Elder Scadden

Elder Scadden

Where's Gregory?

Where's Gregory?
Gregory is now home.
This is a moderated BLOG. Gregory does not make posts nor does he read or monitor this BLOG. His family maintains it for him.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Home from Albania

Gregory came home from Albania on Tuesday, March 31, due to medical issues. He has received an honorable release. For now we are working on having him restored to full health. The option exists for him to return to a mission to complete his term. This is dependent on his physical condition, his desires and especially the will of the Lord.

Anyone wishing to contact him may do so on his gmail address or you may call him at home. There are no restrictions on his social interactions.

Further posts to this blog will be suspended for the time being.

Thanks to all of his friends and family for your wonderful support.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Once Upon a time in Albania (March 29th 2010)

Hello my dear friends and family!

I hope you are all well. I first wish to thank you all for your many prayers and much fasting on my behalf, the Lord has indeed been merciful and loving these past few days.

Well, it appears that you all have not yet heard from president yet. I will be coming home. It is decided. Today he will be communicating with Germany to start getting things in order (that is probably why you have not heard from him yet) We do not yet know when or how I will be returning, but after much prayer and fasting we both arrived to the same conclusion, it is the will of the Lord that I leave. I would be lying if I said that these past days have not been difficult, but the Lord has indeed poured His love out on me. On Tuesday last week, while I was in Tirana, President pulled me aside just before district meeting and gave me the news that the next step was going home. I was very stunned by the news, the thought hadn't really even crossed my mind. Afterwords we decided that we would wait until Sunday to make the final decision, both of us wanting to seek out the will of the Lord. Throughout the week I tried to prepare myself to go humbly before the Lord, for my own personal desire was to stay, but I had to accept that there must have been another way the Lord wanted me to take. I did receive it to my ears that my foot is all healed, though, which is great news. The following day we went out and worked in the morning, primarily as a test to see what my working capacity was with the pains I was having. I'll not really try to describe it other than to say that the pain became ridiculous and rather than working the whole day I had to go in and just lay there in my bed. The greater pain caused by the walking cause me to hurt more than ever yet for the next 3 days. Today things are somewhat better, but generally there are good times of days and other times that are not so good. Overall the pain seems to be deepening. Hopefully the doctors in America can figure it out quick. I will laugh when it is some little quick fix. Right now I have really come to terms with the fact that I am leaving. Now I just suffer from frustration that I continue to waste time consecrated to the Lord as I await my travel home. However prayer has been a powerful tool and great has been the love of the Lord that I have felt! Again I thank you all for your prayers and fasting. I feel it added to the clarity of answer that the Lord blessed me with. I cannot dispute it. I need to go home. The Lord works in mysterious ways. This understanding has helped me to not feel dishonor, a weighty feeling that I am often illogically prone to. So on a brighter note, I am extremely excited to see you all!! I hope that today we will know more about my return and that you will hear from President Neil. If you don't hear anything so fast, know that President is very actively concerned for me and that he is handling the situation.

So lets talk about this week. Earlier this week we met a young women named Anisa with the other Elders because they could not get a male member and since we had nothing to do. She is a friend and employee of Eriola Xhejka (infact we met at their office building, and Eriola asked me "Elder Skadi, have you been writing things about me?" LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL The story that I had told to you about the dinner we had at President Pinas house came up on a google search one of her friends did LOLOL) and a very sharp girl. She asked some great questions and actually understood and accepted our answers. She clearly understands that she must find the truth for herself through earnest seeking and prayer. She has a desire to be baptized and I think she would be a good addition to the Durres branch. The main reason I recount this is because it was the one of the very few non-member visit lessons I have done in about 8 weeks. I had the opportunity to testify about how I received my own testimony of the gospel and I could feel the spirit flowing through me. It was so refreshing to feel the spirit give power and meaning to the words leaving my mouth. PMG states that a missionary is successful if he feels the spirit testify through him.

