Monday, December 15, 2014

#74

Salutations dearest people,

I sure hope that you have an incredible day today and have had a incredible week!

This past week has had a few rough points as we have been really trying to help a few people be ready to enter in at the gate of baptism before the end of the year, and all of them fell off. So that has been a bit difficult, but, we are going to cut it to shreds this week and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everybody! It is interesting how the Lord places in front of you different tests just at points where you think you are getting the hang of certain things and you realize that you don't really know how to do everything. It definitely helps you recognize your need for growth and continual help.

Gerti, the 19-year-old kid with the mohawk that was baptized earlier this transfer, finally got the Priesthood yesterday. He also just left this morning for Germany and will be living there for several months it sounds like. Crazy. I have worked with Gerti for a longer time than any investigator/previous investigator on my mission as I found him the very first day that we got into 2nd ward with Elder Lee. After 5 and a half months he finally holds the Priesthood of God. Cool stuff.

I am so sorry for the shortness of this note, but I am not exactly sure what all to saw about this week. Stuff happened I think, but it is all kind of jumbled. I love you so much and am excited to talk to you in a bit!

Love you so much family and I know that the Lord does too!

Elder Ostergaard

Today's P-day activity, went to Lezhi. This is Skenderbeu's grave the national hero of Albania. You all probably haven't heard of him because he is Albania's national hero, but here he's a big deal.



















This is from when we drove up to Kosovo, we are probably a little dangerous at the wheel while taking pictures, but it looks good.
















This is at this big round about called Zogu i Zi (The black bird) in Tirana. It is a really busy place in Tirana and the mission rented out a time segment on the jumbotron there. Every 3 minutes a 20 second ad for He is the GIft is shown with a picture of missionaries on the side (Elders Davis and LInderman, they are the Assistants to the President). It is super cool!

Monday, December 8, 2014

#73 Vermont must be lovely this time of year, all that snow.

Dear Family,

I am having a hard time deciding how to write this letter to you. There is a strange mix of emotions, a key component of which is stres (that is Albanian for stress) and just working to have the necessary faith for the will of the Lord to be fulfilled.

I actually do have my package! In fact it came in on Thanksgiving. It was crazy fast, and so it is sitting in our apartment right now waiting until Christmas.

So Dad, you need to make sure that you are keeping me updated on how Brigham and Grant are doing in swim. Brigham, you can totally destroy 23 seconds this year, like, no problem. Grant, you need to get into breaststroke and get into body-builder condition (it really helped me in my breaststroke to have the muscle definition of an Arabian stallion, so work on that).

During MLC we were asked by President Weidmann to limit our family talking time to 40 minutes, so just a heads-up on that. I am excited to talk to you guys! That week we will be having Preparation Day on Thursday as well as the week after, so don't expect a letter on the 22nd or the 29th.

So in our work right now we are still working with this fire under us that lets us know that goals were set with the Lord and the final hours of those goals are drawing near. We are trying to do everything we can in order to help our zone be the best that they can so that more and more people are helped by the message, especially in this exciting Christmas season. Sometimes it feels like we are spinning our wheels and especially those who do not have the vision that we do are very difficult to nudge forward. However, something that has been incredible to see are those missionaries that just let that fire kindle inside them and have seen miracles happen in their work because of it. If we let the Lord guide our lives and our work we will see that miracles happen.

We were able to fast with this 15-year-old boy named Ermal who is the son of a member in the ward to help him decide if he should be baptized and we had a lesson with him yesterday to see what he was thinking. He ended up deciding to start it a day late and so he is probably just finishing up his fast right around now. He has his own questions and actually just expressed to us yesterday for the first time that he is not sure about his faith in Christ. So we are praying that he will listen closely to the Spirit and what the Lord is trying to tell him right now.

It always feels like there are things falling through the cracks, but I can say that we are certainly trying to do the Lord's will and so I hope and have faith that He will make up the rest.

Hey, I love you everybody and hope that you are doing just great! I am grateful for this wonderful period that I have to be a missionary. Last night I had this very real-life dream where I was back home after my mission and Marshall had a mustache (I should have probably taken that to be a sign that it was a dream and not reality). I am so grateful to be here and to try and serve my Savior with all my heart, might, mind, and strength.

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, December 1, 2014

#72 "He Is the Gift"

Have you guys seen the new video yet that the Church came out with? We had a training about it and the program that is going along with it this past week. He is the Gift is an incredible missionary movement that the Church has set up to go through the end of the year. It is a beautiful video and can be found online in 20 languages. None of those 20 are Albanian, but a good amount of people here have learned either Italian or English and we have actually gotten permission to translate it into Albanian and have that around with us. It is really cool. Apparently they are expecting 220 million people to see this video or the 30 second short version of it. So, you should go check it out, it is totally worth 2 minutes and 43 seconds of your day. Then you should share it, way worth that time as well!

As we have used this as our main source for finding people we have seen some wonderful things. I was talking to these two girls about it and especially about the love of God for all of his children. While doing that I had the thought to pull out the picture of my family that I carry around everywhere. I was able to testify of the love that I knew that He had for my sister and how if He loved her that much that He must love them too, and how that love was shown through His son Jesus Christ. I don't know if they felt anything, but that experience definitely strengthened my faith in my Savior.

This past week we have been able to think a lot about our zone. About the missionaries here and the work that is going on. As we were praying about some goals that we had set for our zone to round off the year and to work to have the faith to fulfill goals that we have as a mission we were really looking for a confirmation on those things that we had set. As we sought for that we had the impression that we, as well as each companionship in the zone, really needed to focus on their areas. It kind of seems like a "duh" moment, but truly, when President Uchtdorf counseled us to lift where we stand, it truly is an important and necessary thing. It we take full responsibility for those things that are in our power and trust those that are not to do the same thing in their sphere, how much better would everything work?

So Mom, my clothes are doing mostly really well. That Goodwill suit is wearing down quite a bit. I have actually had it patched up before, but it is having a hard time against the test of time I guess. My socks are definitely not quite the same color that they used to be (black socks, they never get dirty, the longer you wear 'em the stronger they get...that's actually not quite true, I have had to retire some of mine) but those missionary mall ones are way good. The Nike basketball ones are good too, but the missionary mall ones are better. Haha, and those shoes that I got patched up during my second transfer are now worse than they have ever been before. Whaddya do? One thing that President really focused on with us in a training last week was dress and grooming and I felt the call to repentance to take better care of my shoes so that they are pretty and black more often (I am really bad at maintaining it though, if there is any kind of water on the ground they are just destroyed).

Oh, I almost forgot, we celebrated Thanksgiving this pastThursday as a mission and it was great. There was a big feast, a training from President Weidmann, and a talent show. We have some funny missionaries here in the Adriatic South Mission!

Well, I love you all and hope that you have a wonderful day and week. Do faith-filled things and share the gift of the Savior!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Thanksgiving Specialized Training meeting with District:

Monday, November 24, 2014

#71

Dear Family,

Well, I am not exactly sure what to tell you. It was a great week and everything, but I don't know exactly what would interest you. Whenever I am in this situation I ask myself "what would make my missionary blog go viral?" It has worked until this point and I actually was called by the mission home last week to take a call from Oprah on doing an interview. The price we pay for fame. However, I am still keeping myself unbridled by the things of the world as much as possible and will proudly proclaim that I am not and will not become a slave to fashion.

We began a new English course this past week and were able to find this cool guy named Erlin. He told us that he had actually been recently praying to be around happy people, and we try to make that happen! He was not able to come to Church on Sunday because of some other problems, but he seems way cool.

Throughout this week we were working (thank goodness, right?) and we looked at our goals for the week for investigators in Sacrament Meeting and we looked at who we were really working for to be in Sacrament Meeting that next day. We decided that if those that we hoped would be there weren't able to make it out that the Lord would provide a way. The next day in Sacrament meeting not all of the investigators that we had hoped to come came, but a recently returned missionary walked in with a boy that she knew from high school that she invited to come to church with her. Way cool huh? The Lord totally provides a way when He has a plan. We just need to have the faith to pick up the ball and run with it.

