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!

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!

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.
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 -- 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!

Elder Ostergaard