Monday, October 27, 2014


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 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!

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.

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.

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.