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.

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 is the same money but they just call it different 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