Each day we get to study and learn a little bit more about the message that we are here to proclaim to the population of Albania. It is cool how when we study with a purpose we receive spiritual help and guidance. Some days I will feel something hit me and I will think, 'this is the thing! This is the thing that we need to tell everybody!" sometimes when it is something kind of small and obscure but it just hits me in that moment. However, as I listen to the testimonies of the 12 and our Prophet, they testify on things such as the Love of God or His plan for us, the more basic portions of our doctrine. Everything in the Gospel has importance, but it is incredible how all of the smaller things really lead back to the basic foundational doctrines that God loves us, He has a plan for us, and through His Son Jesus Christ we can be saved. Our testimonies will be strong if they are built from the bottom up and we focus on the pure and simple doctrines that strengthen us.

Love you so much and hope that you have a beautiful week!

Elder Ostergaard

Monday, November 17, 2014

#70

Hey People,

I hope you all are great! I am doing great. We just had the mini-transfer calls last night and I was thinking that I had pretty good chances of getting taken out of T2, but no call came and I am in the clear, so I will be here for another 6 weeks in Tirana! At the end of this transfer I will have spent 13 months in this beautiful city (mainly beautiful because of the wonderful people here, because this concrete jungle is not the most picturesque of Albanian cities...which would probably make me sad if I took more pictures than I do, sorry Mom).

This week started out and continued a bit rough on the work side. On Thursday and Friday we were able to have Elder Dyches of the Second Quorum of Seventy in our mission. On Thursday went down to the city of Durres that actually has a built from the ground up church building (it totally looks like America!) and had a mission conference. It was way good. The next day we had Mission Leader Conference. Almost all of the time was spent with a training by Elder Dyches about agency and accountability. Those moments in my mission where I have been able to really look at myself, my companionship, and the work that we are doing and analyze before the Lord that which we have done have led to the most lasting changes in what we do. When we truly feel accountable before the Lord for everything that we do, how can we use our time poorly. When we were baptized we covenanted to always remember our Savior and how much better off we would be if we would just do that. Yesterday morning we were reading in the White handbook during our companionship study and read a part where it said that by following the standards of the handbook we would magnify our calling. It is crazy how just by doing exactly what we were asked to do we could magnify our calling. So often we just land so far under what we should be shooting for that magnifying our calling seems like something you hear about in General Conference where really if we are doing what is asked of us with our full heart, we will be fulfilling and magnifying our calling.

This past week Elder Rawlings and I had an opportunity to try and help some elders in our zone try a little harder to be a little better. It was a bit difficult to sit down and talk to these missionaries that we love and tell them that there were some things that needed to be improved in, that they were things we knew that they knew they should be doing and could be doing. It was a great learning experience for us as well as for them.

Our week this week was a little rough on the work side comeSunday morning, but we had faith that the Lord would fill in the gaps we could not. Friday night we had called a lady in the ward that has several children that are not baptized to come to the baptism. She was not able to come, but brought them to church the next day for the first time in a long time. we sat down with them and told them that we wanted to help them take the steps necessary to be with their mom here and were able to plan to meet with them during this week. The night before I had the feeling that we needed to try hard to meet with this recent convert that just moved up from Fier and her parents. So we called them up and were able to go over to their house Sunday evening and help them catch the vision of joining with their daughter on her way to eternal life. Pretty cool. On the way home from that we stopped by the little stand of a less-active guy's family and talked with his non-member wife. While talking to her about her family she told us about her brother that lived right next to them that needed a lot of help and started crying about it. We were able to testify to her and will be going by again soon to see what we can do.

This is definitely the Lord's work and it goes forth at His pace, not ours.

Love you everybody!
Elder Ostergaard

Hey,

So these are some photos that Sister Russell (she is like my in the mission mom) took of Elder Rawlings and I in our new suits. Some of them are kind of ridiculous, but I will send them anyway.

Love,
GQ


Monday, November 10, 2014

#69

Hey everybody,

Well, once again their is not much time to talk! We were asked by the Assistants to take a car up to Kosovo and drop off some document for a car up their, so that occupied our whole day. It was cool to go step onto another country though! It was basically a more Russian-feeling Albania.

This past week we were able to see Mariana get baptized though. I mentioned her a few weeks ago. We started teaching her again (after she had been taught 3 years ago in another city) and then gave her to the Sisters with the new rules. This weekend she was finally baptized and it was wonderful! She is so ready and we have seen her change over the past month or so that we have been around her! She is so much happier and has so much more purpose in life and she knows it too. Pretty cool what the most important message in the world can do for you!

Elder Rawlings and I were able to go up and do that exchange in Shkoder as I mentioned we started last Monday. There is some good stuff going on up their, however, some of the missionaries are getting beat down a bit because of the difficulty of the work. It is pretty hard to work with all your heart, might, mind, and strength when you are sad and it is also very difficult to have full faith in the Savior's enabling power to help you in the work. We are hoping that they are a little bit better off than they were before.

To answer a couple questions:

We had 89 people in church this week.

The sacrament can almost always be administered by the priesthood of the ward without our help, but there is always mostly Melchizedek Priesthood doing it.

Oh, I was able to give a short talk in Sacrament Meeting this past week and that was pretty cool. I based it around a line in Chapter 1 of PMG that says that as our knowledge of the Atonement increases, our desire to share the Gospel will grow. It is so true. So you should do it.

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

P.S.
This is my new suit in the pictures at Mariana's baptism.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

#68

Hey everybody,

I hope you are doing great! I can't say that I think about you all the time ( it would definitely be hard to stay focused if that were the case), but when I do think about you they are good thoughts and I miss you in healthy amounts.

I actually started this earlier in Tirana, but various things have taken up time and we are now up in Shkoder on an exchange and do not have much time to talk at all.

We did some service with a lady from our ward and her boyfriend and it was way good, I will shoot you some pictures of that.

We have not had a ton of investigators to teach in the recent past and we are hoping that as we continue on especially in working through members and such that we can get some solid work going on that are more than just lessons, but teaching opportunities that will lead to strong investigators of the Gospel.

There was a pretty cool thing that happened this week. We had been thinking about a lady in our ward quite a lot because we met some potential investigators that knew her and one day Elder Rawlings was passing by her house while on an exchange and slid a note under her door to say that the missionaries had passed by and we were sad to not see her and that we would see her sometime. She told us later that that note came at a very important time when she saw it later because she had been going through some really difficult things that I didn't even know about. It is pretty cool how the Lord works through us sometimes to keep His children alright.

Well, I love you everybody! Keep it real over there!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, October 27, 2014

#67

Dear Everyone,

Well, this past week has been a bit interesting in that we have been trying to become accustomed to the new parameters set last week by our mission president still. We have been working really hard to do everything for the good of the investigator and not just for us and our own personal glory. That, along with some other factors has made quite an impact on our weekly results. However, I have been learning in the past couple months that my mission is for so much more than personal recognition. That shouldn't be any of it. If everybody thought that we weren't doing any kind of good work, but we knew that it was what the Lord wanted us to do, that is still what we should be doing.

One time this week, kind of randomly, I saw a picture from the Bible Videos on Lds.org of Jesus Christ. I told my companion that one thing that I have noticed in the past couple of months is that my love for my Savior has grown. The first several months of my mission that was something that I wanted to see happen more. I was trying to do everything that I could and did have a love for the Savior, but I have seen my love grow more than ever over the past little while. What a wonderful blessing and mercy! I sure hope that as I study more, pray more fervently, and serve with more of my heart that that love can deepen and spread.

Gerti got baptized this week! How awesome is that, the very first person that showed interest enough to give us their phone number when I first entered 2nd ward has entered in at the gate that leads to eternal life! He has grown a lot, and though is definitely not a General Authority yet or anything, baptism doesn't mean perfection in knowledge. He has made that step and now he will grow even more every week in church and every day on his knees and in the scriptures. He brought his brother to the baptism which was cool and after we got out of the water he grabbed me in a hug and said he felt like he was reborn. He was right.

We had a good learning experience at the baptism too. We asked Eni, an investigator that Elder Rawlings and I had both taught a few months ago to speak at the baptism. She is still an investigator and has been having some deep and difficult questions challenging her faith and we thought that she could really use the spiritual strength that came from testifying to others of what she knew. So we asked her to speak about the Holy Ghost. She did great (she is very smart and though she has her doubts, those things she knows, she knows) but afterwards both Bishop Gjini and President Weidmann pulled us aside and let us know that we were not allowed to do it again (though President agreed that perhaps the Lord had allowed it to happen this time innocently for the spiritual well-being of Eni). Well, you live and you learn!

