Monday, March 31, 2014

#7 WEEK IN DURRES, ALBANIA

Family and Friends,

Another fantastically beautiful day in Durrës. We could not have asked for a better day upon which to end this great transfer.


Last night Elder Bilodeau and I received the news that he would be serving the city called Lushnjë as one of the Zone Leaders of the South Zone of our mission. I have been asked to stay in Durrës as the District Leader and will additionally be training a new missionary expected to arrive in the country within the next couple of days, for which I am very excited. I get to be a father! I heard incidentally that my father, Elder Wagstaff, will be training again in his final transfer up in the city of Gjakova, Kosovo. I get a brother as well!

I am very excited looking forward on this new transfer. The new Durrës district will be constructed in a similar manner as to my district back in Elbasan: I, in my 3rd transfer, will be training a new elder and the other missionary companion set will be two 2nd transfer elders. Elders Stewart and Grey will be joining me and my son in the work in the City on the Sea.


I am sorry to see Sisters Russell, Heathcote, Singer, and Smith go. Sisters Heathcote and Singer have been assigned to labor together in Shkodër whereas Sister Russel will be co-senioring in Tirana 2nd Ward and Sister Smith will be the only sister training in the mission; she will be serving in Vlorë. I am thankful for the high quality work and am completely confident that their contributions will make a difference in their future areas.

I would like to share a lesson that I have learned this transfer. At the end of my last transfer, I concluded that successful missionary work requires submitting to the plans of the Lord; this work is not Elder Acheson's work, it is the Lord's. This transfer I have learned the importance of a simple Gospel lesson: exact obedience brings blessings.


As stated in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 130 "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—  And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." This means that if we receive a blessing, we received it as a "reward" for being obedient towards the commandment with which the blessing is connected. If we flip the equation established in D&C 130, If I want a specific blessing from God, I need to be obedient towards the commandments with which that blessing is connected.

The commandments that are connected with good missionary work are the mission rules as set forth in the white "Missionary Handbook" and the rules that President Ford has set out for us here in the Adriatic South Mission. I have learned that when we are exactly obedient to the mission rules, the Lord pours blessings upon his servants. I know that this is not only applicable to missionaries but all children of God. If you are seeking for a specific blessing in your life, search the scriptures and find the commandment or law connected with that particular blessing. I can promise you that if you are looking for a blessing of better health, be obedient to the Word of Wisdom. If you are looking to find work or improve your work situation, be obedient to the Law of Tithing and Sabbath Day observance. If you seek for a blessing of greater magnitude, you must more energetically and thoroughly apply and keep that commandment in your life. This I have learned throughout this transfer.

I love you all and I am excited to report to you next week about my new companion. May God be with you in all that you do!

-Elder Açësoni

Monday, March 24, 2014

#6 WEEK IN DURRES, ALBANIA

March 24, 2014

Family and Friends,

Hello from stormy Durrës!

Elders Acheson and Bilodeau outside the library in Durres, Albania
We have received a large storm system from our friends up north and are enjoying a in-door P-Day.

Today we have enjoyed a wonderful excursion to the Durrës library. That may sound boring, but I can assure the reader that it was anything but boring. We had a look into literature from the communist regime. I flipped through a book printed by the communist government called "Shqipëria e Re" or
The Durres library
"The New Albania." It described a very different Albania than the one I have described to me by those who witnessed it. Many things have been forgotten in the painful transition to relative democracy. 30 years ago when the world was torn between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., some other places festered in their dystopian despotisms; Albania happened to be one of those places that was overlooked by the majority of the external world.

Another beautiful day in Durres
But we have had a great week in Durrës on top of a great P-Day. We found an excellent Seafood restaurant: Restaurant Riçard (Richard), which incidentally is right next to the Library.
Elder Acheson sure loves seafood!
There you can find a high quality, high quantity bowl of steamed mussels for a mere $5. Fantastic fish and expertly cooked fish, freshly caught from the Adriatic are available for the exorbitant $5 or $7.

Hekuran is on his way to being baptized. He has borne his testimony to us and we have shared some touching spiritual moments with him. He is excited to share the gospel with his family. He brought his niece to a lesson and she wanted to begin receiving the lessons from our sister missionaries her in Durrës. I am very excited for Hekuran's growth in the gospel.
Elder Acheson with Hekuran


Just today, we ran across a man in the street with whom we had appointed a baptismal date. We came to the conclusion after he disappear, that he had died. He is an older gentleman but we ran into him and we are excited to begin teaching him again.

