Well, it is getting close here. Whoa. It kinda feels a lot like I am about to leave on my mission again from an extended, really intense EFY that has no focus on girls. I mean really, 14 of us are about to jump on a plane and fly across many waters hopefully with our craft being tight like unto a dish and start sharing the best message in the world in the limited language of something I started learning 8 weeks ago yesterday. The Church is true! Haha, but really even though I really don't feel ready at all, I think we are ready to go out and do the work of our Savior. We have been working for this our whole lives and well, hopefully in this baptism by fire we don't get singed too bad!


Mom, I guess we get to call from the airport (maybe that is something I should have been expecting but I had no idea) so I will be getting a phone card and doing that. Dad says he will be on the road probably then but that you could conference call with him and that would be awesome. We have to be at the Travel office by 4:30 Tuesday morning and our plane leaves from SLC at 8:30. We go from SLC to Dulles in Washington DC with United and I think from there we fly Lufthansa (I think that is what it is called and I know President Uchtdorf flew for them) to Munich and then to Tirana. We will be arriving in Tirana at 11:15 A.M. (Tirana time)on the 4th.

Really quick before I forget, there are 2 photos today that I am including. One is of Elder Acheson and I in front of the Provo Temple today on our last P-day in the MTC. The other one happened yesterday. Our district was helping to host new missionaries, and in the process my pants ripped on a door. So, last night I pulled out my sewing kit (because I decided that I am a man and real men can sew up their own pants) and mended my pants. It is way noticeable and it is actually a navy blue thread on the dark gray pants, but I am way proud of it!

Mom and Dad, thank you so much for the package! That was so fun to get today! The pictures were just awesome and I love that I can now look at the fam which is so great! Elder Acheson was also really happy about the licorice, so thank you for that! I am also excited to be able to use that watch when I am being more active!

Consecration Week went well, though it didn't feel like it was enough for me! I was actually dreading speaking English again because I feel like I learn so much when I don't, and now that I don't have to press 1 for English again, well, let's hope I am not any worse than I possibly have to be to communicate the Spirit in Albania! I mean, I know that the Spirit doesn't require words, but I am sure that being able to actually say words won't hurt that!

Elder Hald is actually the District Leader for the other Albanian District, so that is way cool that Sophie knows his sister! He is actually an opera major at BYU right now, or rather he was a couple months ago until he took a couple years leave of absence.

Well, I guess I will be talking to you in a bit Mom and Dad, and I will be writing again soon (though it might not be until next Monday because those are the P-Days in the Adriatic South Mission). Love you so much! Kisha e Jezu Krishtit e Shentorëve të Ditëve të Mëvonshme është e vërtetë dhe unë kam një nder shumë madh të jem një misionar për Shpëtimtarin im. Mos harronin çfarë Krishti ka bërë për të gjithë njerëzit dhe për ty!

I am praying for you out there in the crazy world!

Elder Ostergaard


Friday, August 23, 2013

#7 August 22, 2013

Hey Mom!

I am so glad that you are having such a wonderful time out there in Michigan! Haha, that is so funny that my name came up in conversation! I would definitely be lying to say that that does not make me excited and glad that I am remembered in the legacy that is Dow High Band! (and I am trying not to lie, that is not very missionary-like!)

Congratulations once again on your anniversary! I love you and Dad so much and I hope that you have a wonderful weekend up north. Dad has two great counselors, Brigham and Grant are mature enough, and the Dow High Band has 400 parents to help out, you don't have to worry about everything being okay on the home front!

So this week I got to play piano for a duet of sisters who are headed to Argentina on Monday. That was fun, we tried out last week and got a notice to play in the West Campus New Missionary Devotional that was yesterday, so that was very exciting! The song was “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” and really it was just them singing (three verses in English and one in Spanish) and me playing the top hand of the hymn book and making up notes that were in the right chord (most of the time) in the bottom hand with a key change at the end. I know now more than ever that there are fewer and fewer people playing piano if I am the one to go to for a special musical number!

One of our teachers (Vëllai Eckel) just had his last day of teaching us before leaving for California with his wife yesterday, our travel plans should come today (they have not come yet, but maybe in a later mail truck), and Consecration Week started today. That is a lot of changes in a week for the fairly predictable life of a MTC missionary! Consecration Week is a week where we really are trying to consecrate and dedicate ourselves to the Lord. I will only speak in Albanian as of coming out of the Temple today to the time that we go back into the temple next Thursday...exciting! It is going to be a tough thing, but I know that I can go hour by hour and word by word. I mean, Elder Scott blessed us with the Gift of Tongues according to our faith and so I expect as such! This week is also meant to help us discover the most important things that we need to be doing as missionaries as well as the things that we need to improve upon to be better servants of the Lord, so here goes! Ne mund ta bëjmë këtë!