We actually have been finally able to start listening to conference this week during our companionship studies. It is wonderful! My favorite so far is Elder Christofferson's talk about agency and belief. It rang so true with so many people that we meet here. Here is maybe my favorite part:

"To those who believe anything or everything could be true, the declaration of objective, fixed, and universal truth feels like coercion—“I shouldn’t be forced to believe something is true that I don’t like.” But that does not change reality. Resenting the law of gravity won’t keep a person from falling if he steps off a cliff."


We don't just share the Gospel because it is a nice thing to think or believe, but because it is the truth and others need to know about it! And it needs to be done boldly because universal laws aren't exactly subtle (take a look at the gravity example). It rips me to shreds when I see people here get a taste of the goodness that it entails and then turn it away, but their agency is their own. We just have to make sure we are doing everything possible to allow them to use that agency in the right way.

I love you everybody and I hope that you are doing some things in your life right now to love your Heavenly Father and Savior a little bit more every day!


Love,
Elder Ostergaard

P.S. I bought a suit today. I wasn't really sure if I should, but I was thinking about my situation on suits (one was bought for me by my lovely parents for my 16th birthday and the other bought from Salvation Army and then tailored by my lovely sister...the first one seeming to be very bulky right now- weird because I don't think that I have lost weight or anything- and the second having been worn away between the legs, fixed out here, and then wearing down again) and about how often we need to wear suits here with our winter season for dress starting up yesterday. Okay, that is a lot of explanation, but Elder Rawlings and I got one and it was $100 which I guess is supposed to be really good. Whoo, well it feels to good to get that off my chest!

Hey Mom, I realized that I didn't answer you at all about your question on the influence of pornography here in Albania. I would pretty comfortably say that the problem of pornography is even more prevalent here than in America. It just isn't recognized by society as being as bad as what I remember noticing from those I knew at school, but then again I was in a pretty sheltered group of friends (thank goodness). As for church leaders addressing it, I really haven't heard anything on the subject here outside of teaching the Law of Chastity to investigators, so I am sure that it could be much better guarded against.

I don't really have any ideas for Christmas, but only a hippopotamus will do.

Love,
Elder Ostergaard





Last week Kimball sent a link to a Dropbox of pictures that a Sister missionary had taken on a Preparation day excursion. Here are a few:

Monday, October 20, 2014

#66 Monday, October 20, 2014

Dear Family,

Happy Monday dearest people! I hope that this week has been fantastic and that it wasn't exactly the same as the week before. Some lessons learned, maybe a couple hard things (just enough to get you moving forward even better), and even more wonderful things. This last week had a couple of pretty dramatic changes in the missionary work here in Albania (if you don't remember what that is, it borders on the Adriatic, is mainly mountainous, and exports chrome chiefly-- except I don't really know about that last part because I have never heard of any kind of chrome export here).

On Wednesday morning I got a call from Elder Rawlings (I was at the time on an exchange with some Elders in Shkoder) and he told me that President Weidmann had just put out a new regulation that Elders had to teach guys and Sisters had to teach girls. It was kind of a punch in the gut (I don't know if you have been reading my emails for the last year or not, but most of the success that has been found has been with girls). We knew that it was the right thing to do because President is in fact an inspired man, but it took about 12 hours for me and my companion (who has been in the same boat in regards to teaching girls mostly his whole mission) to really found out for ourselves that it truly was the will of the Lord not only for the President, but also for us personally. Even though we were always keeping the rules in teaching with another guy present and keeping within the regulations that the Brethren had set, we have discovered that there are in fact a ton of benefits to this new regulation:
1. The priesthood force here in Albania is minimal, and if more than 2/3 of the missionary force here can only be teaching potential Priesthood holders and their families, that number really has no way to go other than up.
2. It definitely makes finding members that match personalities easier. When we taught girls that meant that our pool of those to help us out was very limited and it is now so much larger.
3. It helps people be baptized for the right reasons. It is not unheard of for an investigator of the opposite sex to be baptized simply out of devotion to a missionary that taught them, and this should whittle that down.
4. It helps the work in the ward become more tightly linked as missionaries will be finding investigators for other missionaries and the whole feel will be for the good of the investigator rather than the good of the missionary.

We were also given new steps to incorporate into our daily planning that allow that time at the end of the day to become more Spirit-based and driven.

We had this powerful lesson with Gerti and told explained the covenant that he will be making at baptism entails attending church every week to partake of the Sacrament. It is hard for him because he works in Tirana during the week and then on the weekends he goes home to see his family. So on Sunday he actually brought his mom to church which was wonderful! We are shooting for him to be baptized this week, so keep him in your prayers as well as Qamil, Suleman, Andrit, Aurel, and Roland.

That also reminds me of a wonderful opportunity that we had to see the hand of the Lord during our week this week. We were out knocking down some doors on Friday and we get a call. It was another missionary telling us that a member would be bringing his friend to church that wanted to learn form the missionaries. His name is Aurel and he is now on a baptismal date. It was cool to see that when we were doing what we could, the Lord was willing to step in and do that which we couldn't.

The picture is of a brother and sister that Elder Rawlings and I were asked to baptize. Their mother was re-discovered after 12 years and decided to bring her family to church and the sisters had the wonderful opportunity to teach them. Their names are Frenkli and Armela and they are awesome.



Well everybody, I love your guts and all their coatings. Keep it real out there and don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Love,
Elder Ostergaard


Here are a couple pictures of some of the missionaries in our zone at a Canadian Thanksgiving Day waffle party last week.


Monday, October 13, 2014

#67 October 13,2014

Hey everybody,

Sorry that this note is going to be rather short, but we don't have a ton of time. I have really been noticing more fully this week the weight of leadership and of goals. With new goals that we have set as a mission and as a zone, there is this new fire that has been kindled inside of us to accomplish these goals that we have set with the Lord. The efforts have been intensified and the Spirit more earnestly sought. I hope that as we work to reach a new potential that we will be guided in that journey. Along with that fire there is definitely a certain weight though. As we see from our perspectives where the zone is and where we are, stagnation and mediocrity are not options. The only way that we will be able to achieve what we need to achieve is through excellence. It is just that getting to excellence is not the easiest thing in the world. But that ain't nothing but a thing, because we can do hard things.

I just want to tell you really quick about a cool person we have been able to start teaching this week. Her name is Mariana. She was taught 3 or 4 years ago in the city of Elbasan by some other missionaries, but that didn't work out. She has been friends with members since then however. We met her about a week and a half ago as she was walking on the street with one of her member friends. We were able to bring her to the YSA FHE and since then have found that though she wasn't ready then, she has been slowly, slowly prepared by the Lord to hear the message now. So, plant those seeds, because however long after, something can happen. And it's pretty cool when it does.

Love you so much everybody, keep it real because fake just won't do it.

Elder Ostergaard

Monday, October 6, 2014

#65 October 6, 2014

Dear People,

This past week has been great. We missed a lot of work that could have been done because of helping the new trainees and stuff, but we can see a lot of good potential happening. One cool thing that happened this week was Elder Rawlings and I talking about our zone in relation to a mission goal of baptisms that we were going to have by the end of the year. We decided that we would have the missionaries in every unit discuss it and talk with the bishop about it so that the Lord can help us achieve this goal. The goals are pretty high and we are excited to see the missionaries here in the Tirona zone step it up to rip this goal to shreds.

So for General Conference, we actually did not get to see it this week. Instead, the entire thing was translated and next week the stake will watch it on DVDs in order to get rid of the possibility of internet mess-ups and such. We do indeed watch it in Albanian (unless President Weidmann changes his mind) and I am excited to be able to understand so much more of it this time (this is my 3rd conference in the country)!

I got the question if I was tall or not. I am indeed pretty tall, but my new companion is rather tall indeed (he is 2.04 meters, or 6'6'') and it is a weird experience for me, because he actually sticks out more than I do here. My red hair is very abnormal though and people are always really weirded out when they find out I can communicate with them.

