Monday, April 27, 2015

# 93

Hey Family,

Happy Monday everybody! First of all, CONGRATULATIONS SOON-TO-BE-ELDER OSTERGAARD! What a wonderful blessing that you are called to serve a mission by a living prophet of God! When I was getting ready to go on a mission, I was sure to keep in mind that I could go anywhere in the world, but I really knew that I was going to South America. I, however, was not counted worthy to serve with the entire city of Midland in a country, so I came to Albania... where somehow they found a way to stick some other Midlanders as well ( the Volzs and almost Sister Threet).

I hope that you have been having just a splendid day so far! This past week we have been doing quite a bit of tracting and passing out of English Course fliers. A lot of our investigators have been showing some difficulties with meeting with us which lends us to spending a lot of looking for other investigators.

Even though we have been having some difficulties with meeting with a lot of our investigators, I think that the highlight of the week has been Tonini and his family. We have continued to go and visit them (it is only about a 10 minute drive, amazing how that would not be a barrier at all to missionary work in Midland) and they are great. The 15-year-old (her name is Jona) has been doing awesome. She has read the first several books of the Book of Mormon, and though she is going through catechisms at the catholic church, she told us on Thursday that she prefers listening to our lessons than those of the catholic priests. They really like and understand the idea of a modern-day prophet and really everything else that is taught. The only potential hang-up being as we talked about the prophet and his counsel to not gamble. Here in Albania it is huge to do sport betting, so we will see how this goes.

It is interesting how the Lord works. Often when we are trying to do what is right and things aren't quite going how we want, I have thoughts of how maybe the Lord's work is somehow being blocked up somewhere. However, when I take enough time to actually think about it, I realize that His work cannot be frustrated, it is just going in a different direction than we thought ourselves. However, that is not to say that we should not always be trying to work harder and better. What a blessing that we can always try and do that. I have truly realized that getting caught up in our own weaknesses is pointless and destructive. I hope that I will always be able to recognize that I have weaknesses, but not dwell on them. I love how Elder Holland put it when he stated that the Lord has been working with imperfect servants from the beginning of the world. "Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son," he states, "imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we." I am grateful that we have the opportunity to try and serve even though we are so inadequate, because without this opportunity, I don't know how we would possibly grow. What a wonderful blessing to be a missionary. I am so grateful for the Lord's refining fire, that as Tad R. Callister put it, "a potential god in embryo" has a chance to improve and move forward beyond human and mortal weakness.

I hope that you all have a wonderful day and week everybody!

Elder Ostergaard

Monday, April 20, 2015

# 92

Hey Everybody,

I hope that this last week has been fantastic! One thing that I noticed yesterday was actually as we called in to give the report on our week to our district leader. He referred to several of the things that we mentioned as miracles, and it was a good reminder to me that truly our lives are filled with miracles and life is so much more beautiful when we recognize those.

This week we had a couple of cool things happen. One was that we received permission to use the Sisters' car to go and visit Tonini and his family (he lives a bit outside of Shkoder) and so we were able to do that near the end of the week. It was great to be able to meet them and talk to them about the Gospel. His 15-year-old daughter had read the Joseph Smith Pamphlet and part of the Book of Mormon and had a lot of questions for us (they have strong Catholic roots so they were questions like: why do your priests marry? why don't you do confession? why don't you think that the Catholic church has authority? etc.). We were able to answer them and it was great to see Tonini back up some of the things that we were saying. He still isn't sure which church is true, but we're getting there bit by bit.

About a week and a half ago we talked to a man and his daughter on the way home at the end of the night and were able to go and meet those two as well as the mom this week. Jaku (the dad), Vera (the mom), and Dajana (the 10-year-old daughter) are from the north and have a Catholic background. They mentioned that other people from churches had been to their house before, but we weren't expecting when on the second visit Sunday night, Dajana pulled out a Book of Mormon and Restoration pamphlet that had been given to them a year ago. Pretty cool! We are excited to work with them and hope to help them become closer to their Heavenly Father through the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Saturday we held a traditional dance at the church (Albanians love to do that) and had a good amount of people come. Activities are a really good way to do missionary work. I have thought about during high school when I invited a couple of my friends to come to stake dances with me and it was great and they had a great time. I wish that I had done more to try and invite my buddies to learn a bit about what we were and why. I think one of the reasons that I didn't is that I didn't really know how to, and that made me scared. It is actually a really unthreatening thing to tell someone, "hey, I am going to be going to church on Sunday, wanna come?" How cool would it be if we just invited people in warm, normal ways to "come and see"?

