Monday, July 28, 2014

#5 WEEK IN GJAKOVA, KOSOVO

Family and Friends,

Hello again from hot Gjakova!

The first piece of news I have is that there has been a mini-transfer and Elder Anderson will be transferred tomorrow morning to Shkodër in Albania and I will be receiving Elder Schramm in his place. I am sorry to see Elder Anderson go; we only spent a month together. It has been a great learning experience to be with Elder Anderson. He has taught me many things about what it means to be disciplined, hard-working missionary.

I had a very fun experience this week. I was able to go on an exchange with Elder Price, my former companion from when I was in Elbasan.
The Elbasan District reunited with Elder Price, the Tooleys and Elder Acheson


Elder Acheson and Elder Price buying 50 cent wristbands from some entrepreneurial children in Prishtina


He is the North Zone Leader and he had an exchange with me in his zone leader function. He and I taught together and found in Prishtina and it was a lot of fun! It was as though we had never parted, we chatted and it was wonderful. He has grown greatly from the time I was last with him.

Together we found some people along the Boulevard in Prishtina and ate Thai food with Elders Watson (I served with him in Durrës) and his companion Elder Bangeter (who went to the high school of Elder Gunther, an elder from my group for whom it is hoped that he will return from his medical leave). The food was great especially in comparison to Gjakova food. We also taught a man, who was baptized in Elbasan but moved to Prishtina and ran into Elder Price on the road. The man is a member and his wife is now taking the lessons and it is just one of those things where people were in the right place and the right moment doing the right thing. It was wonderful. I really missed Elder Price and I was very glad to have a day back with him.

Then on Friday, President Weidmann, Sister Weidmann, and the Assistants Elders Roberts and Davis came and visited us in our apartment. They did a brief inspection but spent most of their time getting to know us, introducing themselves more thoroughly and testifying. It was a great opportunity to have someone come to our home and testify.  

I had a doing "the right thing in the right place" experience this week in addition. I was leaving the home of a new investigator and someone from behind us yelled at us. Instead of a crazy old lady, it was the mother of a girl I taught in Durrës in Albania. Besa Alla’s mother ran up and greeted us.
Elder Acheson and Besa Alla from Durrës
She said that she and Besa were in Gjakova for a wedding and that Besa had time the next day to meet. As it turned out, Besa was supposed to have been baptized the previous Saturday but some complications took place. I communicated with the missionaries now teaching her in Durrës and they encouraged me to put the fire back in her desire to be baptized, being her first missionary and all. We met with her and she renewed her date to next Saturday. I hope that it all works well for her back in Durrës.

Well I love you all and I know that this work is the true and right work of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is one God, whom we worship. It is through His son we can reach our potential in fulfilling our worship of the Father.

Love,

Elder Aqësoni
(I changed the ç to a q to sound more Albanian, the change isn’t noticeable in English)


A notice in our elevator that made me laugh. Translation follows:

  NOTICE

Honored inhabitants.

We notify you that throughout this week the distribution of the cards and the activation of the card system will take place.

After the activation of the cards the elevator will only be used with cards

Hey animal! Don’t spit on the floor and don’t touch [the mirror] with your hand.

Keep the cleanliness
Respect the Rules

With respect,

Hymeri Kleemann
(Elevator Company)

Monday, July 21, 2014

#4 WEEK IN GJAKOVA, KOSOVO

Family and Friends,

Hello from hot Gjakova!

Elders Acheson and Anderson in Gjakova, Kosovo
This week we have focused on finding new investigators this week. Elder Anderson and I have spent a deal of time speaking to people in the road. That has been one of the more effective means of finding new people here in Gjakova. Along with that we have been working hard to speak to everyone with whom we come into contact.

Because the Gjakova Branch is very small, the missionaries are still heavily involved in the running and administrating of the Branch. That also means that we are involved in the activity end of things as well. This weeks activity was playing basketball at a nearby basketball court.
P-day with the Gjakova Elders and the neighborhood kids
Because of a mix-up in location, it ended up being the missionaries with a couple of members playing basketball against all of the neighborhood kids in a section of the city while the Tooleys took pictures. It was very fun to play and interact freely with the kids in a non-typical way. The interaction they had with us was more of an exposure than regular street contacting.

For today's P-Day activity we as a district went out to a nearby village of Gjakova. On the way we encountered a field filled with the 500 graves of men from the surrounding villages.
The graves of 500 men killed on the same day
These men are the testament of war crimes committed during the Serbian invasion. The commandant of the Serbian brigade occupying that part of the area was killed. As a result, the commandant's wife instructed her husbands soldiers to round up all males ages 12 and up and line them up along the road where she proceeded to shoot them one by one.



Albania and Kosovo Flags
All of these things testify to me the powerful need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this land. We have found and are teaching the first man to welcome NATO soldiers into Gjakova. Agim, covered in the marks of Serbian cigars and boots, bears more than the physical scars of the war. Luckily for him and for all here and wherever there are problems such as these, the Atonement of Jesus Christ has been provided to clear us of physical, emotional, spiritual, and any other type of scars. Christ is able to provide healing. All we need do is let him and and accept his path.