I think that one of the cooler experiences that happened this week was when we were passing out fliers for English course earlier this week. We saw a member sitting at this little stand deep into 2nd ward territory and went to go say high to her. She was there with these two other girls and they ended up saying that their father was an inactive member and that they were willing to learn! That was pretty cool. We have met with them once since then and are excited to continue on with that. The Lord really does put people in our path that are ready for the message.

Well, I sure hope that you have a wonderful week this week and that you can find ways to be tools in the hands of the Lord.

Ju perqafoj,
Elder Ostergaard

P.S. My companion is the bukurosh in the middle.

Monday, September 29, 2014

#64 The transfer calls are in and....

I am still holding down the turf here in Tirana! That was an almost for sure thing because of the nature of being a zone leader (the norm for zone leaders at least in this mission is two transfers), so the big question was who would be joining me. The lots have fallen to Elder Rawlings! Elder Rawlings has been our district leader during this recent transfer and he was in my MTC group. He is a great guy and a great missionary and I am way excited to be able to work with him and learn some good things from him. Elder Lee will be going down to Lushnje (one of the smaller branches in the mission) and I am sure that he will do a great job among the members, missionaries, and non-members in that area.

So this past week we were able to do some work, teach some lessons, try to fulfill our missionary purpose, all that good stuff. One thing that I have thought about the last week especially is blessings. This transfer has really been a massive harvest of blessings. It is amazing how when I try to look for the blessings in my life they just multiply to a point where I almost feel bad that I am given so much. We met a girl about two weeks ago who told us that life was just unfair and unhappy. As we talked to her a bit and learned just a little bit about her, we caught just a small glimpse of the many wonderful things that she has in her life. How much happier we would be if we could just learn how to open our eyes a little bit. When I take the time to try and see the hand of the Lord it makes the more difficult times in the work reveal the blessings inside of them. It is pretty cool stuff.

What is a typical P-day like for you? -- On P-days here in Tirana, it's usually pretty chill. We could go tie-shopping or go bowling at this park in Tirana. Now and then we go visit somewhere like Krujë or Shkodër and that's fun.

Are you still playing soccer with the local members? Are you still getting assaulted by them? -- So here in T-2 we haven't played futboll like at all. We do play basketball now and then which is pretty fun. And yes, I am constantly being beaten with sticks and things. It's for the love of the game.

How often do you have zone meetings? how often do you go on trade-offs with other missionaries? -- Some sort of a zone meeting happens every month. Exchanges by the zone leaders are done with the district leaders at least once every 6-week. That means we will be doing exchanges almost every week.

How are your shoes holding up? -- My shoes are doing alright. If you remember I got my one pair patched up when I was in 3rd ward and they have been doing alright since then (that has been since the beginning of the year). The Eccos haven't had any problems. They are great shoes.

What would you like for Christmas? -- My two front teeth. That's all I want. Shoot, I don't even know though. Haha, I actually saw signs for teeth whitenings and thought that would be cool, but they are not nearly as cheap as one would wish! I really liked the Christmas card you sent last time! Photos are great. I also love MoTab and have been super grateful to have what you have sent!

What is the average salary for a person in Albania? -- There is a guy in our ward that is a manager at a call center (quite a good job) and he makes something like $3 an hour.

Is there much crime in Tirana? -- Probably, we don't see it though.

So here are a couple pictures of Elder Lee and I with investigators that we have had this transfer.

The first one is Gerti (he is a dubstep dancer) and was actually the first person that Elder Lee and I met that showed interest in the Gospel on the first day that we came into 2nd Ward.



The second is with Suleman. His mother actually fed us today which was awesome.


Well, I love you guys a lot and pray for your well-being!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, September 22, 2014

#63 September 22, 2014

Well everybody,

Welcome to the Elder Ostergaard minute. I recognize that for the next few seconds you will be thinking mainly about me. I'll try not to let it go to my head.

So I would actually like to do this letter based primarily, if not completely, upon some questions asked to me (something I usually forget to do entirely).

What did you do today for preparation day? -- So today we woke up to a lot of rain. We had been planning to go hike up behind the large artificial lake here in Tirana, but our plans changed. We ended up just kind of walking around and looking at a couple different stores (specifically some perfume/cologne stores -- we learned that you could get some cologne for 500 leke (about $5), so that was really exciting and I decided to help myself smell better).

What kind of funny or impressive experiences have you had with your companion, as you've learned to adapt to his personality or style? -- So this is going to be my last week with Elder Lee (unless President Weidmann decides to change the transfer norms). He, probably a lot like me, is probably one of the most "Utah boy not from Utah"'s that I have ever met. He is very much so one to speak what is on his mind and likes to know if anything is bothering me or what my thoughts are on something. I think that is probably a pretty normal thing and it has kind of shook me a little bit out of my own my-thoughts world (kind of, I am still not very good at it).

I've been following your weather patterns and it looks like things aren't as intensely warm as they have been. How is that affecting your dress and your activities? Are you enjoying the weather? -- The weather here has been rather lovely the last while. We still wear the exact same thing that we have been wearing the last several months (still lookin' fly in our short-sleeved white shirts and ties!). Usually hot weather means that Elder Lee carries around a water bottle...and I think about drinking more...but that is usually as far as it gets. We have both been blessed with pretty solid health though which is great.

Do Albanians spend much time outside in neighborhoods or mostly just in the marketplace? -- Albanians spend a whole lot of time sitting in coffee bars usually drinking little cups of Turkish coffee. Kind of ridiculous actually that they can spend so much time on such a small little beverage (they are almost always toddler-sized cups, whatever floats their boats I guess). Young people don't usually spend a ton of time inside the walls of their own homes, a lot of the time they are doing xhiros (talking walks) on the streets of Tirona.

Who are you currently teaching? What has encouraged them to investigate the gospel? -- We are teaching a few people a couple of whose names are Suleman, Qamir, and Gerti. All three of them have a long way to walk down on the road towards conversion still. We do sometimes have worries about interest having too firm a root in just the investigators liking us, but I think that that is one wonderful side-effect of transfers: they help root out those that are not as anchored in the message. We have also had the wonderful opportunity of meeting several different people that seem very promising as investigators of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ that have ended up living in another area of Tirona that we are then able to allow other missionaries to teach and take part in seeing the hand of God in their lives. We also had a couple tender mercy unexpected investigators this past week which has been cool.

What was the funniest thing that happened to you this past week? -- I don't know if there has been anything too funny that has happened, however, this just yesterday the Pope made an appearance here in Tirana. We were actually told to be very careful and to stay away from groups of people because of a terrorist group called Isis. Nothing at all happened, but it was kind of cool to be in the same city where a massive world figure made an appearance.

Tell us about the ward. Are you playing the piano? -- Second ward is such a wonderful place to be. There are a lot of strong members (except that yesterday there was no bus system because of the Pope which meant that many fewer people were in church) as well as a good amount of members that need a lot of help. It definitely helps out that our bishop served a mission which means he understands that much more of how to help the members and non-members here in Tirona. I am indeed playing the piano. I am afraid that I am going to come to the end of my mission and not know any hymns in Albanian. I guess that is not the most important part of the mission!

When they sing the hymns, do they sing well? -- They sing better in Second Ward than anywhere else I have been, but well, that doesn't mean a ton. The chorister here is an old member named Sister Kashari and she is ridiculuos, but I no longer laugh very much while I am playing because of her exciting way of really getting into leading the music.

How is your new Mission President? What areas of missionary work is he having missionaries focus on that are different from your previous President? -- President Weidmann is wonderful. We just recently had zone conference on Wednesday, something that turned out to be abut twice as long as any other zone conference I had ever been to. He we in charge of the whole thing and what he does he does with a purpose. Rather than the frazzled approach to missionary work that I used to have where I would fight to get every second outside, he focuses so much on us being prepared by the Spirit and it has started to change me. There is much more that I can improve on, but I see much more the process of how to get there.

So there is a bit of my missionary life. Hope your week is wonderful!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, September 15, 2014

#62 September 15,2014

Hey Family,

Hope that this week was awesome and that you are all doing really exciting and wonderful things such as homework and paper routes (all that good stuff).