One cool thing that we got to do this week was go over to the house of a less-active lady and whack cement off of her walls with a pickax! She deserved it though, she hasn't come to church in years. Just kidding, she asked us to do it, so it's kosher (in the most Mormon of senses).

Well, I love you everybody! Hope that you have a good week and don't do anything too crazy.

Elder Ostergaard

Monday, April 13, 2015


Hey Family,

This past week has been a bit of a different experience in comparison with the rest of my mission. For those that do not know the schedule of missionaries on the training schedule in a foreign language mission, we wake up at 6:30, have personal study from 8-9, companion study from 9-11, and then later on in the day we have an hour of language study. That is a lot of study time and for most of my mission, we have been very lenient in our hacking away at that to go do the "more important" things. Well, for quite a while I have been called to repentance and especially with this opportunity to train have really re-thought about things and realized that it is important to get that study in. I guess I used to think of studying as the Lord giving us a break from our labors, but instead it is truly a period for us to be prepared. It is not a break but a preparation period. It is truly an act of faith to take time to prepare our spirits before going outside, but it allows the Lord to work so much more through us. 5 minutes with the Lord's help is much more effective than hours without it. So, as we have worked to be diligent and obedient in our studies, I have found the need for a different kind of endurance and it is definitely building us up as missionaries.

Conference was wonderful! We were counseled to have all of the sessions at the church building and to attend all of them, something that has not happened before here. When there were people there we watched it in Albanian, and when it was just missionaries we watched it is English. I remember watching conference after 1 month in the country, and I proudly announce that it was significantly better this time! Thank goodness.

I really loved the talks of Elder Anderson, Elder Bednar, and everyone else. It was cool to hear the stories about the Ivory Coast and Haiti. It was inspiring to hear about those areas that in 30 years had grown enough for the Lord to see fit that a temple be built there. It helped me find a new desire to help this people work towards obtaining that blessing. I had written down a few questions to look at while I watched conference, one of them being to know how much to expect of all those with whom we work. I was grateful to receive the answer that though we do need to expect everything of them, we need to love them. A lot. I am so grateful that the Lord didn't "drop" me the 5 billion times that I made a mistake, but that He has continually worked with me. He is so patient with us and works with us even when we don't want Him to. There is so much to learn from His redeeming and enabling love.

We are currently working with a man named Tonini, and he is really cool. He has Catholic roots and he is really just trying to figure out which church is right. He really liked conference and we will have an opportunity to go out and meet his family this week, so it would be wonderful if you could throw out a prayer that he can receive and understand the answers to his prayers about which church is the Lord's church.

One wonderful thing that was in General Conference was President Uchtdorf's testimony of why he does what he does in the Church. It wasn't for anyone else or even out of a feeling of duty. Rather, it was because he loved the Lord and wanted to do what He asked. In a similar line, Elder Nelson talked about when he thinks of the activities he participates in on the Sabbath, he thinks about the message that those send to God and the love they transmit through his dedication. He said that when he bases everything he does on his love for God that everything is crystal clear. I am glad to be walking down a road in that direction that is based upon love rather than anything else.

Have a wonderful week everybody!

Elder Ostergaard

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Dear Family,

Happy Monday and I sure hope that you are all having a wonderful week so far! This past week was not quite spent as planned with many days spent in Tirana waiting for Elder Crandall (my new companion) to get into the country and then for the trainers and trainees to all to be assigned together. He is great. He is the third of five children, played in band, loves to sing, did drama, about 6 feet tall, and has strawberry blonde hair. Kinda crazy huh? Elder Crandall is from Colorado and he actually just got back recently from a year-long exchange in Germany. He

It is really hard to think of what I was like when I first came into the country, what was weird and what was normal. I have been trying to think of how I felt those first moments, days, and weeks...and I am coming up blank. Well, I guess he is just going to have to figure it out himself. Just kidding-- kind of.

