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 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.

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.

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!

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 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