I love you all. Know that we are safe and that the will of God is being accomplished here. God does not forget His Children. They are being taken care of.

Love, 

Elder Açësoni
Elder Acheson is lucky to be serving with the Tooleys

Elder and Motra Tooley from Price, Utah
New convert Jasemin with Elder Acheson and the cute girls of Kosovo

Monday, July 14, 2014

#3 WEEK IN GJAKOVA, KOSOVO

July 14, 2014

Family and Friends,

Hello, from hot Gjakova. It isn't as cool here as I had assumed. The temperature doesn't dampen our joy over our baptism!
At Jasemin's baptism with Elder Anderson and Elder Acheson

This week has been full of fun. First on Tuesday I jumped on the 6:00 bus from Gjakova back to Tirana in Albania.
On the bus with Elder Isufaj and Elder Acheson
I took mini-missionary Elder Isufaj to exchange him with Elder Gray. We really enjoyed having Elder Isufaj with us in Gjakova and we wish him well as he begins his mission in Salt Lake City. 

Elder Harvey with his new companion Elder Grey and the Tooleys
A great thing that happened was that while in Tirana I finally got a hold of an Albanian grammar book that I ordered and I was able to study it on the 4 hour bus ride back to Gjakova. I am very excited to use it to improve my understanding of the language. 

To improve my speaking ability, Elder Anderson and I have been conducting a week-long SYL or Speak Your Language experience. We have decided that we are going to speak completely in Albanian when we are together. I am excited for the challenge. I hope that my language ability can lead to helping other come unto Christ.

We did have something interesting happen. In Macedonia, there are riots and the Macedonian missionaries were removed. We had the senior couple and the Macedonian sister missionaries with us for a couple of hours. It was a very nice experience to have the Macedonian sisters with us. It was a breath of fresh air to have good sisters with us.

We did have a baptism. Jasëmin Morina was baptized at Hotel Pashtriku in the swimming pool.
The service was great, we had maybe 15 people there and it was awesome. Jasëmin gave a wonderful testimony after she got changed. Her confirmation was great and everything is well. The Gjakova Branch is excited to have a new member.
At the edge of the waters of baptism

Elder Anderson with the sisters visiting from Macedonia--Sister Riddle and Sister Schofield

Well I love you all and I hope that this week can be great for us all.

Love, 

Elder Açësoni

Monday, July 7, 2014

#2 WEEK IN GJAKOVA, KOSOVO

July 7, 2014

Family and Friends,

Hello from hot Gjakova! Happy belated 4th of July!

The Awesome Gjakova, Kosovo District!
This week has been focused on preparing our baptismal candidate for her baptism. Jasemin Morina is an awesome girl who learned with Elder Wagstaff and Elder Anderson before I showed up. She is one of three children, all of whom attend our English class. Her
Elder and Sister Tooley with Jasemin and her sister  Erëza
sister Erëza and brother Adem are wonderful and are likely potential investigators after Jasemin is baptized. 

This week we had two great honors.
Elder Tooley helping Sister Weidmann with the Weidmann's generous chocolate gift

Elder Acheson taking off with the chocolate
The first was that we were able to meet our new mission president. We held a North Zone (All of Kosovo and Macedonia) Zone Conference where we met with President Weidmann (Veidmann). He and his wife are from Switzerland and wonderful. President Weidmann professionally owns a surgical equipment firm and loves driving fast cars. He and Sister Weidmann brought a 10 lbs Tolberone chocolate bar to be shared amongst us. I am very excited to be working with President Weidmann.

The second honor we had happened directly after Zone Conference. We received permission to visit US military base Fort Bondsteel about 20 minutes outside of Ferëzaj.

Elders Acheson, Anderson and Tooley with LDS members at Fort Bonsteel
This week, I stepped on US soil in Kosovo. That was a wonderful experience. We were hosted by Major Jensen, Sergeant Bunges, and Sergeant Whitney who are all members of the Church. We had an opportunity to purchase AMERICAN food and eat at the "Chow Hall."
It was such a blessing to eat an American hamburger. It was a delight to talk to the servicemen. They were just fun to talk to and they gave us a refreshing reminder of what real life is.
American Food!!!!













Elder Acheson has been in Albania and Kosovo too long.

An investigator of note that we are teaching is named Sulejman Lokaj.
Elder Anderson, Sulejman Lokaj and Elder Acheson
He is an absolute delight. He is 83 and is an actor, an artist, and an author. Teaching him is an interesting, rather indescribable experience that I have never before had the joy of living. He has a life full of experience that has been enriched by a considerable amount of reading; though an older man living on pension, he maintains a second apartment that serves primarily to house his library and the occasional guest. When he reads the Book of Mormon out loud, it is a new experience for me. Though dramatic, the care and attention he places in emphasizing certain words and phrases gives the words a new, richer meaning. This last time with him, he gifted me a book with a collection of his artwork: a true treasure of my mission.