Lunch? Anyone?
I love my city, my companion, my people, and my mission. I am excited for all prospective missionaries who will soon be joining the ranks of missionaries in the field. It is such a sweet experience.

I love you all and hope you have an excellent week

-Elder Açësoni
Anchors away matey!

Inside the library looking out

Monday, March 17, 2014

#5 WEEK IN DURRES, ALBANIA

March 17, 2014


Family and Friends,
 
Elder Acheson--Solid as a rock!
We have had a fantastic week here in Durrës.

Last Tuesday I had an opportunity to assist Elder and Sister Homer, the 3rd Ward Senior couple with whom I served while I was in Tirana. They are the Humanitarian couple here in Albania and they came to visit a handicapped child care center here in Durrës and they want our translating assistance. But when they came we found they were not alone. They were accompanied by Elder Homer's uncle President Reber, the first mission president of Albanian. He had returned for the formation of the Stake and to spend time with Elder Homer.
Elder Bilodeau to the rescue

President Reber was originally President of the Vienna, Austria Mission back in the early 90's and he opened Albania. The story he told was purely amazing. I will try my best to reproduce it as accurately as I can.

A man came into his office in Vienna and said "My people [the Albanians] could benefit from your church in our country [Albania]." President Reber told the man that Albania is out of my control and I don't even think Americans can go there. The man asked to speak to the highest US official that President Reber knew; as it so happened the US Secretary to NATO, and a member of the Church, just moved into
Elder Acheson heading the call
President Reber's neighborhood and a meeting was arranged. With some temporal and ecclesiastical authorization, President Reber and a couple other church authorities flew into Tirana under a banner of Humanitarian Aid and were invited to meet with the Minister of Agriculture.

President Reber described the meeting like this: We were brought into this poorly lit room with men sitting around a large board room table. The smoke was so thick that we couldn't clearly see the people with whom we were conversing across the table. We sat down and looked at each other for a couple of minutes and then through the translator the Minister said "We would like 500 tractors."

The photo with a "Nais" hotel: There is no word "Nais" in Albanian; that is the Albanian pronunciation of "Nice." I am sure it is a nice hotel. 
At this point in the story, President Reber began to describe how they offered service volunteers as their form of assistance as educators and government advisors. The first missionaries were volunteers and President Reber supervised the entrance of proselyting missionaries. He said that when they brought them into the country they all went out into the square in Tirana. Not one of them knew Albanian.

President Reber went on to describe miracle after miracle to the point where if something actually didn't go according to their plans, they were surprised. Elder Bilodeau and I were very honored to have had the opportunity to hear the story of the entrance of the Church into Albania from the man that facilitated it under the spirit of revelation and prophecy.
Scripture study with newly baptized Ersi Myrtollari

On Wednesday we had Zone Training that was held in Tirana. It was very nice to see many wonderful missionaries that I have missed. President Ford's new focus for us missionaries is that we invite people to be baptized on the first lesson as it is stated in Preach My Gospel. We experienced success with this already this week.

Elder Acheson with Alma from Durres
Well I am happy to be serving here in Durrës. The sunny beaches are hard to resist. We are working hard and seeing the fruits of our labor. I love being out here with Elder Bilodeau.

Elder Acheson with an awesome young man from Durres
Thank you all for your love and prayers. You are great and I love you.

Elder Açësoni

PS The photo with a "Nais" hotel: There is no word "Nais" in Albanian; that is the Albanian pronunciation of "Nice." I am sure it is a nice hotel. 


Monday, March 10, 2014

#4 WEEK IN DURRES, ALBANIA

Monday March 10, 2014

Family and Friends,

Elder Acheson in Durres, Albania
It has been an historic week here in Albania as well in Durrës and I am excited to share some details with you.

While I have been in the country since September there was talk about the possible formation of a Stake of the Church here in Albania. As missionaries, we were given certain goals to move along the formation of the Stake by our mission president. We received confirmation a couple of months that the formation of the Tirana, Albania Stake was approved and would be established March 9th 2014. Yesterday just happened to be that day.