This week I have been doing a lot of thinking about the Savior. Isn't it great? I hope that every week of the year will find me thinking about the Savior a lot rather than needing to wait for Easter or Christmas. One of the things that really struck me was just the extreme loneliness that must have been experienced by the Savior during this the last week of His mortal existence. One thing that really caused me to notice that was in the Joseph Smith Translation of Mark 14:36 which states:

36 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane,which was a garden; and the disciples began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy, and to complain in their hearts, wondering if this be the Messiah.

Even here, on the brink of the Atonement, the most important and eternal event ever, even those closest to the Savior did not recognize fully, or perhaps very much at all, the purpose and calling that the Christ had. I wonder if we understand any better than these men do the role of the Messiah in our lives. And if we do, I wonder if we apply that.

One thing that was reinforced to me this week was the knowledge that I love to bear my testimony. It is always just such a wonderful reassurance that I actually know what I know and love it. I am so grateful that the Spirit, as promised by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, is a necessary part of dictating that Jesus is the Lord. When we proclaim these truths, the Spirit enters in and everything just sort of fits into perspective and works. I like it a lot.

We had a bit of a rough day at Church yesterday (we will be watching conference this upcoming weekend) with a good amount of rain holding many back from coming. I sure hope that we can help others to recognize the need for the continuous Atonement in our lives. I also hope that I am learning that lesson in my own life in a very eternal way. It is easy to see how a mission is sort of a crash course in eternal learning, future Church service, as well as simply living as a disciple of Christ.

I hope that this week is wonderful and that you can continue to keep that Easter spirit with you!

Elder Ostergaard

P.S. Yes Mom, fringo is the Albanian word for gringo. I have no idea where it came from, perhaps somebody simply mis-typed and 'f' instead of a 'g' while creating the Albanian slang dicitionary.

As for Mother's Day, that is way too soon, Christmas was yesterday. Ask me about it next week. Thanks!

Monday, April 6, 2015

#89 Places everybody, it's transfer time!

Hello Family,

We got a call on Saturday night from President telling us about transfers. I will be staying here in Shkoder and have the opportunity to train once again ( I tried to let President know that I had messed it up the first time and it wasn't a good idea...but whaddya do?). I will be paired with my companion on the Thursday after spending 2 days in Tirana 2nd while'll be fun going back there a little bit. Elder Szabo is headed down to Tirana 1st (the only one of the Tirana wards I haven't had the opportunity to serve in). I am excited to stay here because Shkodra eshte nje qytet mrekullirash (Shoder is a miracle city). I am ready for the excitement that comes with fringo fire and just having new eyes on a situation. I hope that I can make myself pliable to be able to change and improve.

This past week we have been working to be a little bit better at continually looking for new people to teach. We have been able to meet many new people, and though we know that many of them will not have a continuing interest in the Gospel, I sure hope that we can, through our efforts and the Spirit's direction be led to those that are prepared. It is an interesting concept that we are truly looking for the elect, those that at this moment in time are ready and waiting. I think that it is a principle that requires a good sense of our eternal-ness and that all will have an opportunity at some point to accept this message. I hope that we will have the faith to find those that are ready now (I also hope that that is a lot of people, haha, but that isn't really my decision).

Other than that, this week hasn't been too crazy. One cool thing that has happened though is this family that we met last Sunday. We tracted into them and have since met with them several times. The father came to church on Sunday in a suit (he looked good). They have 2 sons that recently moved to Montreal and asked if we could get missionaries in contact with them, so I sent a note to Elder Dallin Jones. Hope that that works out!

Well, nothing much more to share. It is warming up pretty well here (I hope President switches over to short sleeve season soon). Conference here won't happen yet this week, but I would still love to hear your thoughts.

Elder Ostergaard

P.S. I am sure that you all know this already, but Albania beat Armenia in futboll 2-1 this week. Pretty big deal here. Haha, I wonder what percentage of the US recognizes those two places as distinct nations?