On that note I do wish to let everyone know that I am extremely satisfied with the mission I have thus far served. The Lord has blessed me to be a successful tool in His hands. While I still will bring my report before the Lord in the temple upon my return. I feel very strongly that the Lord is pleased with the work I have done and I am leaving without regrets. With exception to perhaps wishing we had figured out my health issues earlier, that I would not have eaten so much time being confined to the house. I forgot to recount to you all an experience that I had a zone conference two weeks ago. I was sitting in the front row in the chapel and the Shupes were giving the Large group training. They were talking about creating an effective teaching environment and certain skills that we must execute if our investigators are truly going to be fed during the lessons. I believe she was talking about helping our investigators understand the scriptures and was specifically discussing relating the scriptures to them. She turned to 1 Nephi 21:22: which reads: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the aGentiles, and set up my bstandard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their carms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. She then pointed at me and said "Elder Scadden, I will always, when I read this scripture, imagine you carrying our cuna (boys) Grei, Kein, and Roni upon your shoulders." Never before had that scripture had any personal meaning to me but the overwhelming feeling I felt at that time I will never forget. Indeed I feel that my mission has been a success. It has truly been a blessing to serve here!

I haven't included anything about future plans for when I arrive home, though I have received excellent and detailed council from President Neil. I have set some goals, the primary of which is recovering. Once I am home we will discuss more the future of the time I have left, the options that lay before and how I will again be seeking the will of the Lord on those matters.

Well, this is all that I have for today. I hope you are not discomforted or disheartened by any of this news. I hope that President will quickly be getting a hold of you with some clearer information. Thank you all yet again for your love, support, prayers and fasting. This is the work of the Lord, it is in His hands, and oh how I love the Lord our God! Take care, I suspect, though I cannot say with 100% certain, that we shall get seen in person before the week has passed. I love and miss you all! May God be with you all.

With Love
Elder Skadi

Monday, March 22, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (march 22 2010)

Hello all from Albania!

I hope you all are well, I am doing just fine. I am in Tirana today. I am staying with the office elders while Elder Thackeray goes on his death trip to Saranda. It is great because I get to be with Elder Smedley and Elder Allen, both from my group and both awesome elders. I heard that the socialized medicine bill passed (NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO), this comes to me very badly, very very very badly. Like MacDuff from Shakespeare's MacBeth I cry "O my beloved country, what will become of thee??" sigh... Well, I suppose that people's bad ideas come through sometimes. I thought most of America's population was against this unfortunate bill? Sigh... well, it is still my country and I shall fight for it.

Anyway, aside from that little bit of news, this week has been really great. Do you all remember an investigator that I had talked about several times in November and December named Julia? She got baptized!!!! It was so great. I got to be there, as well as elder Seevers. She was so excited to see us because we were her first missionaries. I remember the lessons we had with her were so excellent, the spirit was always present, and Elder Seevers and I were so sure that she would be baptized and finally she has entered the waters and been baptized! It is so exciting when those individuals with whom you've had spiritual experiences choose the right road and get baptized. The spirit was very powerful and she was so happy. Man, this is why I am here, I am here to help others come unto Christ and to enter the waters of baptism, looking towards the temple. What a blessing! I am very glad to be here.

Mum recently asked me what I have been doing for study since I have much more free time. Well, for some months now I have been studying the Old Testament with the church published manual and will soon be moving out of part one and into part two. At this time I am getting to the end of Saul's life as he chases David all over the place. I am amazed by the number of fallen heroes in the Old Testament: Samson, Saul, David, Solomon etc. I do not know the whole story of David or Solomon yet, but it Saul started off as such a great guy but he fell so fast as he allowed his authority to go to his head. It is astonishing that he goes from being the representative of God in political matters, to a mass murderer who just kills anyone he even thinks has helped David. I am grateful for the great examples from the Old Testament though, like Joseph, Moses and Samuel. I did not realize how extremely cool both Moses and Samuel were before this time. I think my tendency is to always like the military characters more but as I have studied the stories of these prophets in greater detail I have learned how amazing they were and how we can learn from their faithfulness. Beyond that I am also reading the new Gospel Principles book, underlining key things and writing my thoughts in the margins, just as I mark my scriptures. I will always love studying the basics. Deeper knowledge of the gospel really doesn't matter if we are not striving with all our might to know and live the basic commandments of God. I also read from a church study manual that focuses on preparing for an eternal marriage. It is organized by topic and only uses citations from prophets, apostles and seventies. I have found that I actually have learned more about living the basic principles of the gospel, and how to be a good, hard working and charitable individual, than I have learned about marriage from that book. I am surprised how applicable many of the things I've read there apply to me as a missionary, not just as a future husband. Lastly I have made a goal to read the BOM every transfer til the end of my mission. It is a lofty goal but since I've been inside I am ahead of the game and will probably start next transfer early. 13 pages a day does the job and that's only about 45 minutes of reading so I can get it done during lunch even after I am back to normal work. That has been really amazing. The book of Mormon really is more important than any other of the books we have. Studying it has allowed me to feel and recognize the spirit much more powerfully this past transfer. I am excited to read it again and again. I love how much I am able to study here. I hope to maintain a good fraction upon my return but I know that I will lose a lot of that time to other necessary things! I'll take advantage of the blessing while it lasts.

