Monday, March 23, 2015


Dear Family,

I hope that you have had a wonderful week! This week I found myself without a planner for a couple of days (I accidentally left it in a byrek stand, I don't know if you know what byrek is, but it is basically flaky, butteriness with stuff in it-usually a kind of cheese called gjize, tomatoes and onions, ground beef, sausage, spinach, or a yogurt thing called kos.) and looking back I realized that I was totally reliant on Elder Szabo for anything time-related seeing as I haven't worn a watch in 4 months. Thank goodness for companions!

This week we got a little bit of bad news hearing that Adriatik had some familial problems meaning that he will have to be out of Shkoder this week and not be able to be baptized on Saturday. Our other investigator Leo that we were working with to be baptized by the end of the month is also not looking like that will be possible. We feel a bit like we are letting our mission and the Lord down as we are working to achieve goals that were set between President Weidmann and the Lord. However as we prayed about it last night, Elder Szabo expressed that he felt that what we are doing what we should be doing in helping people be baptized when they are really ready rather than simply trying to fill a goal. Isn't it great that the work of the Lord is a one-by-one work that differs, though it is the same at the same time, with every one of His children. We all need something different and in order to do this it requires love from the teachers to really look for what is needed. I sure pray that we will be in-tune enough with the Spirit so that we will know what the Lord wants these, His children, to know, feel, and do.

On Saturday we had a wonderful opportunity to get out on the street for about 4 hours and, using a table, street contact. We heard in a talk this week that it is impossible for someone to love the Gospel and to love people and not to love sharing the Gospel with people. I can say that I love the people and I also love the Gospel, and it is true that I truly do love sharing the Gospel with people. I am not that good at it, but I think that really a big part of it is just loving people and then, if we have put in some thought to studying the Gospel, they will pretty magically find their way together.

A few weeks ago I was reading in the book of Acts (I love the book of Acts, it is perfect for missionaries) and I was very struck by the words it says about Peter and his companions. They were imprisoned, freed by an angel, and then retaken and set before the Jewish council. After many words spoken they eventually beat them and let them go. Here is the part that stuck out to me: "And they departed from the presence of the council,rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." (Acts 5:41) Are we willing to suffer shame for His name? I have thought about that many times as people will sometimes yell or taunt and it is a bit shameful. What a blessing to be able to wear a tag that shows everyone that I am with Him, like it or not. I wish to be always willing and able to suffer shame for the name of the Savior.

We once again shared the film Ephraim's Rescue with a small group of people (we were supposed to show Joseph Smith:Prophet of the Restoration, but had problems with the subtitles) and I was struck by one line in particular. A woman tells Ephraim that he is a holy man and he replies that he has so many mistakes and flaws that he can't even count them. She replies by asking, "then how is it that you do so much good?" He answers, "I try." That is all we have to do. Just try. I testify that the Lord can work miracles with our meager and imperfect attempts. He has been working perfect deeds through imperfect means since the beginning of time and He can do it with us.

I hope that you all have a wonderful day and week. This world is beautiful and so are the lives that we live in it. I hope that you can take a bit of time to see that today!

Elder Ostergaard

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Adriatic South Mission
P.O. Box 2984
Bulevardi "Gjergj Fishta"
Qendra "ALPAS", Shkalla NR. 5,
Apartamenti NR.14
Tirana 00355, Albania

Hey Mom,

Really quick before I forget, this is the new mission home address.

Happy Monday and late Pi Day! Sad to say, it does not get celebrated here in Albania at all...and I totally forgot about it until I read some emails. I am guessing one of the big reasons for that is that dates are written day-month-year in this corner of the universe (as well as just about everyone else in the world I think).

Well, this past week we had an opportunity to see two brethren baptized and confirmed! Mariglen and Franc are now the newest members of the Shkoder Branch, a much anticipated occasion. It was wonderful being able to talk with these two the day before their baptisms about their feelings on all of this. They practiced bearing their testimonies to us (there is an opportunity for them to bear their testimonies after the ordinance and there were some nerves on Franc's side) and it was great to hear them talk about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the changes that they have made and seen in their lives since first meeting with us.

