Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#42 Monday, April 28, 2014

Happy Monday Everybody!

I hope that everyone is doing well on their post-(and soon to be pre-)wedding craze! Urime and Trashgofshi to Carley and Sam whatever your last name is now! Also congratulations to Carley who has a piece of paper telling her that she is smart! That is always a plus. (Sometimes I write up little sticky notes that say I am smart and put them places, it's a real moral booster. Someone tells you that you are a skilled metal worker and it really helps you through the day.)

This past week had some really good stuff going down. A big one was for Saimir. He has been investigating for about 8 months now and last week I believe that I mentioned we put him on a baptismal date. President Ford was going to be down in Fier for an interview on Sunday and so we asked Saimir if he would be interviewed then. He looked at us and said "I guess now is the time to take a leap." When we first set him for a date we said the 17th of May. Then on Monday the Botts (the senior couple here) asked if we could move it to the 10th because they will be ending their mission on the 15th. However when Saimir was in the interview with President Ford they decided that he would get baptized on the 3rd, so it is happening this week! He has it tough, but he thinks that this could be the change he needs in his life right now. Me too. Florjan might also be getting baptized this week, but we might push that back a week because he is not quite ready. We will see what goes down.

Enxhi also got baptized this week! I was talking to Elder Jorgensen about it and he said that right after he actually baptized her they were just kind of standing there in the water and everybody started clapping. I guess his trainee started clapping too and he was like, "no Elder, you can't do that!" Oh, funny people!

We started up English course about a week and a half ago and it started rough! There are a lot of recent convert priest-age young men in Fier and they really enjoy making noise. However this past week, though it wasn't perfect, was much better. We have some really promising investigators coming out of it right now and I will write more about that as they develop more.

On about Tuesday or Wednesday last week we street-contacted this blind lady named Ina and her friend. She told us we could come over and on Friday we took over Lavdosh (a 39-year-old recent convert) and met them. Ina believes in God a lot and was super positive during our lesson. We began to go through the Message of the Restoration and it was going well. Lavdosh was talking about Joseph Smith and just kind of took the reigns from there somehow finishing off that lesson as well as laying out the steps of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and discussing the Plan of Salvation in probably about 7 minutes. It was impressive. They both (Ina and her friend) expressed desire to be baptized, so we are hoping to help them down that path.

Elder Simons and I are doing well. He sometimes gets a bit frustrated about his language because he can't always express what he wants to, but he is doing well. We have to travel up to Lushnje sometimes to do baptismal interviews (about 30 minutes away) which can be a bit of a bother, but it's all good because people are getting baptized!

This past week in my scriptures I was re-looking at two scripture stories that parallel each other. One of them is the story of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4&6). The other is the story of Lehonti (Alma 47:1-18). These two stories are so similar until one point. Nehemiah and his men were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and when the adversaries come to bid him stop he, "sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down." Lehonti sat upon the top of the mountain with his men "being fixed in the minds with a determined resolution that they would not [come down]." A messenger times unto Nehemiah asking him to come down from his labors and with each time he became more resolute, his workers having one hand wrought in the work and the other ready to defend. Lehonti was called three times by Amalikiah to come down the mountain and talk. He refuses. Amalikiah then goes up to the camp and says that he just needed to come out a little bit and could even bring his guards, he consents. Nehemiah victoriously helps his people rebuild the walls of his city and succeed in their fight. Lehonti leaves his safety, and eventually is poisoned by degrees and dies. Check those chapters out, there is a lot more story than I shared. However, these, for me, are an incredible example of the importance of enduring and never taking our sights from our course. How often do we allow ourselves to come down just a little bit thinking that we have our guards and all will be safe. We must stay on top of the wall and, like Nehemiah, ask, "why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?" We are doing a great work and cannot come down.

Well, I love you family and hope that you are doing great! Have a wonderful week and good luck on your conics test Brigham (that is some good stuff, but I hope it is in polar because the Cartesian conics are rough).

Elder Ostergaard

P.S. Start thinking about this (because I just thought about it on Sunday), but Mother's Day is on the 11th, I believe one day after Alex and Rachel's wedding, so it would be good to get some feedback on timing.

Monday, April 21, 2014

#41 Monday, April 21, 2014

Dear Family,

How is it going!? If you do indeed find time to read this letter this week amidst the whole "my sister is getting married" stuff, I hope that you are having a swell time. That is so crazy. Whaddya do, crazy stuff happens some times.