Mum also asked if I felt myself drawing close to the Lord. Yes, in powerful ways. Yesterday at church I had a profound experience. I was just sitting there, thinking during the investigator class, and suddenly I was hit with an overwhelming love for the people around me, for the people of Albania. It was very much related to the feeling I feel when the Lords love is poured out over me by His spirit. I truly am learning and growing as the Lord blesses me more than I can explain.

I must go. I love you all and miss you! Take care of each other, and be kind. You are all in my prayers. Thank you all for your love and support. May God be with you!!

Elder Skadi

Monday, March 15, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (March 15 2010)

Hello all from Albania!

I hope everyone is doing well! I especially hope that Mum is recovering nicely from her surgery. It mustn't be fun to be confined to a bed for a long time. This week the weather has been great outside but I have probably spent a total time of 2 hours actually outside in the fresh air and that is just the adding up of brief travel time to various locations LOL. I am excited that winter is dying and that spring is on its way. I think that winter will always represent death and suffering to me, which is probably why I dislike the season so very much. This week I got two great packages!! One from Mum and Dad and one from Jenni. They were great! You all spoil me too much.

The highlight of this week what a visit from Elder Ford, a member of the area authority 70s from England. He had a special meeting with us missionaries where he tried to encourage us to put more into the hands of the members and to make more, but shorter visits to our investigators. It was really a great meeting. We were all able to share our concerns and the like, since, unfortunately, the Albania culture fights strongly against the things they want us to do, but that doesn't mean they are impossible! They are encouraging us to make 15-20 minute lesson visits.

A large problem we have here is that it often takes 15-20 minutes to get the lesson started because Albanians demand small talk. We just have to be more stern with them. Fortunately it is hard to offend an Albanian with a blunt statement. As for the members, it all falls under trying to get the members of Albania to become a more Zion people and adopt a Zion culture. We can do it, albeit one step at a time!

It was also the weekend of District Conference. We had two sessions in the Durres chapel. The meeting was really excellent and my favorite part by far was President Baird's (our district president) talk. He shared the story of the two snipers in Somalia (as Elder Eyring did 2 conferences ago) and the 3 boys of the Martin and Harris handcart companies. He then referred the stories of reaching out to the lost members of the church, those who have fallen away, and doing everything we can to bring them back. He then challenged that every member bring 1 less active back to church this year. It was a fantastic challenge. I really hope that the members respond. Even if only a third of those attending yesterday succeeded then church attendance and activity here would grow by 120 people Which is huge when you consider that weekly church attendance is only 400-500 people per week, out over 1500+ baptized members. I have hope that this will yield strong results. I also got to see my boys and many of my friends from 2nd branch again. It was a great day, though I think there are some members that need to be reminded that we don't buy things are Sundays. You would be surprised how many members don't realize that it is against Gods commandments (they view it like this, if we're not going to a mall, or to stores to buy cloths or fun things, we aren't breaking the sabbath, but food is something that can still be bought). They fail to realize that it would be better to buy it all Saturday, so to keep the Lords day Holy).

Anyway, nothing else has really happened. I'm staying off my foot and we are hoping for a speedy recovery. I miss you all and I hope that all of you are well. I love you. Thank you for all of your support and prayers. May God be with you!

With love
Elder Skadi

Monday, March 8, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (March 8, 2010)

Hello all from Albania!

I would like to begin by wishing my niece Keira and also Matthew Bray a very Happy Birthday! Edhe nje qind! Well, you all are probably wondering if we've made any progress medically. So I went to the American hospital and the orthopedist there asked me to bring my xray. The next day I brought it, he (btw he was a German doctor) took only a 3 second glance at the xray (the same xray I had gotten 2 weeks before) and said "oh... you obviously have a stress fracture, look, right here" LOLOLOLOL the other doctor at the other place completely missed it.

