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!

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!

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.

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!

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.

Elder Ostergaard