But hey, this last week was a good week. We weren't getting all the lessons we wanted or hitting all of our goals, but, we did do something, and we did effect someone. So that's good.

A couple good successes. Saimir is now on a baptismal date again. He his previously been on at least one date before, but stuff happened and he is still thoroughly dry. We had a lesson with him on Saturday where we brought out a talk from President Monson relating the Cheshire Cat's words to Alice to his situation with baptism. He told us he wanted to be baptized, but he had to be totally sure about it first. We told him that he of course cannot be baptized before he is actually ready, but that in order to even get there he must have a goal in mind. That goal was a baptismal date. We also tried to overcome his thought about being totally sure by talking about Zeno's paradox. I learned it in my Philosophy class (as well as the movie I.Q.) and it is a good way of showing that at some point in our faith travels we have to talk a leap. He accepted finally and here's hoping!

Another good success was with an inactive family called the Ahmetis. They haven't been in something like 8 years and feel totally abandoned by the church. Our first meeting with them 2 weeks ago was basically them venting their anger on us. This last week though we went over and it was much better. I think that their trust in us is improving and we are sure hoping to help them see the beauty of the Gospel light again. It might take some time though.

This doesn't really count as a success, but it kind of made my day. On Saturday we were out street contacting and this girl came up and tapped me on the shoulder. I was kind of weirded out but turned around and said hi. She asked if we had church the next day, where it was, and what time it was. We told her (because those are questions we like to answer). She was just like "I'll be there". Then she booked it out of there. She didn't even just run across the street, she ran until she was out of sight. We laughed pretty hard about it. However, we didn't see her in church which was a shame. Maybe next week.

I was able to speak in church on Sunday along with the 3 other missionaries who recently came to Fier. Preparing for a talk on the Savior was such a blessing. Man. What an incredible gift bearing testimony is. I mean, we get to do it all the time as missionaries, but still bearing testimony is so great. Also, Enxhi came to church here in Fier with her sister and should probably be getting baptized on Saturday! That is way exciting.

I have been working really hard this week on being happier. I think that I mentioned that I was going to be doing something like that last week. It really has made a difference. Being happy is so good. Sometimes it is really hard to start and often difficult to keep up. However, it is sure happier than being melancholy or even just content. Having high highs sets you up for low lows, but they are worth it and are always made up for if we continue to be honest seekers of happiness like Ammon. If you aren’t happy, start taking those steps to change it. It matters.

Well hey family, I hope that you have such a good day and week. Don't go too crazy. The Church is true. Christ is the Savior. He did what the good books say He did, and he did it for you and for me. Love you lots!

Elder Ostergaard

Monday, April 14, 2014

#40 Monday, April 14, 2014

Hey family!

First full week in Fier has done been done. I am feeling a bit better about the work here than I was a week ago, but it still feels like there is a ton that we still need to sink our teeth into.

It is so crazy, I was thinking about how back in high school I was considered the most optimistic in my senior class and everything, but out here in the field I have found it so much harder to keep enduring cheer that seemed so effortless then. Maybe it was because I just didn't really have the trials that we have as missionaries. Whatever it was, I was thinking last night as I said my prayer how I just haven't been finding in myself the piece of sunshine that I really used to see in myself. And I want to change that. So, that is that is the plan. This little light of mine is a-gonna shine.

But, anyways, this week was a great week! Saimir -- well I guess a little background on him. He has been taught for months by previous elders and is a really good guy. He is an English teacher and has recently been through a really difficult divorce. His wife is making it really hard for him to see his two daughters which is really hard on him. However, he has found peace in the Gospel (which he doubts sometimes) and we are really trying to help him progress. We taught him how to fast this week and he just did it which was awesome! He really feels the Spirit, and now he just needs to grab on and trust in the Lord. Florian read from the Book of Mormon finally! It was awesome and we are just really hoping to see him continue down the road of progression now. I think the Gospel still is just a for fun kind of thing for him, but we'll work to help him use his agency in the right way. Long-suffering and persuasion, it's like the hokey-pokey, that's what it's all about. Fuat was an investigator we found street contacting and he is doing well and tells us he believes that the church and Book of Mormon are true...but I think he isn't quite understanding the "only true church" thing. However, line upon line and precept upon precept we hope he will learn and come to a deeper understanding.

