Monday, November 25, 2013

#12 WEEK IN TIRANA, ALBANIA

Family and Friends,

This week a number of things of interest have happened.

President Russell T. Osguthorpe
On Wednesday, the Church’s General Sunday School President Russell T. Osguthorpe, the Second Counselor in the General Young Men’s Presidency Brother Randall L. Ridd, and Second Counselor in the European Area Presidency Elder Timothy J. Dyches came and spoke to members here in Albania. The Tirana and Durrës missionaries had a special meeting with them this past Thursday morning.

They shared with us some absolutely wonderful messages about how we can improve our missionary efforts.  President Osguthorpe shared with us an adorable video clip of his granddaughter Molli (aged 2 or 3) learning how to buckle herself in to a high chair. She struggled for a couple of minutes with her parents encouraging her. When she finally buckled it, she exclaimed “I did it” (The video clip had the Albanian subtitles “E bëra!” for the convenience of non-English speakers). The lesson was that we could help our investigators learn and develop but they have to be the ones developing testimonies in Christ and faith in the Father’s plan. They shared this and other wonderful lessons with us.



Congressional Palace, Tirana Albania
On  Friday, our district participated in the City-wide service day. Groups all over Tirana picked up garbage and helped clean the city. We picked up garbage around the Pyramid, along Rruga Papa Gjon Paul II, and around Palati Kongreseve or the Congressional Palace. The day of service was much needed because the typical street in Tirana is littered with candy wrappers, cigarette butts, and bottles of beer. We saw a marked improvement in the city the next day. There is still a very big job left.

Elder Thomas Chase Acheson
Something unique about the Adriatic South Mission that I would like to discuss is that we and the Sierra Leone Mission (I believe, I could be wrong on the specific mission but in that area) are the only missions with a majority population of Muslims. The majority of people that we speak to are Muslims. I want to talk about what my experience has been thus far teaching and conversing with Muslims about religion has been.

Most of the Muslims in Albania are cultural Muslims, meaning that they are Muslim because their parents were, there aren’t very many converts. Because of the communist regime, many people don’t actually practice but say that they are Muslim. There are Xhamis or Mosques spread throughout Tirana and the Call to Prayer is played 5 times a day but I have never seen anybody get down and pray in the streets. I have only seen people pray within a Xhami.

There are many women wearing Burkas and men wearing conservative clothing with beards. There are people that we have stopped on the road who have given us very sincere testimonies of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. It is a very interesting because the things that we hear every day and are common to us are not very common outside of our mission. “Ka një Zot!” (there is one God) is almost of ‘end-all’ conversation piece that many Muslims use on us every day.
Good Deed Doers: Acheson and Wagstaff

The concept of the relationship between God and us differs greatly between Muslims and Latter-day Saints. They believe that humans are the creations of God designed purely to worship him. There is no concept of progression. There is a concept of heaven and reward if you apply the commandments of Allah. The heaven concepts have varied from person to person that I have spoken with.

If you are a LDS missionary assigned to the Adriatic South Mission, read the Qur’an. You don’t need have the thing memorized and don’t let it get in the way of your study of the Standard Works, but at least be familiar with it. In Albania, you get Bible-Bashed and Qur’an-Bashed. The important thing to realize is that Muslims believe that the words written in the Qur’an are the Words of God. Not the inspired words of Mohammed but the literal words of God taken by dictation. A Muslim is as likely to Qur’an-Bash as a Baptist is likely to Bible-Bash.

The hard working and super cool Tirana District
With very few exceptions, most of the Muslims that I have spoken to are incredibly polite and kind people. They are very rational and productive members of society. Our Pronari or Landlord is Muslim and they are wonderful and friendly. They left a plate of Baklava on our table for Small Bajram. Many of the members we have in 3rd Branch are of Muslim origin are perfectly wonderful Latter-day Saints.

This is Elder Acheson’s opinion on Muslims: The religion of Islam is a wonderful and beautiful institution that directs people to worship of God and service to their fellow brethren on the earth. Just as in all religions and means of identification, extremism is a very sad and unfortunate thing. Christianity has a history fraught with inter-denominational wars and persecution. Islam, just like Christianity has a small, out-spoken minority that taints an overall peaceful and service-driven people. All of the true believers I have met are good people and want to do their best to worship God and I am thankful for the example of those faithful Muslims I have met.

I am ever thankful for the blessings and prayers that have come from you. I now that you will be blessed according to your faithfulness to the commandments of our Heavenly Father. I have gained a testimony that daily reading of the Book of Mormon sets the tone of the entire day and can provide an unshakeable base that no problem can dislodge. I know that from that, your life will improve and that you will feel good and secure in the knowledge that you are a loved child of our Heavenly Father.

I love you all and hope the best for you,

-Elder Açësoni


Elder Acheson putting his shoulder to the work with Elder Pierce


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