Monday, September 16, 2013

#2 LETTER FROM ALBANIA




A Wonderful Addition to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


LDS District Conference at Academy of Art, Tirana Albania


September 16, 2013

Family and Friends!

This week has been full of great experiences for me and Elder Uagstaf (Wagstaff) . We had my first baptism among many other great things.

A couple of Elders in our zone ate some Mexican food they probably should not have eaten and ended up in the hospital for 5 days. Elder Ferguson, one of our zone leaders, and Elder Anderson, a semi-AP, ate some chimichangas at a restaurant called "Serendipity" and came away with debilitating food poisoning. Elder Ferguson's companion, Elder Pierce, spent the duration of his companion's stay in the hospital with us. We visited the incapacitated missionaries in the hospital on Monday and brought them "get well" posters. Elder Ferguson's poster had written upon it "Të lumta barku" which translates to "May your stomach get prayed" (which made nurses at the hospital laugh) and Elder Anderson's poster had "Wasn't that Serendipitous?" written on it as well as a chimichanga menu with toppings like rice, cheese, salmonella, e coli, and 3-7 days in the hospital. They loved their posters. They left the hospital on Wednesday and are doing well.


When Elder Pierce was with us, we had to amend our proselyting strategy; people aren't going to open doors to 3 Americans in white shirts and ties in Albania. We were able to do member retention work but we found little success with finding efforts in our threesome. We gave Elder Pierce back to his companion on Wednesday when he left the hospital.

We had my first convert baptism on Thursday. Anisa Miliku was baptized by her fiancée Elvis Lulo at the 2nd and 4th Branch Building. The service was beautiful and many missionaries in Tirana were able to bring their investigators too.

On Friday we had two faith building experiences. Because of our time as a threesome, we were behind on our goal to finding new investigators. We set a goal Friday morning to have two new investigator lessons that day. We had scheduled an appointment with a man we met the day before in the street. He didn't come and didn't answer his phone. Se we went and began street contacting along Unaza or "The Ring" (a main thoroughfare encircling most of Tirana) at 9:00. We said we would contact until 10:00 and then go back to our house and do weekly planning. At 9:56, we considered leaving and calling it bust but we decided to stick it out until 10. At 9:59, a bus had just unloaded and a man was about to pass us by. I felt prompted to talk to him. I did. He didn't ignore us and we began talking. We invited him back to the church a couple of blocks away to have a lesson about this book we had. He came and we had our first lesson with Krenar.

Krenar is a carpenter from a city called Korça near the border with Greece. He has a powerful belief in Christ and felt as though he has not come across Christ's church. He told us that he had taken lessons from Jehovah's Witnesses, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, and others, but when he was with us, he felt something different. We have a lesson scheduled with Krenar this afternoon at our church and plan on expounding on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Krenar has one of the most awesome accents and I hope that I can talk to him enough to pick it up.

The other faith building experience we had came in a similar manner. An investigator called and cancelled a lesson we had scheduled at 5:00 with the Branch Mission Leader. It was around 4:00 and we decided to go street contacting again to find someone to bring to the lesson with the Branch Mission Leader. At 4:50, we stopped a man who had been a member of the communist intelligentsia under Enver Hoxha. He had been educated at the premiere University in Moscow in the 70's and he spent the next 15 minutes bashing the concept of God and religion. When we attempted to end the conversation, he would grab my or Elder Uagstaf's shoulder and continue. We broke away from this man 5 minutes after our lesson was supposed to have begun. On the way to the church to give the Mission Leader a lesson we had planned as a backup, Elder Uagstaf felt prompted to stop a man in front of the bank. He literally said "Hey would you like a lesson about the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ?" The man, to our surprise said yes and he came.

Ardian is from Tirana and at first glanced looked crazy (there is a lot of mental and physical disability in Albania because of the harshness of the communist regime and the poor health care system). Ardian's eyes point in opposite directions rather dramatically. But in the lesson, though very animated, he followed what we taught, asked great questions, expressed rational concerns, and recited some of the English he could remember from learning in school. Something that shocked all of us was when we asked him to remove his hat for a prayer, he said he usually didn't take it off because he didn't want to scare people. He took off his hat and under his unkempt, grey hair: a sizable portion of his skull, beginning 2 1/2 inches above his eyebrows and as far back as his ears, was missing. It had been surgically removed. The skin had been crudely sown back together and the contours of his brain were visible beneath the skin. We discovered the source of his aliment. The interesting thing was that he was able to function and converse so well despite the missing portion of his brain.   

The next night, Elder Uagstaf and I were again street contacting along Unaza and Ardian came up to us and asked for another lesson. In that lesson, I was prompted to challenge him to be baptized. He accepted. We will see what needs to be done in order for everything to work.

Sunday was District Conference. It is the equivalent of Stake Conference in areas where a Stake doesn't exist. Members and missionaries from all over Albania came and held church together in the theater at the University of Art in Tirana. One of the advantages of living so close was that we had 5 investigators come to District Conference. Elder Charles of the 3rd Quorum of the Seventy was our visiting General Authority and he spoke very well. President Ford, our mission president and presiding resident authority gave a talk in broken Albanian that received a round of applause that was quickly silenced by the district presidency. I must admit, it was one of the funniest things I have heard. President Ford is a Brit from London and can't speak or pronounce Albanian at all. He muscled his way through the talk and was so funny while delivering it. He refused translator help. Sister Ford was so embarrassed. 

Your Albanian for the week translates into something that might be recognizable for those of you literature readers. I just purchased a copy of one of my favorite books in Albanian that I will be able to read in 2 years. "Lufta është Paqe. Liria është Skllavëri.Injoranca është Forcë." This the Albanian translation of the phrase "War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength" found in George Orwell's 1984. 

But since I am a missionary and would never end on anything but a spiritual note. I will relate the beginning of a phrase that has universal power and is a formidable tool in the hand of any missionary. I will leave it up to you to find the translation. 

"Unë pashë një styllë drite tamam mbi kokën time, me i shkëlqyeshme se dielli, e cila zbriti gradualisht derisa ra mbi mua...

Kur drita pushoi mbi mua, unë pashë dy Personazhe, lavdi dhe shkëlqimi e të cilëve i kapercejne të githa përshkrimet...|

I love you all and am thankful for your prayers and support. You are a blessing and I hope to make you proud.

Love,

Elder Acheson

Elder Acheson with some future missionaries from Albania

Elder Acheson playing Monopoly with a  LDS members:  the Vogli familiy

Elder Acheson street contacting with good friend and former MTC companion Elder Ostergaard

Some Albanian graffiti:  "END THE OLD POLITICS" 



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