This past week Elder Lee and I have been really working to implement some of the lessons we have been learning especially in correlation with the Spirit and letting the Lord direct the work we are doing rather than trying to shove Him into the little package that we decide is correct. It definitely gives a different feel to the missionary work when you try to be humble enough to recognize that every effort that we make, no matter how much of our mind, might, and strength are in it, is so small in comparison to what the Lord can do. If we are trying to play on the Lord's team however instead of pretending like we are trying to let the Lord play on our team, I think that is when miracles will happen. So, we have been working hard to pray all the time and be led in our goal-setting, planning, and proselyting activities. It is crazy to see how much growth is possible. It's probably kinda like the scientist that discovered the molecule and was super excited to find the base of creation, and then the guy that discovered an atom destroyed that, and then came electrons...don't they realize that it would just be so much easier if they just stopped turning up the magnification on their microscopes? Kinda the same thing with magnifying our callings; it would be a whole lot easier not to do it, but we were created to be more than just acted-upon bystanders. Becoming better is hard, but we are called to do hard things!

I heard a pretty cool talk just this morning that Elder Lee showed me about being men in Christ. It talked a bit about David slaying Goliath and showed that David was not even a soldier in the Israelite army. He had no recognized responsibility to go up against the opponent and he definitely wasn't up to size for it. However, he knew of God's power and that through him that power could be made manifest. It is so often that I have the thought that if I get into the right situation I will do something awesome. However, we can't wait for the Lord to put us in what we consider golden situations, because maybe what seems unlikely might just be perfect and we just need to be willing.

One specific way that we have been trying to work by the Spirit is to pray before every finding effort. There was one instance this week where we only had 15 minutes of time to do a bit of street contacting before our next activity. We decided to take the extra minute or two to pray and then went at it. Even though we didn't have a ton of time, we were able to meet this really cool girl that came to church this week and shows a lot of interest in God. Heavenly Father knows what He is doing with His work. Pretty cool.

President Weidmann will be presiding at a zone conference this Wednesday and it is so interesting to see his view on missionary meetings. This conference will take up almost the entire day of missionary work and we might be able to pull one or two lesson at the end of the evening. When I first looked at the meeting's time-table I was pretty shocked at how long it was going to be and Elder Lee and I talked about why it was as long as it was. It is for the same exact reason as I mentioned before we realized, that we cannot do this work to the Lord's standard if we are not with the Lord in the work. President Weidmann is taking so much care to make sure that we are in a spiritual state that is ready to help others that need it and directed by the Spirit so much that we know where they are and how to help them. My thought of studies and missionary meetings has been, for most of my mission, that they were the breaks the Lord gave us so that we could get ready for the real stuff outside. I didn't, and am sure still completely don't, understand the importance of these hours. They truly help us become who we need to become, but only if we let them.

Well everybody, I love you 34 and I have no doubt that it'll just keep on going up.

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, September 8, 2014

#61 September 8, 2014

Hello Lovely People,

I hope you are having a wonderful day and that those of you that have started school are having a smashing time! This past weeks has been a massive learning curve for me. It was a great moment for me to recognize where I wasn't and to try and look forward to where I would like to be in the future. The Lord is working to make me a humble-bee in His lovely deseret (it's not even that clever, but if you laughed I would appreciate it).

I think that maybe the biggest point of the week was going on an exchange this week with the assistants. They are great missionaries and have the huge blessing of working one-on-one with President Weidmann a lot. I think that in short this is what I learned: they aren't perfect missionaries by any means, but looking at how they were doing what they do, I saw that they were on road leading somewhere that I wanted to go. I caught a glimpse of a higher plane of missionary work and living, and it made what I knew seem inadequate and long for change. President Weidmann has been putting a rather massive focus on spirituality in missionary work and this was one of the big times that we were able to be trained on it. One of the big points that he focuses on is planning. I think that this is often one of the most glided over parts of the work, because it is really easy for it to not feel like work. I mean, you can just call up the people that you are supposed to call, and that's it. However, as we learned a little bit about the role the Spirit can play in our planning as well as in all aspects of our missionary work, I have learned more and more of the inadequacies of trying to do the work without doing all we can to invite the Lord of the vineyard in with us.

Really, when it comes down to it, I don't think that putting a ton of planning in really changes what our efforts would be on our own a ton, but if we show the Lord our plans and then ask for His confirmation and further guidance, that makes all the difference in the world. Working to hear the voice of the Lord and distinguish the promptings in both big things and small things has been taking up my thought space for the last couple days. Think about the possibilities, if we were so in tune with the whisperings of the Spirit that our footsteps would lead to those that needed the Gospel, our mind would know those that we would need to seek, and our words would be led totally by Him who's Gospel we are spreading. I was able to share this scripture in Mission Leader Council this past week and it is such an incredible promise (D&C 68:3-5)

3 And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
5 Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.

All that we have to do is learn how to indeed be moved upon by the Holy Ghost ( a more difficult process than I would imagine). I don't know if he is my favorite missionary in the Book of Mormon, but one of them is Nephi (the son of Nephi, the son of Helaman). We read in 3 Nephi 7 of this man's conversion to his Savior and his dedication to declare it to all men.

17 And he did minister many things unto them; and all of them cannot be written, and a part of them would not suffice, therefore they are not written in this book. And Nephi did minister with power and with great authority.
18 And it came to pass that they were angry with him, even because he had greater power than they, for it were not possible that they could disbelieve his words, for so great was his faith on the Lord Jesus Christ that angels did minister unto him daily.

I wanna be like that. How often do we put barriers upon ourselves saying that we do not want to bother God or that we frankly don't think that talking the extra time to say a prayer and listen will do anything, we are already trying to do what we are supposed to, isn't that enough? Elder Lee and I are really trying to overcome these natural tendencies and be more than just us. To become someone like Nephi who was so connected to the Lord that the Spirit had to testify to those within the sound of his voice that it was true. Kind of crazy that the omnipotent Creator of the universe asks us to bind Him with His word as we follow His commandments (D&C 82:10). As we do that however, we find power and heavenly authority in all that we do. Though man is nothing, the Almighty God exercises His power through us. We truly are blessed with a loving Father.

Well everybody, I certainly hope that you have a wonderful week. Love each other and remember that One much greater loves you too!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

#60 Labor Day (US) 2014

Hey everybody,

It has been another week, and there have definitely been some really good things that have happened this week and a couple of things that I guess could turn into learning experiences down the road.

I have been learning a couple of wonderful lessons here on my mission (kind of silly huh, I thought that I was supposed to be teaching them). One lesson that I have learned this past week is the importance of hope. We have had the pleasure of teaching a few investigators that were great...until we couldn't meet with them anymore. However, after continuous invitation and hoping for them to find the time to feel the Spirit with us, they came to church! That is such an awesome thing to see when continued hope turns into small glimmers of success. There are still many things that I can learn about being a hopeful disciple of Christ (I love how President Eyring put it in what I think was a regional conference. He said that we must be wise optimists. That's got a good ring to it.)

I also have been able to learn a lot of lessons that sort of all come together with a less-active named Morena -- one of those 2 girls that I ran into on an exchange about a month ago. She hasn't been going to church in forever and has, well a couple rough edges. However, we love her. The process to initially meet her and now to get her to continually do good things has been a bit of a journey, but she finally came to church on Sunday. She walked in a bit late with potentially some non-word of wisdom smell on her breath and was wearing clothing that perhaps wouldn't have ever been allowed for Carley to wear by Mom and Dad. But that didn't matter to me. She came! That is a step forward, and that was all that mattered for us. Looking at others through the lens of progression improvement rather than of perfection is such a much better way to live. Even though some heads turned and a few people were maybe questioning who this girl was, I was so proud to sit next to her in church as she came that much closer to her Savior.

We are working with an investigator named Suleman as well, and we he is a bright young lad. He has a lot of questions and we have been working hard to answer him well with the Spirit and have also been inviting very solid and bright members of the Church to come in and help us out. By talking to him, my testimony has been strengthened. Elder Lee and I discussed after our most recent lesson how the Gospel isn't just a nice, feel-good side dish in our life. It answers everything. It is stinkin' incredible actually, but he asks questions, and the doctrines of this thing called the Gospel just work and bring everything together in wonderful ways. We don't know everything, if we did there would be no need for this thing called faith that people always talk about. But we know enough. And the more that I learn, the smoother everything works together and the more those simple things make sense (as well as making those things I don't know seem much larger). Cool stuff.

