Monday, September 23, 2013
Family and Friends,
This week has been a full week in Tirana. On Tuesday, we dealt with a problem one of our investigators has had. This investigator progressed rapidly in the discussions and made some very difficult commitments and has kept them. A short while ago, while just after we set an initial baptismal date, we felt that something was wrong and put off the date; we thought maybe alcohol. In our next meeting with this investigator we discovered that the issue had nothing to do with his personal worthiness but the fact that he was not in a safe position to join the church. This investigator has an uncle that he has a problem with. Normally, that would not be an issue. But it is an issue if that uncle, in the time of communism, was a smuggler with a private army and now, in the post-communist era, is the head of one of the larger organized crime groups in Albania. The investigator had it out with his uncle a while ago and now he dodges unmarked vans, receives multiple anonymous phone calls, and the like.
But on Tuesday, in an interview with President Ford, we determined that since joining the church is not further endangering his life, he should join! We are working with him right now on setting a date for baptism.
After the interview in the afternoon, it started raining. Our landlord is in Italy for the week and they have a pet rabbit. When we left the apartment in the afternoon, the rabbit was loose in the garden. We thought of course that it had escaped. So we spent the next 20 minutes in the torrential rain running through the landlord’s garden chasing this demon rabbit that would not stay still. We finally caught it after I had slipped and smeared the side of my coat and pants in mud. We put it in a makeshift cage and continued with our day. We came back and didn't think anything of it. The next morning, we looked out and saw the rabbit in the garden again. We couldn’t believe it because he had secured it in the cage. It was only then when we realized that the landlord had hired someone to release the rabbit and re catch it every day. We felt dumb but had a good laugh.
We had Zone Conference on Wednesday and everyone in the Tirana Zone met together at the Mission Home and we trained. We had training on how to be better missionaries and set zone and district goals from now until the end of the year. We have goals to get branch church attendance to at least 80 in our branch and have 20 convert baptisms before the end of the year.
On Thursday we did some service in a member’s yard. The zone leaders, Ferguson and Pierce; the Sisters, Forte and Heathcote; and us, Acheson and Wagstaff worked in Motra Balalari’s yard for a couple of hours. Motra Balalari’s yard has not been attended to in about 10 years and it gave me an excellent opportunity to show off my axe skills. I did accidentally break her axe but she didn’t mind, I took down a row of trees that she had wanted to get rid of for 15 years. After the service she feed us. She used to be the head cook at the International Hotel in Tirana, which was good. She just happened to hear that the new American Elder in the branch (Elder Acheson) was overweight and she wanted to make him feel like he was home, which was bad. She made so much food. I was stuffed after the first large plate of beans. I was very uncomfortable after the second plate of rice and meat. I was in pain after the third plate of more beans. The dessert wasn’t even tempting but as my companion whispered to me in English, it would have been insulting to not eat the dessert but it is only made for honored guests. I didn’t eat until the next day. I was so stuffed.
Later on Wednesday evening, we met with our newest and most promising investigator Krenar. We met him at a placed called Taivani (or the old Taiwanese embassy which has been converted into a park and a public amusement area). We walked from Taivani to the church and had a wonderful lesson. Krenar has a very strong Christian background and is our most promising new investigators at the moment.
On Friday, we celebrated Sister Heathcote’s birthday by going to one of the best restaurants in Tirana called Fusion. It is situated in a skyscraper and had a beautiful outside view of the city. What would have cost well over $200 for 6 people in the United States cost us just under $50. We had some of the best food in the city for just under $9 a plate. The lunch was great and a very nice break from the work. The Elders did get “The Best Cheese Platter Ever” as an appetizer. The plate was called “The Best Cheese Platter Ever” and we had to check to see if it was truth. It was good, but I have a feeling somewhere in the world, maybe in Paris, New York, or Portland, some chef probably would disagree.
In the evening we had a member lesson with our other stellar progressing
investigator Maliq. We brought a recent
convert, Alfred Abdulari, to the lesson and it was an incredible experience.
Maliq is an older man who lives in a very humble home. But he is kind of the
community patriarch and his home is a species of community hub.
Almost every lesson we have taught has had someone just pop in and sit and
listen to the lesson. This time a man named Ermal was there and we had spoken
to him before. Maliq had also brought him to church. Ermal had some questions
about the practicality of being a member of the church in Albania. Luckily we
Alfred Abdulari is an older gentleman who is a lawyer and reads and writes English better than his Albanian, which is pretty good already. He doesn't speak so well but that is no issue. Alfred has also dealt a lot with the corruption of the Albanian government and organized crime in his area of Tirana. He hasn’t told me much yet but I’ll be working with him for 3 more months. He converted to the church in July and has, in that short time familiarized himself with many of the deep doctrines of the church.
Alfred immediately befriended Maliq and Ermal in the lesson and was a perfect tool to address Ermal’s concerns. He was an invaluable tool in explaining in a way that wasn’t limited by our poor Albanian. We were able to set a baptismal appointment for Maliq and have fully welcomed Ermal into our lessons.
On Sunday, Elder Wagstaff and I taught both a Gospel Principles class 2nd hour and Priesthood 3rd Hour. My Albanian skills are slowly and surely progressing but there is a lot of road ahead of me before I reach my potential.
We planned in the evening to visit Alfred Abdulari and his mother Lumteria at 8:00 to help explain more for General Conference coming up and we were met with a full meal! We had intended on sharing a brief message but the lesson ended at 9:00 and we had 20 min to eat a very full meal and leave so we could be home before the 9:30. We fit in a discussion about the various ways ancient Albanian influenced Greek and Latin and how many things that we believed to be of Latin and Greek origin are actually Albanian. For instance, the word Security. In Albanain the word is Siguri. The Newer Latin is Securus. The Older Latin is Sikerti. In the early Tusacany (or the area of Italy to the north of Rome) or Toskani dialect, Sigurti. The modern southern Albanain dialect is called Tosk. Ancient Tuscany or Toskani means land of the Tosks who were a group of Illirians or ancient Albanians. The modern and ancient Albanina Siguri literally means like rock. (si – like, guri – the rock). The conclusion is that Albanian might have given Latin and Greek many words that have come to us in English.
Next week we might talk grammar… exciting.
I love you all very much. I want everyone to know that all is well in Albania. The work moves forward.