This week I was reading, and I am not sure what got me to it, but I came across the phrase "learning, even by study and also by faith" in D&C 88 and I was just thinking how I could better learn by faith. I was then reading in the Preach My Gospel about how we need to begin and end every study session with prayer, something that I really need to be better at! How am I supposed to expect the Gift of Tongues or any other gifts of the Spirit if I am not willing to include the Spirit and Heavenly Father in on my studies? I think that is what learning by faith is. We need to be studying and working as if everything depends upon us and then hitting our knees and pleading with Heavenly Father as if everything depended upon Him. Learning by faith is pondering as Nephi did 1 Nephi 11 and President Smith did in D&C 138 before, during, and after we seek to learn of answers by ourselves. This is a principle that I am really trying to become better at because it is so important!

Oh and Mom, because we only have one more P-day until we jump aboard the airplane, I need to start thinking about extra stuff. When I am packing and making sure I am hitting the weight limit, I think that I am going to put extra stuff in a box and put it through the dry cleaning people to get to Carley/Marsha who I hope can then get it back home. If this plan has a kink, please let me know in next week's email.

Hmmmm, other stuff I need, I am not sure. I try not to be very needy! The photos will be great though! Could one of those be a wallet-size that I could keep with me? I dunno, I just love getting anything! That is so wonderful of you to do that!

Well, I love you so much and am really hoping that I can make you proud. That even though you really don't know exactly what I am doing, you will know that I am trying my hardest to be the best missionary that the Savior and I can be!

Ju dua shumë!
Elder Ostergaard

Thursday, August 15, 2013

#6 August 15, 2013

Dear Mom,

I have indeed been getting letters from Grant and I just got one last week from Alex and Brigham! I hope they have gotten my responses to those as well!

Man, as busy as everything seems out here, it seems pretty downright crazy back there on the home front! It seems like time just keeps on moving faster and faster for everyone everywhere and the only way to stop that is to not do anything ... and well, there is no way that is happening!

Well mom, it was really interesting to read about your experience with your television show, because I had a somewhat similar experience pretty close to when I came out as well. I was watching one of those detective shows on Netflix and it was fun and I liked it quite a lot. However, the material became progressively more down a path I did not want to go and I just decided that I was not going to watch that show anymore. It was kind of hard at first because when I got home from work or was making necklace pendants for you I wanted something to watch. However, the fact that I decided that that was something I wasn't going to watch (and finding a different show) really made it possible and making it a thing in my life that was no longer a choice but rather a fact made all the difference. I think that that is super cool that you were willing to do that because those small things are pretty tough to do sometimes.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad once again! I hope that you have a wonderful time up there next week! At that time we will actually have started our Consecration Week which means just Albanian for a whole week (P-day to P-day). The language is getting better and better though I don't know if good is really a good descriptive word of how it is sounding. But really, everyday there is improvement in comprehension, speaking, listening, and reading. This is definitely an inspired program here to help us learn!

Actually, a reason why I have a ton of faith that the language is going to come came this Tuesday. Elder Richard G. Scott gave the devotional which was just incredible. He talked to us about communicating to Heavenly Father and that was a phenomenal experience. Not only did I learn a ton and my testimony of prayer grew, at the end he actually pronounced an Apostolic blessing upon all the missionaries learning a language that they would be able to receive the Gift of Tongues according to their faith. I guess that gave me some more homework as a missionary! So the plan right now for studying is: study the language, study the Spirit, keep going through the Book of Mormon, and study for lessons. Even though studying is most of what we do here, there is not enough time in the day for it! Obobobo, I am really banking on the help of my Heavenly Father because without Him I am just another guy with a really cool nametag. I see the need for His help even more every single day.

Another incredible thing that happened this week was that we got to go to the Temple today because the Provo Temple just opened back up! What an incredible experience! I am so grateful for that opportunity that we have as members of the Church to go and participate in the sacred ordinances of the Temple! I just come away feeling so good!

Well, I don't have a whole lot of time left! I love you and think about when I am not being overwhelmed in a wonderful way with learning!
The Gospel is true!
Elder Ostergaard

P.S. thank you for the Pics Mom, I didn't have any from home!

Pictures are of me with the whole Adriatic South mission here at the MTC:

Me and da flag:

Elder Baker (a missionary in the other district) and me:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

#5 August 8, 2013

Dear Family,

So this week has been another for the books! I was asked to serve as District Leader for the second half of our Missionary Training Center stay and so I hope I can do well in that capacity with the Lord's help! The language just keeps a-coming and hopefully we are exactly where the Lord wants us to be at this point in the process. It is really cool though, I was just reading the Book of Mormon in Shqip [Albanian] this morning and it was so much easier to comprehend than even earlier this week. Rules and different concepts are just clicking a bit better and "a vash a vash edhe hap pas hapi" (slowly, slowly and step by step) I am becoming more proficient. It is a wonderful thing to look at improvement and blessings that have been received over a time!

It was awesome to receive that package with all of the notes, cookies, and watch! Thanks a ton! Mom, a cheapie watch might be good, but don't stress about it too much, we don't even wear watches here during gym. I also loved to get some updates on other missionaries! Welcome back Addison! One of my FHE sisters is going into that mission [Zambia Lusaka] really soon here and it was cool to have been able to tell her that she was going to love it and that my cousin was getting that field ready for her!