Well, anyway, we are very happy now that we know what is wrong. I have to say completely off that foot for 3 weeks and then cannot run for 6-7. I am now using crutches and we have been confined to quarters. We are now only doing member visits and helping the Ahlburns transcribe and translate 2010 A Brand new year. I actually feel more useful than I did during the time we didn't know what it was because we are making great progress on the 2010 movie and the Ahlburns are very excited about it. Especially after how well the piece we had already translated was a blast at the super Saturday that just happened. Anyway, I am sad that I am not able to do any finding (other than looking for referrals), but I am enjoying hours of scripture study and really feel myself strengthening spiritually daily. Its a great feeling. As president put it, now is the time for me to "sharpen the saw" that I might be a better tool in the hand of the Lord. The translating we are getting ready to do on the movie will also be great for my language.

Just so that you all know, I also had a check up with a urologist because of some very unusual testicular pain I have been having. No cancer, that is clear. The doctors seem to think I have some sort of testicular infection, so I am taking antibiotics (NOOOOO I will now probably die of influenza in a year or something as this dang pill destroys my immune system for the rest of my life) to get rid of it. The pain has subsided dramatically but immediately after my examination it was ridiculously painful. Once I got home I just fell on my bed, not moving for about 30 minutes as the pain slowly subsided. I won't lie, it was hilarious, which wasn't good because every time I laughed about it they hurt more. Anyway, don't worry about that, because it is not causing me any more problems. Its actually kind of nice that I got hit with both of these things at the same time.

In terms of attitude I have felt great these past few days. Now that I know I can be freed from the house on the 26th, I can now patiently await it rather than waking up every morning guessing my status. Elder Thackeray seems to be going a little stir crazy, but today he's doing an exchange with Elder Loose so he can be out and about for a few hours. I can soundly say that I haven't been in such a good mood for over a month now. The Lord has truly answered our many prayers and I am extremely grateful for His tender mercies. You know, it is funny how something so small as a stress fracture can cause such inconveniences.

By the way, if you ever come to Albanian and have a medical problem (aside from trauma) go to the American Hospital! It is an extremely nice facility and most of the employees understand a decent amount of English. They are also all, for the most part, very nice. Actually during my numerous doctors visits there this past week I had the opportunity to share the gospel with numerous people. Unfortunately nothing directly came out of it but more people have been opened to the light of the gospel and maybe will let us in when we knock on their door.

I also got to spend a good deal of time with President Neil. I would just like to say that I have a great deal of respect for him and he really does have a great deal of compassion and concern for us missionaries. He has been extremely helpful during this time, as has his wife. I also got a great package from Jenni this week, that made me very happy :)

Oh, I have a question! So I have been counseled to not bother myself with Kleon Skousen's stuff. I am now curious about how you all feel about Truman Madison or Hugh Nibley? I don't have any of their material, though I did hear a Truman G. Madison talk on Joseph Smith that was amazing when I was with the assistants. What do you all think? All in all I know it is better to pay attention with the words of the living prophets, but I am curious to know to what level of validity I can hold their words when others quote them.

So tomorrow we are having a mini transfer. Elder Celaj has served his time and because he is an Albanian he is on a different track than other missionaries. So one of the assistants is being sent to Vlore to replace him and Elder Allen, from my group, is now assistant. Elder Allen is an absolutely great missionary. He is very hard working and strong in his testimony. It has been a pleasure to interact with him here on the mission. When I was in the MTC with my group, I thought that we were some of the most immature, unprepared, and future problem causing missionaries. However, every missionary from my group has proved to be outstanding in their efforts and work. I am friends with them all and have learned things from each. Its hard to look at some of these elders and believe that they were once the person they were when they first entered the MTC. Well, it is a lesson to me about judging people, and also a testimony to me about how powerfully people can change on their missions. I do hope that similar positive changes are taking place in myself, though it is much harder to see such change in ourselves. I guess that is really one thing that the gospel is all about is change, isn't it? We are always trying to change ourselves and take on the countenance of Jesus Christ.

Anyway, I must go now. I hope you all are well. I thank you all for your prayers on my behalf, and for all of your support. I love you all and miss you all. You are remembered in my prayers. I know that this is the Lords work, and that He is watching over us. take care, and may God be with you all.

