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 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!

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'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!

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!

Elder Ostergaard