I love Tirana. I have served a large majority of my mission up to this point in this city and could stay here for the rest of it.

Have you ever just had a longing for the Sacrament? I have noticed that longing more-so on my mission than ever before. Sometimes it will be Sunday night and I will just be wondering how long it will be until I will be allowed to take it again. I have thought before why it is told us to only take it once a week, and I think that it is because that period of time between the feeling of need and partaking of the bread and water make us much more grateful for new beginnings and help us want to try that much harder.

Well, I love you so much and I hope that you have a wonderful last couple of hours of summer vacation.

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, August 25, 2014

#59 Monday, August 25, 2014

Dear Family,

How are you guys doing? I hope band camp was stinkin' fresh! Anything too crazy happening there?

This past week there have been a couple of cool things happen in the work. I was able to go on an exchange with Elder Smoot one day this week and we had some pretty cool success. There was a lady (Nushi) that we had tried to meet with before, but because of the lack of a man in her house we had to leave. So we brought Elder Smith too and got to go visit her. Well, I guess her house is where all the kids on the block like to be, so along with a couple of her young granddaughters, there were a good amount of neighbor kids there. We got everyone to sit down in their living room and had a lesson with them (it was very much so directed to the kids, a different teaching style than I am used to as we are often teaching ~20 -year-olds). They all said that they would come back and we came back after 2 days and were able to teach them again. On Sunday we went over to Nushi's house and were able to go with three of them to church. We are excited to see where this will go. The only thing is that with so many people in the lesson, we feel a lot of pressure. If we mess up, that is a lot of people that are depending on the words we say and we want them to be engaged in the lesson and learning something...it is just a big responsibility. They are great though.

We also got to meet with two families that live in the same apartment building as some members that we were able to meet with. We went into the first house, and there was really just about nothing. There was a couch-ish thing in the corner of a room and than in a side room there were three long carpets laid out with a couple pillows. That was about it. The woman had lost her husband and son and was now just with her 2 daughters and they had a couple friends over. After that we went up the stairs and into the home of a guy on the floor above. Same apartment building, but this one was nicely furnished and just a totally different setting. We actually met the guy's son yesterday for the first time and we are excited to see what is going to happen with that as well. It is amazing how working with and teaching families is really the best way to do the work. I recognize that sometimes it is not possible, however it is an awesome thing when it is.

So like I said last week, we have a zone goal for one new baptismal date per week per companionship. That goal definitely helps continue to stretch us as a companionship and it is also good for the zone as the baptismal dates keep on going up every week. President Weidmann actually called us up this morning and asked us about that particular goal. He told us he knew that it was an inspired goal and that we need to make sure that each of the companionships knew that, because if it is from God, it is possible. President Weidmann is a great man. Definitely led by the Lord.

Oh, I thought that this was pretty awesome. We were able to be in a lesson with that girl that we had to pass off to the 4th ward Elders last week the day after she saw a baptism. It really touched her and she actually wrote this poem about the baptism entitled "The Baptism" (not 100% perfect English, but she's very good).


It seemed to me, you were the white dove,
Purer than the real ones from heaven above,
A sublime moment it was indeed,
The simple most intimate moment we truly ever need.
I could not see at the time, the people innocent
But I could tell their sparkling eyes by the holy spirit were bound
Only when I think of it,
just now I realize
What an amazing bit of heaven we had to share and memorize
You were beautiful, all you angels are,
My senses may not serve me well,
But I can tell when you're not far.
A truth I dare not say
Made me think of the events today,
Yesterday is gone, a day I'll never miss ( I think she meant forget)
But this day, today was a special a divine feeling of holy presence
Wrapped us all in bliss.
I cannot deny it, I am only overwhelmed by feelings of some kind,
That can't even be named
Call it intuition, whatever you would wish.
But in my heart I feel it was God among us
The One we miss, love, and cherish.

Kinda cool, huh?

Love you all so much and hope you have a wonderful week!
Oh Mom, those shirts and pocket protectors came a while ago, thank you so much! I actually told you the wrong size of neck, but I was able to find a seamstress willing to shrink the neck down for not too bad of a price, so it worked out!

I am also sporting the pocket protector. Just keeping it real.



Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, August 18, 2014

#58 August 18, 2014

Dearest Beloved People,

I think that one thing that I have been learning on my mission and continue to learn a lot is the power of setting good goals. About a week and a half ago we set 2 goals with our district leaders that would be implemented into our zone. One of those goals was that each companionship would have a new baptismal date every week. This has been a difficult thing for us as a zone, and it is super important, so we decided on a way that we could help the missionaries move forward. For us as a companionship, it really pushed us to want seek for those that are ready to hear the message of the Restoration, and then to present the message in such a way as to help them understand the importance of this sacred covenant and then invite them to act. We have been more bold and smarter in how we have worked. Goals make a difference.

This past week we have been able to meet some pretty cool people. We had a meeting with this pastor from Nigeria which was kinda crazy. We met this lady about two weeks ago who told us we should, so we sat down and had a discussion with him. He was such a great guy and a huge believer in Jesus Christ and does all that he can to follow promptings from the Holy Ghost -- so he is doing pretty good in my book. However, as we explained some of what we believed and listened to what he had to say, it was sad to see that his strong faith and testimony was rooted in an incomplete foundation. He had a ton of really good stuff, but there was just something missing in there. We often times will have someone ask us why we are spreading the message we are. They tell us that Christ came, he taught, and that was the end. However, whenever I think about it, I am reassured of the fact that; yes, Christ did come, He did teach, and then He left. But the love endures and the words of our Lord are continually directed towards us. We do not add to the words that He said, but rather embrace the doctrines that He continues to preach through those called to be His prophets. The Restoration changed the world and leads us to the One that saved it.

There was a baptism on Friday which two of our investigators told us they were going to try to make it to. They ended up not being able to. That was a shame. So we ended up street contacting in that time. While we were out there in that period of time, I was able to talk many people, but in particular these two girls. They both seemed interested and so I told them we would call them up that night to try to set something up for the next day. That night we called them and set up times with both of them (one of them said no at first, so I asked her if she would like to learn some English, she said that she knew we also wanted to share our message, but agreed to come and learn some English as well as about our message - point for the home team!). The next day we were able to have a great lesson with one of them (right after we put her on a baptismal date we found out that she lived in 4th ward, always a hear-wrenching experience) and then another great lesson with the other, both of whom came to church the next day in their respective wards. Sometimes-- a lot of times, we don't get what we think is best for the plan of God to move forward. However, He always has a plan that is much better.

A quick shout out to my home boys going to band camp this week! I am so glad that in my life I have had the opportunity to grow older and move on to new and wonderful experiences, but band camp is one of them that I would gladly go back and re-live. It is the bomb. Brigham, when Mr. Derees gets down on you for not being perfect (he got at me a lot for talking too much and the such), don' t talk back, just try to humbly take it and change. That was a great learning experience for me. Grant, don't let the older people in the band let you think you aren't cool, because that would be ridiculous. Yell loudly, because that is what all the cool people do.

Well that's about it. Love you guys at least 28 and it's always growing.

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, August 11, 2014

#57 August 11, 2014

Dear Everyone,

How is it going on the home front? This past week has been a bit slower on the work end due to multiple exchanges that we had to take part in with missionaries in our zone as well as a zone training and district leader training that we had to create and then put on. So, it has been a good week, but nothing too crazy as far as teaching a ton of people.

I think that maybe the coolest experience for me this past week was actually on an exchange with Elder Rawlings. He is in my same group and is a fantastic missionary. We went throughout our day and were able to do some good stuff, but at the very end of the exchange we had thirty minutes left and we were going to go tracting. He pointed out a group of buildings that looked good and we went over to them. When we got there we stepped inside really quick to pray about which building had a family that was ready to hear the Gospel. We said a prayer and then waited for a bit to see what we were feeling. Both of us got the impression that the family wasn't in either one of the buildings. So, feeling pretty energized and full of the Spirit, we left and walked down the road to go find that one person that the Lord had set apart for us at that moment. We passed a little alleyway and kind of looked down it, continued on, and then turned back to knock the door or two that were there. We said a prayer before we knocked on the first door and knocked. Then we knocked again. And then again. I guess that wasn't the right one, so we went over to the next house where two little girls were. We asked if their dad was there and so they went and got him for us. He was a nice guy, but he said that we were going to have to come back at a different time. However, we knew that the Spirit had led us where we were, so it took some convincing but we finally got into their house and were able to have a lesson with them. I don't know if anything is going to come from that in the near future or even in the far future, but I do know that the Lord has a plan and will help us know our role in that plan if we seek for that knowledge.