With love,
Elder Skadi

Monday, March 1, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (March 1 2010)

Hello all from Albania!

I hope everyone is well. I am doing just fine. This entire week I've been inside in the mornings, still because of my foot ridiculousness. Today I'll be speaking with the doctor in Germany to explore some other options of finding out what is wrong. Hopefully we will start to get over this this week. I am starting to lose weight because of the muscle mass I'm losing from not working out! That's alright, its all replaceable (btw when I say losing weight I'm not talking about a huge amount of weight, don't worry). Earlier this week I was getting really frustrated and irritated with the situation and was ready to just go out and work the whole day without a cane and just see if it would get bad enough that we could obviously tell what it was (not really logically, but I was pretty dang frustrated). Through this whole ordeal I've been seeking for guidance from the Lord but up to this point I hadn't received anything I'd term direct instruction. Finally, at this time of rashness, I asked Elder Thackeray for a blessing of council. That indeed was the answer to my prayers and pleadings. It was simple: Endure and be patient. It was a powerful moment and a testimony builder for me of the power of the priesthood. Since then I have been in a much better mood about the whole situation.

Have any of you heard of a new film produced by the church called 2010, a Brand new year? It is a film based around For the Strength of Youth with segments for each topic. We've had the opportunity to watch segments of it as we help the Ahlborns get ready for the up coming super Saturday. I just wanted to say that it is awesome. The church is really starting to produce well done, enjoyable films. I would highly encourage those involved with the youth (like dad) to see that it is at least occasionally used. I am hoping that we will get an opportunity to watch all of it soon. As I watched it I received a much greater hope for my generation in the church. We all are growing up being told that we are a special generation and after watching segments of this film that has members all over the world I really started to believe that. My cynicism for my generation was dampened somewhat, though not for those outside of the church (LOL) I always enjoy reading the things produced for the youth because they emphasize the basics and the firm foundation that is really important to a life time of faithfulness.

Man, some days It seems like I have too much time for emails, and others that I have too little. Today is one of those too little days. Anyway, I think that I will just end here. I apologize for the shortness, don't worry, you aren't missing anything special. Just a story about busting a huge dresser as we tried to get it into a communist apartment building in a very poorly thought out manner. Fortunately Elder Thackeray only got mud all over his hands and not all over himself.

Oh, briefly I do just wish to say that days are a lot better when we don't complain, even if we have good reason. Yesterday I made the goal to not talk about any of the pains that I've been having throughout my body (now that I am off my ridiculous Advil dosage, I think my body is going through withdrawal, so everything was hurting for a number of days). It was one of the happier days I've had recently. Its funny how our words reflect our attitudes and then tend to deepen the feelings that we are expressing. I don't know if that made sense. Anyway, I know that this is the lords work and it is a blessing to be here. The Lord is watching over us. I thank you all for your support, love, and prayers, and may God be with you!

Elder Skadi

Monday, February 22, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (February 22 2010)

Hello all!
I hope you all are well. I was so excited about the new Gmail features we have but the computer I am on won't read my pictures! Geez, better luck next week! Ah, well, you all are probably wondering what happened at transfers. Well, I am staying with Elder Thackeray here in Durres. I would be lying if i said we were not all surprised by this happening. That means I will be here for the next transfer also. That piece of knowledge is good to know. Also, sorry if it is someones B-day, I forgot to check so you'll hear from me next week if it is.

Well, I didn't mention this last week but I will now. For the last 3 weeks I've had some crazy pains coming out of my heel. There is some kind of hard orb forming underneath the skin. I got an xray and that showed nothing so it is not a bone spur. Some have said it could be a wart or a callus but the surface of the skin remains relatively unchanged. Some have said it might be a boil forming under the skin?? Anyway, It really started to cause problems a week and a half ago so I started to stay inside off of it because of the pain. Finally I got an old man cane which was really styling but killed my hand to use for an extended period of time. I also was put on a ridiculous dose of Ibuprofen. That seems have really helped with the swelling (because it was getting quite sizely). As it now stands, since we have no idea what it is, I am working half days, wearing tennis shoes and using a medical cane. Things seem to be improving but the going is slow. Inevitably I might have to go to the American hospital to get a more in depth check up if I continue to have difficulty. Needless to say, I am really quite irritated with this current condition, but am learning to live with it. So don't worry yourselves too much, but just keep that specifically in your prayers, that this strange growth will go away and that I'll be able to work like normal again soon.