Just yesterday I was studying truth a bit and once again found that scripture in Doctrine &Covenants that talks about how knowledge is light and truth, and when I was thinking about that it made me think about the First Vision which I have been saying over and over again in Albanian to get it really memorized. The pillar of light that Joseph saw over his head --the knowledge-- "descended gradually until it fell upon me." He saw this light, this truth, this knowledge and line upon line, precept upon precept, the knowledge came to him until he was bathed in the light. That is a pretty cool thought! More often than not the Lord will let the sun rise instead of flip the light switch. In this way we learn everything, and that is a pretty comforting thought. [Truth and light is given to us gradually for us to comprehend, not all at once to overwhelm us.]

Well, I don't have much time left, but life is good! The new cafeteria here started serving hot food for every meal on Monday and it is way good! Oh and Dad, today we actually got Pho [Vietnamese noodle soup] which wasn't really at all like the stuff at home, but it was still good!

I love you and I will talk to you in a week!

Elder Ostergaard

Thursday, August 1, 2013

MTC Address

In addition to the email posted, I also received a hand written letter from Kimball today in the good old mail box. I was interested to see the return address on the letter is a bit different than the address he first gave us, and even different than the one on his hand-written letter to his brother last week. Probably any or all of them will get to him, but I am going to list today's below. I will be sending him a package with his repaired watch and a few notes from some people in our ward. Of course he would be ecstatic to receive hand written letters (even packages) from anyone else as well! This address will be valid until September 3rd, I believe, when he is expected to fly out to Albania.

Elder Kimball Ostergaard
SEP03 ADRTCS
2023 N. 900 E. Unit 808
Provo, UT 84602

#4 August 1, 2013

Jave Katër Është Ndaluar (The fourth week has ended)

Well hello everybody!

Greetings once again from the West Campus of the Provo MTC! We actually hit our half-way point in the MTC on Saturday of this week...which is kind of exciting and kind of freakishly terrifying me out of my mind! Haha, I mean, I know I don't have to be fluent or anything before I hit it off in the field, but that wouldn't be too awful either! It is pretty cool to see the progression in our learning though! We have at least 5 progressing investigator lessons a week as well as the TRC, so seeing how much we improve in conversation and being able to relate Gospel topics is way cool! I am getting better about trying not to get hung up on saying something a certain way but to search for a way to say it with the words I know.

I was thinking about why we are here for 9 weeks and the Spanish Elders are only here for 6 and I think I have it -- noun declensions. I did not know what this was during my years of Spanish or English. In just about every language that I know of you have to conjugate verbs which is definitely something to get used to (Whether it is in past, present future -- or in Shqip if it is in wishing tense, etc. -- and who is doing the action). While we do this in Shqip, we must also look at every noun and alter it according to whether it is the subject, indirect object, direct object, plural, singular, indefinite, or definite. In all, there are 20 different forms of each noun, though only about 12 of these are distinct.

We also learned a while ago that we do not need visas! That was pretty exciting. I guess not very many people go to Albania and they want whoever will come. Albania is the Mexico of Europe I guess, so Alex and I might have a bit more in common in our missions than we thought!

The daily schedule here does change depending on the day of the week, but usually not too drastically. I get up at about 6 (we have to put 4 Elders through the shower by about 6:35) and then we go get some breakfast. After breakfast we have class for 3 hours where we will learn Albanian, do some Gospel Study, and teach our progressing investigators. Then we have about an hour of study time where we can study whatever we think will help us most to become better teachers, and then we have lunch. -- Quick note about the food: We just got the new cafeteria opened up this morning here in the parking lot of Raintree and it is way nice! We will be having the same sort of cafeteria as Main Campus except smaller, but it is way bigger than the temporary one we have been using. With this new cafteria, they are going to be able to multiply the number of missionaries here on West Campus because there are still a ton of buildings in Wyview and Raintree that are vacant and are being prepared for missionaries. -- After lunch we have another 3-hour session of class, and hour of Gym (there is basketball, sand volleyball, Katër Katror-- 4-Square, and trashketball -- where a bunch of people juggle a soccer ball into a trash can), TALL (Technology Assissted Language Learning), dinner, some more anything study time, and personal study time where we just focus on Gospel topics rather than the language.

Some more about Elder Acheson: he is a former Timpview T-Bird and a politician through and through. I guess that I had always thought that maybe deep down I could have maybe been a politician, nope, I have realized that I do not have what it takes! In the picture a couple weeks ago I think it looked like he was taller than he really is. Elder Acheson isn't a short guy, but I am probably at least 3 or 4 inches taller.

Well, it sounds like everything is going on just splendidly back at home! That reunion sounded like a blast and I am excited to get the shirt!

Ju dua shumë dhe uroj për të qenë misionarë më i miri që unë mund të jem!

Elder Ostergaard