One pretty cool thing that we were able to include in our training at the zone training on Tuesday was a discussion on the aspects of a powerful missionary. We had a lot of different wonderful things that were thought of such as:boldness, a powerful testimony, energy, desire to serve others.... However, one thing that Elder Lee and I discussed that we put in at the end was the ability to change. A powerful and effective missionary has the ability to change (repent) what they do in order to better do the will of the Lord at that time ( whether that be in obedience, inviting the Spirit, changing how they talk with people...). Really that takes a lot of humility to do this well. I have definitely gone through some difficult changing processes in my mission, and have found how much easier my life would be if I were just that much more humble. It's a process I guess!

Dad, I am eating enough. A lot more than I was at college that's for sure. I am also staying healthy. I am pretty smart about drinking only good water and stuff like that because I would hate staying inside because of sickness. I would maybe die. And Mom, I did get my package, thank you so much! I miss-guessed on the neck-size, but I talked to a seamstress who says that she can narrow all three of them for like $10, so hopefully that works. And I love that you sent me pocket protectors. I am using one of them. That's what's up.

Well, I have gotta go, but I love you a lot and hope you have a wonderful day and week!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, August 4, 2014

#56 August 4, 2014

Te dashur vellezer dhe motra,

Hey everybody, it's good to be back. Stuff just keeps moving right along and we are keeping on trying to finds those people that are ready to make a binding covenant with God. Never a dull moment. (On that note, if you happen to know anyone in Albania that would be interested, preferably in the south western corner of Tirana, shoot me an email or something).

We have had some good stuff happen this week. I was able to go on an exchange up in Shkoder with Elder Jorgensen (just like old times). It is a place that has always had a really difficult time with the church. Hearing people talk about it for a long time I figured that it was some small little town where everyone just didn't care about anything. Going up there I was surprised to see that it was probably about the size of Fier and the people were just like regular Albanians. It is amazing how the attitude of a missionary changes the opinion of a place. I was talking to Elder Jorgensen about why missionaries have such a hard time finding investigators and success up there and he said that a lot of it probably comes with boldness. Assuming that a missionary is doing his best to be obedient and do the things he should be doing, one of the biggest obstacles that he has to face is probably being bold. Looking at some of the missionaries who are just awesome members of the Church and just love the Lord, it is not infrequent to see the have a really hard time getting the work going because they are not being bold. So, I think this is especially for Brigham right here who is really starting on his last big go-around before his mission, use this year to get rid of all the un-boldness that you have in you that you can. It is something I am still really working on being better at, and more preparation in that area would have made it that much better.

I have the feeling that my writing in English right now is pretty unintelligible. At least I can communicate unintelligibly in two languages though, that's pretty good.

The spiritual highlight of the week was on Thursday at Mission Leadership Council. Elder Charles of the Seventy visited and trained us. What a spiritual experience. It was a really good chance to re-evaluate my personal dedication to the work and try to find ways to be better. One of the big things that he talked about was when missionaries came to their home for the first time. They felt such a spirit that they made the missionaries teach them the second discussion before they left. I really want the missionary work that is done in my area to have that much Spirit. I really see the need to sanctify myself and be more focused on the promptings of the Spirit. He also emphasized the need of talking to everyone. One way of doing that is to talk only in Albanian outside so that we are not putting up an kind of walls between us and potential investigators. So, we are doing that now. With few exceptions, Elder Lee and I have started talking in only Albanian outside. I have faith that as we try to take these steps towards being the missionaries that the Lord knows that we can be, that our efforts will be sanctified and magnified.

On Saturday, Elder Lee and I were able to spend the morning with Elder Smith ( the Smiths are the senior couple in 4th ward). We tried to go find the house of a lady that was given as a referral from mormon.org. In the eventually unfruitful process of doing this we were really trying to continually apply the principle of talk to everyone that we had just learned more about. What a great way of doing missionary work! Who are we to think that we know who is prepared and who isn't? This is the Lord's work and He might be putting people in our path at any second. So while we did that we got to talk to a few people for a bit, but then we had to go over to a lesson that we had planned with a new investigator that was just met the previous day. When we met him, he also had his wife with him which was wonderful. Elder Smith made the point that maybe him bringing his wife was a tender mercy given to us by the Lord for trying to talk to everyone. I often forget to see the bigger picture of blessings from the Lord and it was good for me to step back and be a little more grateful.

At Sunday we were grateful to see Ali Ylli (I wrote about a visit we made to him after church last Sunday) as well as some other less-actives at Church. I love it when people talk steps in the right direction! Repentance, it's so great.

I was recently reading in the Book of Mormon (it's a book comparable with the Bible that contains the fullness of the Everlasting Gospel. If you would like to hear more about it, contact the boys in white shirts and ties.) in Alma 32. In verse 40 it refers to the plant that emerges from the seed of faith discussed throughout the chapter as the tree of life. So that got me thinking about 1 Nephi 8&11, and I made an interesting though not doctrinal combination of the vision of the Tree of Life and Alma's sermon to the Zoramites. I tried to think of the tree in Lehi's vision as being, rather than a fixed stage, in constant variance depending upon the person looking at it. For example, for someone that was full of faith, the tree would be big, beautiful, and glorious. For one that had no desire to follow Christ and zero faith, the tree would be yet a dormant seed sitting in the middle of the dormant field. So think about those people that sit in the great and spacious building looking and laughing at those pressing forward on the iron rod. It must look ridiculous to them for people to go through such a difficult journey to reach a field where all there is is a seed...and they can't even see that probably due to the mists of darkness. Kind of a sad thing. They really don't even know what they are missing. For those pressing forward on the straight and narrow path, they here the taunts and don't totally understand why there are so many make fun when their destination is so grand. What we need to do as missionaries is to try and help those that are in the building to try and grow their faith just a bit so that they can start to see that tree and come into the fold of God. With those that are going on the path, they need to be reminded that their destination really is worth going to.

Well, I hope you have a wonderful day and an even better tomorrow, cause well, that's how we do.

Love you so much,
Elder Ostergaard

Monday, July 28, 2014

#55 O Kalamajt!

Hey chillens,

It is the beginning of another week...kinda terrifying! It is a good thing that I still have forever left on my mission because sometimes I think about how fast the weeks go by and it freaks my out. It feels like I haven't done anything out here, so hopefully the Lord has been expanding my efforts from the beginning and hearts have been changed.

So this week we have been able to do some good work (it can always be better, but that is what tomorrow's for) and I have faith that at least one or two souls were brought a bit closer to Christ. We have been trying to meet with this family (the Ndoj family) for about 2 weeks and were able to go over and meet them on Thursday. They haven't been seen by missionaries in about 2 years, but have been taught quite a lot before. From what the records and they said, they just have a hard time leaving their Catholic roots behind. We went over and were able to start making friends with them and after the first lesson invited the 17 year-old (Eriola) to come to basketball that was being played the next day. She said that she would and brought her sister Kristi who is one year older as well. It is an interesting way of doing investigator work. They are great people, but right now are not super into the whole church thing. It feels almost like we are doing less-active work. They are great, so put out a good thought for them.

We got a call on Friday night asking for help in moving someone. We went out their, and in about 3 hours were able to get it all done with the help of a dum-dum ( a small truck that they use all the time here, I think I sent a picture a while back). It was some hard work though. I don't know if I have ever sweat more in my life actually...kinda gross. Neither the building that they moved into or out of had an elevator, so I was super grateful that they only lived on the 4th and 3rd floors respectively, because 7 or 8 floors would have been killer! It is good to be out there doing some good service though and showing our love for the members of 2nd ward.