Other than that things have been good. We found some new investigators this week (well, elder Thackeray and Elder Mugleston did while I sat inside with a sick Elder Loose) and we are hoping that something positive will come from them. We are about done tracting out the section of the city we had targeted for our primary efforts. We are about done with the second time through and will probably only go once over in the morning since we have talked to most of the households. Don't worry, we keep a record of every door so we don't re knock doors that rejected the message. This area has not been the greatest tracting area so we are looking forward to moving on to a different part of the city that may have some really prepared people. I've got to say, the more I do tracting, the more I love it. It really beats trying to talk to people in the road but that is just my opinion. We are going to reopen our English course this month too so it would be wonderful if some new investigators came from that! Ermal, Donald, Grei and Kein back in 2nd branch all came into the church because of English.

We went to Vlore on exchanges. Vlore is a pretty city nestled away in a valley on the coast. Nothing really amazing happened there though. Oh, I did go to the doc. That was an interesting experience. It was a private clinic suggested by Germany for us. When I arrived there were lots of people in the waiting room. I went up to the desk and said I had an apt. with Doc. Cela at 1 (it was 1230). In 2 minutes I was in a room talking to Dr. Cela. 3 min later I jumped to the front of a line of 10 people waiting for xrays. 4 min later my xray was getting looked at by Dr. Cela. 5 min later I had some kot (worthless) medicine in my hand. I do not know what got me the special treatment but I jumped tons of people. We talked about it and we figured it was because we weren't there on the governments bill but were paying right there with cash. Everyone else just tells them to get their money from the government. Anyway, it was much less ridiculous than I thought the experience was going to be, though my radiology technician, they guy taking my xray, told me he still had 1 yr of school left before he was fully certified. Now I don't know what that really means but it made me think he wasn't the most qualified individual to be using large machine that gives off radiation. LOLOLOLOL.

Well, the week has been somewhat uneventful. I must now go. I love you all and miss you all. I thank you all for your constant prayers and support. Keep the faith and may God be with you.

Elder Skadi

Monday, February 15, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (February 15 2010)

Hello all from Albania!

I hope you all are faring well, I am alright. I would like to congratulate my niece Kinsey on her baptism and my nephew Jordon on his receiving of the priesthood. I also would like to give a big TRASHGIME to Fred and congratulate him on the birth of his two twin girls. Lastly I would like to wish a Happy Birthday to Lauren Bray and wish everyone a Happy Valentines day!

So, big news for this week: We are switching over to Gmail!!! Woohoo! The Church made some big deal with Gmail, and now the email system is going to be tons better! The new system is way better and it won’t take 5 minutes to send pictures anymore, so expect more pictures. G√ęzohem!

The work was still slow this week, but what can you do? We’ve been doing a great deal of tracting, but didn’t get in once. Our phone numbers we are getting are all falling through too. However my spirits remain high and the less active work that we have been doing seems to be taking some root. This past Sunday every less active member I have visited here came to church. Some have come several weeks in a row. Sometimes I suppose people need reminders of where their priorities are. One weird thing happened while tracting. We came to a house and hanging directly across from the door way was a framed picture of John the Baptist conferring the Aaronic priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver C. We both were really taken aback but the women who answered the door didn’t seem to know anything about the church, the book of Mormon, or missionaries. We asked her about the picture. She said it had something to do with baptism. We asked her where she got it. She said she didn’t know and that they had lots of pictures hanging up of Christ. She legitimately seemed totally ignorant of the pictures real implications or that we were the only church it could be associated with (despite our efforts to convince her so) . We wonder that she might just have been a totally inactive member who was just faking it. She gave us her last name. It didn’t check out on the records. Though while we were talking to her a young man in his 20’s started to come around a corner, saw us and quickly retreated. She said it was her brother. We now maybe think that while she has nothing to do with the church, her brother might. She had children which = married which = different name than the brother. It remains a mystery to us. It was a huge surprise to see something so blatantly Mormon in a house that seemingly knew nothing about the church.

This is the last week of the transfer so next week you all will find out if I am staying here or going somewhere else. I am putting my money on going to 4th branch, which would be AWESOME because I would get to see all my boys again (Roni, Grei, Kein, and Donald) and I would be companions with Elder Hagen, from my group, who is an awesome missionary and probably the best at the language in the whole mission, minus our natives. We will see what happens.