We were able to share the story of Abish with Mariglen. It is a pretty important story for me in recognizing the role of the member in missionary work. After Ammon and the King's house dropped like flies because of the influence of the Spirit, Abish (a previous believer aka a member) runs around and tells everyone about this wonderful and incredible miracle. They all come running and...much to Abish's dismay begin to argue with one of them actually attempting to kill Ammon. In the midst of her distress however, she takes the Queen's hand and she rises and preaches followed by the others. In the end, a huge amount of people were converted and baptized. Ammon did great work and was able to service his way into the King's house and help in his conversion...but unless Abish had gone out and told all of her friends (and everyone else too), only the King's house would have been converted that day. Thank goodness for members that see in them the ability to help others. Elder Bednar made the statement that full-time missionaries are full-time teachers and that members are full-time finders. Crazy, huh? I actually did the math, and starting with 1 member, supposing that Shkoder is 200,000 people big, if each month each member would bring 1 friend into the the fold of the Gospel, this entire city would be baptized in a little over 17 months. That's crazy. We just need to open our mouths.

One thing that I have had the privilege of seeing this weakness is a clearer view of some of my weaknesses. It is a really difficult pill to swallow that we have points that truly must be changed. However, as I considered some of the things that I learned about myself, I was so grateful that these particular challenges are brought into my view right now. What better place to learn to be better than on a mission? I recognized a little bit about how a father must feel when he makes a mistake and fears for the consequences that could come from it and just hopes to not make that mistake with the next child. The Lord truly knows our weaknesses and allows us to walk through that refiner's fire. I pray that we will always have the courage to accept those weaknesses when we see them and lay them at the Savior's feet. The Atonement of Jesus Christ does not only provide redemptive power that changes bad men to good, but also an enabling power which helps good men become better. It is truly a blessing that these short-comings that we find within ourselves do not need to be overcome by ourselves, but that we can call upon heavenly powers to both "[put] off the natural man" as well as to "[become] a saint" (Mosiah 3:19). Elder Bednar gave some thoughts on this subject...somewhere, but I can't remember when.

Thank you so much everybody for loving the Savior and desiring to serve Him! I am so grateful that I have these 2 years to wear His name upon my chest and that, as Philip of the New Testament,"[open my] mouth... and [preach] unto [Albania] Jesus." (Acts 8:35)

Love you everybody!
Elder Ostergaard

#1 This is from us mopping ;out the flooded church a couple weeks ago.

#2 This is from when we made taffy two weeks ago for FHE. As you can tell from the smoke, it boiled over onto the stove. Franc that just got baptized is the one in the middle with his thumb up.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Hello everybody!

This past week has, as always been dominated by the blessings that were very much so present. It reminds me of the part in Pollyanna where she is sitting with the pastor under that large tree in the field and she reads her locket "'If you look for the bad'... oh, it always makes me cross-eyed" then the pastor reads the quote "If you look for the bad in people you surely will find it." It is that way in both people as well as situations. We can see good or we can see bad. It is up to us.

Yesterday we got together and all headed down to Stake Conference in Durres. Stake Conference was a little funky this time around because they actually did it in two parts, one for half of the stake in Elbasan in the morning and one for the other half in Durres in the afternoon. We were able to load 18 people up (6 missionaries, 4 members, and 8 investigators) to go down there. We made a big push for all of the men to be wearing their Priesthood uniform and, well in a few words, we looked good! It was so wonderful to see all of these current and potential Priesthood holders wearing white shirts and ties. It truly makes a difference. The conference was wonderful and really packed a punch for those who had ears to hear. I had the opportunity to sit next to Mariglen (a 20 year-old who will be baptized on Saturday) both in the conference as well as in the van on the way home. President Mema (the Stake President) gave a talk focused on those preparing to serve missions. I turned to him near the beginning and told him that this was for him, he looked back and said "ajo eshte arsyja pse une po degjoj me vemendje" ("that is why I am listening intently"). On the way back we sat and talked for those 2 hours about how his life is changed by this message that he started to hear 2 months ago and what that means for him. Cool stuff.

We started up our English Course on Thursday, our main fear was that the morning Zone Conference in Tirana would make us late. However, that wasn't a problem, with the main problem turning out to be the buckets of rain falling from the heavens all day. Few people showed up. However, we have solid hope that on Tuesday we will have a much better turn out. In fact, the first day not working out might have actually done a good job of weeding those out that weren't really interested anyway.