[Elder Acheson with Hekuran Seçi, an investigator scheduled to be baptized, riding to Stake Conference in Tirana from Durrës]
Members and Missionaries were bused in from all corners of the mission covering Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia to Tirana's Congressional Palace which was reserved for this occasion. Elder Patrick Kearon and Elder Christopher Charles were sent to be the presiding authority and to represent the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in the formation of the Stake with former District President Medlir Mema as the new Tirana Albania Stake President with Presidents Kashari and Agalliu as his counselors. There are 6 full-fledged wards in the Stake: the 4 Tirana Wards, the Vlorë Ward, and the Durrës Ward. I am familiar with 2 new Peshkop[s] (bishops): Peshkop Zela in 3rd Ward and Peshkop Dodaj here in Durrës.

Elder Bilodeau with some LDS youth

Elders Biladeau and Acheson with a new member

Sister Heathcote, Tefta Demiri, Elder Palmer, Elder Acheson, and Denisa Demiri in the Congressional Palace
It was so wonderful to be Stake Conference because I was able to see people from Tirana and Elbasan that I had gotten close to. I got to see Alfred Abdullari, Alfred and Deko Allushi, Tefta and Denisa Demiri, Agron Bukaçi, the Vogli Family, and Nënë and Ana Ballallari from 3rd Ward and Suzana Biçaku (the newest member of the Elbasan Branch), Esisona Allushaj, President Kashari and his family, Elona and Florida Toromani, and little Denis Zhurda. My heart was beginning to pop seeing all of these wonderful members I had grown to love and then came my fellow missionaries. I got to see my former companions Elders Ostergaard, Wagstaff, and Price and others from my group like Elders Baker, Rawlings, Clawson, Linderman, Richards, Jorgenson, and Sister Leblow. Everyone was so happy and I felt so wonderful just being back in Tirana.


[Elder Acheson in Durrës' Roman Era Amphitheater]


I am so happy to have seen the growth of Albania in the Church. It motivates me to want to achieve the goal set by Elder Kearon for Albania within 3 years, to have another stake of Zion. It may seem like a huge feat but I am willing to put in my part.

I rejoice with you and send my love to all who read this. This is truly wonderful news and I am so happy to be in the Adriatic South Mission.

Love,

Elder Açësoni




Monday, March 3, 2014

#3 WEEK IN DURRES, ALBANIA

March 3, 2014

Family and Friends,

Hello from Durrës and Happy March!

The Baptism of Ersi Myrtollari with Elders Biladeau and Acheson
Things have been going wonderfully in Durrës. We baptized Ersili Myrtollari (Ersi) on Friday and he is awesome. Ersi was found by Elders Bilodeau and Richards a few weeks ago and has progressed at a rapid rate toward baptism. Ersi had been looking for the truth in his life for quite some time. He met with missionaries some time ago but things were not correct then. We were just fortunate enough to be here when the planets aligned in his favor.

This week has been an Ersi-highlighted week. He has spent almost 2 complete days joining us in lesson and baring down pure testimony at just the right moments to our other investigators.

With the Mytollari Family and Elder and Motra Tooley
The evening after he was baptized, we took the Tooley couple (who were visiting from Elbasan) to Ersi's home for a celebratory dinner with Ersi and his family. This very a pleasant evening  which was accented with a power outage and a realization that I have reached the point on my mission where I can thoroughly enjoy a conversation with a drunk Albanian for an extended period of time. Ersi's father, a non-traditional Muslim, took Ersi's baptism as an excuse to begin dinner drunk and to swallow 3 more glasses of Raki (the Albanian traditional liquor) through the course of the meal. I truly splendid evening.

The Durres District
I am beginning to really enjoy Durrës. The beach access and the rock solid branch surely doesn't hurt the chances of developing a great affinity for the city but what really has been great has been having a companion that is wonderful. My time with Elder Bilodeau has been a true pleasure. He and I are getting along very well. We have many common tastes such as listening classical music, drinking the highest of quality juices and fizzy drinks that we can find in this country.
We love the same books, movies, and we  are both ambitious within our respective fields. I love working with Elder Bilodeau.

I love you all and I know that if you work on trying to do what God wants for you, you will find it easier to be happy in this life. God wants us to be happy and obedience towards his commandments. It is the easiest way to find true happiness.

With great love,

Elder Açësoni