Yesterday we ate lunch at president Pina's house. He is the president of Durres branch. Besides us, a women named Eriola Xheka was there. She is a member, but it is important to note for the story that President is 24 yrs old and seriously dating someone else and Eriola is 26, without anyone. She is the owner of a huge company and is extremely wealthy. It was valentines day so you can expect that the topic between Eriola and President got onto the subject of the Vday dance that had just happened and those sorts of intrigues. Well, one thing led to another and they all started trying to convince Elder Thackeray that he needs to move back here and marry and Albanian girl. Please keep in mind that Elder Thackeray is a really lock hearted missionary, so such joking does not worry me (some Elders you don’t want to joke about this with because it will cause them problems). Anyway, we have discussed it before and he is very seriously considering returning after he completes college to live here for good (which would mean getting married here) and I give him a hard time about it. Always his defense is “well, what work could I get? There would be no good work for me to do to support my family!” Well, as they joking continued, he pulled out that defense saying that there is no good place a mechanical engineer could work here. Eriola made the quick reply “I’ll give you a job, all my engineers are foreign and you speak Albanian. And you’d get paid so well you wouldn’t even feel your rent” LOLOLOLOLOL I died, Elder Thackeray was stuck. What's funnier is that is Motra Xheka is 100% serious. She has hired tons of members here and wouldn’t hesitate to hire an ex-missionary if he had needed skills and did OK in school. They tried to pull me into the target zone but fortunately a solid commitment to the US Army and the girl of my dreams made me totally immune. Perhaps none of you find that amusing since you do not know Elder Thackeray but for me it was hilarious.

So I got a Liahona a read about the new Gospel Principles book, it sounds really awesome. I love that they church has decided to go back and review the basics. It will be outstanding for the church here in Albania and for me personally. The fundamental doctrines and practices of the church are really what help us along the path to salvation. The reminder is well welcome.

Well, I’ve got to go. I love you all and miss each of you. Thank you for your prayers and support. Oh, can someone tell me when Luis’s birthday is? Anyway, take care, and may God be with you!

Elder Skadi

Monday, February 8, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (February 8 2010)

Hello all from Albania!

I hope you all are well. I am well. Just wanted to shout out to my Brother in Law John: Happy birthday! Going to probably be a little shorter of an email because we decided to go on our district trip today and it was awesome! We saw on a map a castle called the Castle of Turres. It looked like it was only 30 min away from Durres on the coast. We asked some people about it but they had never heard of it. We called up Landi the furgon driver, who has been used by the missionaries since the beginning of the mission, and asked him to take us in that direction. It was quiet an adventure. Fortunately, when we got into the neighborhood, people knew what it was. We had to trek on foot through back passes for about 30 minutes. On a hill, from a ways a way, we saw an old run down house and decided that that must be out castle, so despite the immediate disappointment, we continued on. Well, the house really wasn’t part of the castle and what we were looking for indeed was not a castle either but an old underground communist fortification. We explored the tunnels, and found many empty boxes of ammunition. The tunnels came out on the other side of the mountain and they connected a serious of old artillery positions. All in all, we were really surprised and it was extremely fun. We also saw an old tower down on the coast so we found our way down and got to the castle. On top of all this the scenery was beautiful. The trip was a number of hours long, lots of hiking, climbing, and running: all well worth it. So, it is now one of the two best P-days I have had on my mission (the other being the time Elder Flack, Smedley, Soule and I climbed the random mountain). And fear not, I took many pictures, just no time to load up today.

I have some sad news. This week Sister Charma died in the hospital. We helped with her funeral service at the church and then went to the graveyard for the burial. According to Albanian custom the body must be buried with in 24 hrs. It was a real surprise how fast they moved. About 80ish people came to the funeral and the speakers all talked excellently on the Plan of Salvation. It was really quite beautiful. I also heard my first grave dedication that I can remember. While we were sad, we all very much knew that she was in good hands on the other side.

I wanted to pose a random question to John and Ken. On your missions, how much did the missionaries speak the mission language to each other? Were all of the meetings (district mtg, zone conference, etc.) all in those languages? I know John was in a multi-lingual mission so how much would you Spanish elders speak to each other in Spanish? I am just curious to know.