One big part of missionary work that we hadn't really noticed before was recent convert lessons. We are doing a good number of those this transfer. There are a lot of recently baptized 18-year-old or so boys in Fier and that makes for interesting church meetings. I think being a missionary is definitely the closest thing that I have experienced so far to how I look at being a father. You just really work your hardest to love the members and investigators and then when they do dumb things or just don't do the things that you know are best for them you are somewhere between frustrated, loving, and aaaaaaah! and well, that is just how it rolls. However, when they do something really good you are just so excited for them and it is just the best. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Elder Simons is doing well. He isn't really shell-shocked by the surroundings at all because I guess Israel is pretty similar. One thing that I have definitely learned about learning a language is it is hard to tell if you are really getting any better at all until someone comes in without a whole lot of experience. So one definite plus of this transfer is knowing that I have indeed been learning at least a little bit of this language over the last little bit.

Here are a couple pictures. The first one is Elder Simons and I right after we were put together. The second is a plate of deep fried frog. My lunch today.

Well, I love you so much and sure hope that you are having such a wonderful day! Excited and weirdly crazy feelings in the direction of Carley and Sam! Urime! Keep it real and don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Elder Ostergaard

Monday, April 7, 2014

#39 Starting Fresh-ish

Monday, April 7, 2014

First week here in Fier! Well, I guess partial week. Elder Clawson and I were companions for a days and bounced around between Fier, Lushnje, and Tirana before we got our new companions and got to know the area a bit and the such. There used to be 2 sets of missionaries here (2 Elders and 2 Sisters) and now there are three sets of us. We are opening up an area, but Elder Morava has been good about passing over some work so that we can start with our feet firmly planted. It is kind of weird, this is the first time coming into an area with work to do, I sure am hoping and praying we don’t screw it up! Fier is much smaller than Tirana (along with every other city in Albania) and you can actually see greenery which is nice. There is still street contacting opportunity, but I have decided that this is a good opportunity to expand my horizons and do more tracting. So far that has been a good experience. The church in Fier is on the second floor of a building and everyone knows where it is (well knows how to find it at least) which is a wonderful change from 3rd Ward. The Botts are the senior couple here ( I have been lucky enough to have a senior couple in every one of my areas) and Elder Bott is the Branch President here. He is actually the only non-Albanian serving as Branch President and we are hoping to see that changed soon here.

Elder Simons is my new companion straight from the MTC. He is 18 and is from…a lot of different places. Because his dad works in the State Department he has lived in a lot of different countries. His family is currently living in Israel. Elder Simons is a good guy. He has got a good start on the language and a firm testimony. He is much more humble than me (but I mean who needs humility when you have got everything else? Just kidding) and is very teachable. I just hope that I can get enough out of the way of the Spirit so that he can learn something. He is also, according to just about every nene (old lady) that we see, the most beautiful thing that they have ever seen. Yesterday probably 5 or 6 ladies told him how much of a bukurosh and “sa simpatik” he is. I laughed a lot and then translated what was going on to him. I think an old lady telling an 18-year-old missionary how beautiful he is loses some of its funniness in translation.

Coming in here has been a bit of a rough start. I can definitely tell that Satan doesn’t want me to like this place or the people that are here, but it is a good thing that decision is made by me, not him. Fier is the bomb and I am so excited to be here and do what is possible in the next short amount of time that I am allotted here. One cool opportunity that I have is to be in the same district as a native, Elder Morava. Natives truly can do some incredible things that we foreigners cannot. I am excited to learn from him and to try and become a much much better missionary. Looking at the work as a trainer is interesting. Everything must become so much simpler, because my companion cannot understand a whole lot of what is going on. All of a sudden, other distractions go out and it is just: 1) are we helping these people come to Christ? and 2) is my companion getting what he needs to be getting out of the current situation to become a good, but not just good, an exceptional missionary?

Some of the people we have started teaching are Saimir and Florian. Not a ton about them, but we are so excited to help these two progress and make covenants with Heavenly Father. I had also decided before the transfer started to work better with members, so that is something we are really going to try and do here. Not a whole lot to say about the work, but well, it’s a start.

Love ya a lot and hope and pray for your success in the big bad world out there. It’s tough stuff. A lot more complicated than on the mission. Keep it real.


Elder Ostergaard