Haha, one exciting thing that happened this week was on Wednesday night, we were out tracting and the other Elders called us and let us know that the toilet had a problem and the church had flooded. We jumped over there (it's a good calf workout) and the four of us and the sisters used mops, a squeegee, brooms, and a dustpan to clear the water out. We had to try and do it pretty quickly because it was getting late. We got most of it out (just by pushing the water out the door) and then left the air conditioners on overnight to dry the place up before the English Course the next day.

Hey, I love you guys and pray that you are doing alright! RenFair looked fantastic from what dad sent to me. I hope that you are having a wonderful time getting all runner-y for the marathon and such.

Elder Ostergaard

This is the Franc Posse. From left: Martiglen (working to be baptized on the 28th), Franc (will be baptized on the 14th), Leo (working for the 28th), Franc (the member that brought them all).

This is our Shkoder squad in front of the Durres chapel (it is actually built by the Church and is beautiful). From the back left: Leo (I), Franc (I), Martiglen (I), Me, Erion (I), President Kraja, Elder Szabo, Mariglen (I), Elder Wilcox, Kujtim (I) Middle from left: Sister White, Sister Vjerdha (I), Sister Maxwell, other lady (I) Bottom from left: Arsen, Franc, Noj, Elder Walley.

(I) after their name means investigator.

We be a-lookin' good.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Hello Everybody!

This past week we had a bit rougher week numbers-wise (only 14 in church and fewer people taught about the Gospel than we would wish) but there were also miracles!

Do you remember a guy named Mariglen that was mentioned last week? Well this week he came to church in a white shirt and tie, and he was looking good! Being Fast Sunday he took part in fasting and actually bore his testimony during Sacrament Meeting (not totally positive if that is kosher or not...but we aren't Jewish anyway so I am cool with it). In his testimony he mentioned that 2 months ago he didn't really have any kind of relation with his Heavenly Father. This was partially due to the fact that the closest church to his hometown was an hour away by car. However he said that as he has learned from the scriptures over these past months he has discovered and strengthened that relationship. How awesome is that? People are changed by the Gospel. Truly.

This upcoming week we will be able to go to stake conference! It is actually going to be the first stake conference since the conference where the stake was actually formed (that was along time ago, before I was in Fier) and it is going to be awesome! We have talked to our investigators and members about wearing the uniform of the Priesthood, so we are hoping to take a lot of well and properly dressed men down to that meeting! It is pretty amazing how many steps there are in the Gospel/Church, different ways that the Lord asks us to act that bring us a little bit closer in line to His way. Here at the beginning stages a whole lot of those steps are very apparent. In fact, just about every time we meet with these people they are invited to do something that will very noticeably change their life and how they worship God. That is a whole lot of change. The cool thing is that when people have the Spirit with them, they are willing to make those changes. The Lord is so so patient with us though, and thank goodness because we forget so often the importance of different elements of the Gospel or even the elements themselves and He totally lets us take another stab at it. Beautiful huh?

Last night we were able to go tracting a little bit. We knocked on the door of this family and the wife opened the door. The husband was there too and consented to let us come in. We tried our best to have a spiritual lesson with three young kids running around and hitting each other in the nose with tv remotes. The husband turned out to be the most interested and we had his eye contact just about the entire time. At the end of our testifying about the Restoration and how prophets were given once again to the earth by a loving God along with His Priesthood power, the husband was willing to accept a return appointment...but the wife fought and said they weren't interested to hear anymore. It was so sad to see this man who had apparently seen something in the message allow another's agency to overcome his. We left a Joseph Smith pamphlet (my favorite one), an English course flier (which has a map to the church on it) and our telephone number. So, if he acts on promptings of the Spirit he will have a way to get in contact with the missionaries. Someday down the line something will happen to continue working on that seed that has been planted in his heart.

This week we will be re-opening our English course, so we are hoping and praying those that are chosen by the Lord will be led to it!

Love you so much everybody! Missions are great! I highly recommend them. 4 stars! Two enthusiastic thumbs up! If you could I would ask that you keep a prayer out for Mariglen, Adriatik, Franc, and Leo. They are working to be baptized on the 14th of March. Thanks so much!

Elder Ostergaard

These were taken by Elder Wilcox while one of the little kids that sells roasted almonds on the street came up and became converted by the word of God.