Today we attained permission to go to Prizren, a city about an hour outside of Gjakova.
Beautiful Prizren


It is a gorgeous city. The city is dotted with mosques and one could feel the powerful Islamic presence but it also is home to the St. George Renovic Orthodox Church.


We went to visit the church and the rather imposing guard came over to prevent our entrance. When he determined that we were American, he nearly skipped to show us the church. When he heard that we spoke Albanian... his day was made. We took the hike and went to the Prizren castle and enjoyed our self exploring the castle grounds and tunnels. Afterward we went in search of a copy of the Kuran for Elder Harvey and Elder Isufaj. In our search we came across a store carrying Islamic material.
As soon as we entered to the store the shopkeeper came and hugged me and did the typical Albanian head bump greeting, which he performed another 6 times. He was incredibly happy to meet us. And again, when he learned that we were Albanian-speaking Americans, he exploded in joy. He held my hand, kissed my cheek, and other very friendly Albanian expressions of affection... several times. Funnily enough, he name was "Afrim" which is a derivative of the preposition "afër" for "close" and could be rendered as "closeness" or "approach." I certainly felt... close. He was very nice.
Afrim and Elder Acheson

I love you all very much and I am excited to share these things with you!

Elder Açësoni


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

WEEK #1 IN GJAKOVA, KOSOVO

June 30, 2014

Family and Friends,

Happy sweet 16th birthday to my little sister, Grace! I love you.


Hello from Gjakova, Kosovo. I have left Albania and am now serving in the Republic of Kosovo. One is more likely to have heard of Kosovo than Albania in recent history I believe. There was a rather brutal war here within my lifetime. The fighting and loss was especially high in the city in which I serve now.
Saying goodbye to Pres. Andrew Ford

Gjakova, or “I bled” in Albanian, was hit very badly in the war with Serbia and still many, many people despise Serbians or anything Serb. The street signs in Kosovo are typically written in Albanian, Serbian, and English. In Gjakova, the Serbian spellings are spray-painted out. It has passed in to colloquial usage to exaggerate how much you would want to do something if you would do it with or for a Serbian. “I want water so bad that I’d even take it from a Serb.”

As far as the Church is concerned, the Gjakova Branch consists of about 25-30 members.
The Gjakova Missionaries
Elder Tooley (a senior missionary with whom I served in Elbasan, Albania) is the Branch President. Burim Vraniqi, a Kosovar member is the 1st Counselor, and my companion Elder Anderson is the 2nd Counselor. I am the Executive Secretary and Branch Clerk.

It is a very different situation than to what I had grown accustomed in Durrës, an American-level functioning ward, were the missionaries helped on only a few very special occasions. I am very willing to step up in my level of contribution in the ministerial end of the Church’s function. I enjoy doing my part.

Despite my excitement to be in Gjakova, I do very much miss Durrës. I was very sad to part from Ersi Myrtollari, the Cani Family, and the many other people with I whom I grew very close. The members of Durrës, especially Bishop Dodaj, have a reserved section of my heart and memory. I learn the principles of Christ-like Ministration and Administration. I learned a great deal while in Durrës, thus far there have I spent the greater part of my mission.

Elders Asler and Acheson
I do greatly miss Elder Ašler. He was a great companion and I learned a great amount from him. I miss his ever-happy countenance and positive outlook on our work. I feel as though I connected with him on a very close level. I now that the new area he opened up in Durrës with Elder Linderman will benefit greatly from his experience and knowledge of the city.

I am happy to report that my new companion, Elder Anderson, is excellent. He is from Elder Ašler’s group and I get along with him very well. I think he is funny and fun to be with. He is from Kentucky originally but recently lived in Utah and Idaho.
Elder Anderson 
He went to BYU-I. He has been involved in competitive show choir and has been very athletically involved until a rather serious back operation. He works very hard and received straight A's at BYU-I. He is very dedicated and very willing to be obedient. We are on the same page and I love it
. I intend to do some very good work with Elder Anderson.
Well I am excited to be here in Kosovo, particularly in Gjakova. I am excited to work hard and do my best to please the Lord with my dedication and work level.
Gjakova Branch Building

I love you all,

Elder Açësoni

P.S.

A fun, yet important side note:

Though the language in Kosovo is Albanian, it is the Northern “Geg” Dialect. There are some very large grammatical and vocabulary differences between Geg and the Southern “Tosk” dialect which I have been speaking for the past year. Geg typically is described as "dirty" Albanian. A simple comparative example:

English: I want to go to the barber today to get a haircut. I am going at 7 o’clock.

Tosk: Unë dua të shkoj tek berber sot për t’u qethur. Do të shkoj në orën 7 darkës.

Geg: Due me shkuë në frizer sod mu qeth. Jem tuj shkuë në orën 7 mremës.

When I learn to speak Geg better, I will be able to send and expound upon better examples.

P.P.S.

A fun thing that I found upon my arrival, Suzana Biçaku and Denisa Idrizi from Elbasan were up here in Gjakova visiting the Tooleys. I was so happy to have a mini Elbasan reunion. I love those girls very much.