There is a member in our ward named Ali Ylli. He is a stud. He has got a good testimony of te gospel and loves the Lord. He has his own problems as we all do, but besides all of that, he is great! However, we hadn't seen him in two weeks at church, so we called him up on Saturday...but once again he said that he would not be there at church which is really (excuse my strong language) dumb. After church we went out to go see what was going on with him. He let us in and we were able to sit down and talk. He didn't let us know exactly why he hadn't been coming and we didn't delve too much into it, but it must have had something to do with not feeling needed and that is rough. We shared a thought from Alma 36:27 and talked a bit about how it related to him. Then we just sat there for a bit and tried to let the Spirit do some talking. After a little bit, a thought came into my mind to ask him if he had been praying. It wasn't some overcoming sense of warmth and emotion, just a thought (1 Kings 19:11-12 check it out, it works). So I asked it, and he said "no". It was something that he knew he should have been doing and we were able to testify of its power. One of the questions Preach My Gospel asks is whether or not you are comfortable with silence as you teach. I am working hard to become better with this aspect and I know that it is indeed a true principle. We need to be quiet sometimes in order to let the Spirit be heard.

Our stud investigator, Gerti, is doing well. He told us that he was able to put away his iced tea, and came to church for the first time. We failed to talk about church attire with him, and it was pretty funny to see him walk in with his 4-inch mohawk, John Lennon sunglasses, and a tang-top. He's a hipster and we love him. He ended up leaving after first hour because he felt bad that he hadn't dressed nicer and said he would dress better next time. When it comes down to it, I am personally super happy to even see people in church in the beginning stages, but I am glad that he sees areas of improvement.

I think that my favorite story of the week though happened on Saturday. I was on an exchange with Elder Wright and we were traveling back from the 1st ward building because I had to do a baptismal interview there. Elder Wright got off the bus way early...but because I am terrible with directions, I figured that I must have made a mistake and followed him off instead of beckoning him back on. We looked around and realized that we were indeed a fair bit away from our desired location, but Elder Wright told me the reason that he got off was because he heard me say "go" which I definitely didn't say to him. I'll give you a hint, it was the Spirit. So we walk to where we are going and end up having about 15 minutes before our next appointment. We decided to do a bit of street contacting and end up talking to these two girls. They say they are from Fier (what a crazy random happenstance, I was just in Fier) and one of them says that she had been to our church...and in fact was baptized in our church about 5 years ago. I was able to double check locations and stuff to make sure that we were talking about the same church. She said that she went to Greece after that and then came to Tirana. Even though she lives super close to the church here, she hasn't come or anything because she is afraid that because she has a few tattoos and wears dresses that might be too short that we would be uncomfortable. We assured her that we wanted her to come to church and actually invited her to the baptism that was happening in an hour. She told us that she would love to come and bring her friend too and that she was going to go home and put on something a bit more modest for the service. The Spirit is pretty cool, and it looks like it will come and do our job for us sometimes if we need it!

I have recently been able to study prayer in PMG and work to try and improve my communication with Heavenly Father. I have been thinking a lot in the recent past about spirituality. I want to have a closer relationship with my Heavenly Father. I want to know that my will is in line with His will and that my will will be accompanied with enough courage in order to fulfill it. That is what I will be praying for this week especially, that I will be able to follow in the footsteps of the Lord closer than I have ever done before.

Hey, I love you so much family! Be good and do your best to be missionaries and even to help out the missionaries (dinners are nice and such, but even better is with lessons). Remember, you aren't there to help them fulfill their callings as missionaries, they are there to help you fulfill yours.

Love,
Elder Ostergaard

P.S. By the way, Elder Dericott shot me an email and told me how much he loves you guys.

Monday, July 21, 2014

#54 July 21, 2014

Happy Monday everybody wherever you may be!

This past week has just been a little bit better than last week, so bit by bit we are building up to where we eventually want to be here. Same old story here in Tirana as it has been everywhere else!

To give an overview of the work this week, I have decided to copy and paste the points that appear in the first chapter of Preach My Gospel that define what makes a successful missionary:

Feel the Spirit testify to people through you. - This week we met with this girl whose name is Eriona. She is Evangelical (they call them Ungjillore) and we met her at the beginning of the week and had a great lesson with her. She loves Jesus Christ and the Bible a lot, and that is always a great thing to see in others. We gave her a Book of Mormon and a pamphlet about Joseph Smith and invited her to read them that night. I gave her a call the next night and she told me that she had read the pamphlet and didn't think that we could meet again. It took a little bit, but I was able to convince her to meet us just once the next day. She came in and we listened to her concerns, answered her questions, and testified of Christ, His mission, and the role that Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon have. She ended up telling us that she didn't think that we would be able to meet again, but would pray about it. Agency is there for everybody to use, but all we can do as missionaries and witnesses of Jesus Christ is testify clearly and strongly.

Love people and desire their salvation. - Albanians are great. Sometimes they drive me a little nuts, but whenever I have just tried to continue on in love it always comes. This past week I have had good experiences street contacting. There have been a few really good times where I have been able to just talk to people and find out what makes them tick and then see how the Gospel can relate to them in their lives. I know that that love will just continue to grow too.

Obey with exactness. - On an exchange this week, there were two lessons in a row that we set up and traveled out to go to...and then it ended up that the man of the house wasn't there. It is a pain, but we just said we would set up a time to come back another day. However, even though we might not understand all the rules or want to follow them all the time, "[His] ways are not [our] ways" and we just need to trust that it'll all work out. We keep everything within the rules and trust the Lord to make everything else work out.

Live so that you can receive and know how to follow the Spirit, who will show you where to go, what to do, and what to say. - While in the lesson with Eriona, she made a point about how men are not able to see God (check out John 1:18 with the JST). I try so hard not to Bible bash or anything like unto it, but the story of Stephen came to my mind where he saw the Father and the Son before he was stoned to death. It was a good way to show God's connection to His children in a not bashing sort of way.

Develop Christlike attributes. - I am working on patiently trying to type an email that I think will end up being longer than I expected.

Work effectively every day, do your very best to bring souls to Christ, and seek earnestly to learn and improve. - I have recently (it was actually probably last week, but I am going to say it anyway) asked a recent convert who has taken part in a lot of lessons with missionaries how I can improve as a missionary. Her answer only had to do with how we worked inside lessons. I realized that most people's opinions of a missionary's ability and effectiveness revolved around what they did within the opening and closing prayers of a lesson. Most of my opinion on what makes an effective missionary actually has very little to do with that. So, I realized that need to not put any part of missionary work on the back burner. It is all important. Be obedient, work hard, love the people, love the Lord.

Help build up the Church (the ward) wherever you are assigned to work. - We have been working to help less-actives in our ward this transfer and help them discover that light that they once knew.

Warn people of the consequences of sin. Invite them to make and keep commitments. - Gerti, an investigator that I believe I have talked about before, was taught the Word of Wisdom this week. We went through the five main points that we teach investigators. Alcohol, good. Tobacco, good. Other drugs, good. Coffee, good. But then on the final one, tea, he was a bit shaky. He told us that he really liked his iced tea and he would do it...but could he start the next day because he just wanted to finish up the stuff he had. I was about to say yes, but then the member that was in the lesson with us pushed back a bit and I realized that we are indeed here to call people to repentance today and now. That was a good learning experience.

Teach and serve other missionaries. - On exchanges I definitely end up learning a whole lot more than I am sure other missionaries ever learn from me. I am not very big into telling someone how to live or work. I would much prefer leading by example. So, maybe some of the missionaries I was on exchanges with this week (we took part in two...we have to do a lot more as zone leaders than ever before) were able to learn something or other this week.

Go about doing good and serving people at every opportunity, whether or not they accept your message. - Our English Course is pretty small and the most frequent attender is this girl named Helena. We have tried several times to invite her to learn or go to institute, etc. She is not interested in any of that, but she is great and we are happy that she enjoys learning English from us. Hopefully some day she decides to see a little bit more about what we do, but until then we will just keep going.

So, I guess when it comes down to it, even though everything is not going according to Elder Ostergaard's plans, according to Heavenly Father's plans, I have been able to do some things that are helping me become a successful missionary and my mission become a successful and fruitful experience for all those involved. Congrats on the wedding reception and moving on from that stage of existence and best of luck at Trek!

Love,
Elder Ostergaard