Did the church just come out with a new Gospel Principles book? Mum mentioned it in the last email and on Sunday the Elders Q. president said that soon we would be getting new copies of GPs and that we would begin to use them in first hour.

Wow, that’s crazy that you all got snow. I am glad I wasn’t there! LOLOL! Last week, just after emails, elder Thackeray and I got stuck in a hailstorm…. More than getting stuck I just told him we were going to not be babies and just troop through it because it was time to eat. It was pretty intense. Other than that it has been raining almost everyday this week, with a very large thunderstorm a couple of nights ago. It was excellent tracting weather.

Speaking of tracting, we’ve been doing a lot of that. Last week was my lowest numerical week on my mission but that is ok. It didn’t down my spirits at all. We are trying our best and the Lord is blessing us. This week was actually a very good week. It was very spiritually refreshing, especially the way we ended it with a fast. I do not understand why, but every now and again I have a short period of time on my mission when I get into a really bad mood for a couple of weeks and finally, through much prayer, scripture study, and self examination, the Lord pulls me out of it. This week was the end of another one of those times and it felt like a very good refining period. Missions truly are our own Zion's camps.

Alright, I must go. I love you all and I miss all of you. I promise pictures next week. I know it has been awhile. This is the Lord's work and this is His true church. Thank you for all your prayers and your support. Take care, and may God be with you!

Elder Skadi

Monday, February 1, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (February 01, 2010)

Hello all from Albania!
I hope everyone is well. I miss you all! Last week I got a lot of really great emails. I feel quite informed about home this week which is not necessarily always the case (just because 2 or 3 people couldn’t possibly tell me everything that’s going on in everyone else's lives). This past week has been good. We had our first Zone Conference with me conducting. Let me say that I learned many things about conducting a zone conference. The Assistants gave Elder Thackeray a hard time for not really explaining to me at all the things I would need to know or be ready to announce during the meeting. Needless to say, having seen many meeting conducted, it really was not that rocky. I simply did not know the information that people expected me to know. As a whole, zone conference was Great! Very uplifting, with a focus on finding. President has said that the year of 2010 will be the year of finding.

Last night we went to go visit Sister Charma, the old women who reminded me of Sister Hodge. We she has been sick and last night was in a really terrible way. This morning we came with an ambulance, put her on a stretcher and carried her down 6 flights of stairs. Since it was planned (it was not an emergency) the EMS guys refused to come and carry her down and since all of the men in the church were working, we were asked to do it. It went well and we were glad to help. She decided to go to the Hospital because she has no one except friends to take care of her and she needed more constant care. I hope that she will get better. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had passed away in the night last night but this morning she seemed to actually be doing a little bit better. A good sign.

I would like to inform everyone that according to people, animals and things do not make all the same sounds all around the world. Where in America a dog goes Bark Bark, or Woof Woof, here in Albania a dog goes Hahm Hahm Hahm Hahm and a gun goes Tak tak tak tak. LOL. I guess it's not a surprise that such things wouldn’t be the same around the world but I just had never thought about it before until it came up (somehow) in church yesterday.

Dude, it has rained like no tomorrow this week. We went tracting a couple of days ago and it was raining pretty hard. While we tracted the rain got even harder. After the time came to leave, we left the neighborhood of apartment buildings we had been tracting and found that we were trapped, the main road had flooded about 5 inches LOL! Clearly passable but we decided to walk around a ways and finally found a place were we could get across mostly unsplashed. It could have been worse.

I would like to say that I really love the testimonies of others. I find them so very refreshing. Last week one of my sisters bore testimony to me about something and I really found it energizing. I had a similar feeling at church yesterday as the people were giving their talks. I rejoiced in their love for the gospel and faith in their savior. As I have been on my mission I feel like my love for the testimonies of others has greatly increased. Maybe part of it comes from always worrying about if a member will just suddenly apostatize for some totally random reason. Hearing their testimonies gives me assurance that they are trying to stand on good ground. I am reminded by Elder Bednar's talk from this last conference where we are encouraged to bear testimony far more often in our homes. We really can draw greater strength as we hear other's testimonies and especially as we bear testimony to others. I am truly blessed that daily I am given the opportunity to directly bear, to many people, my testimony of Christ and the prophets that he has called in our day. Its hard to believe that I have less time left to do that than I have behind me…
Well, I must go. Thank you all for your prayers, I feel your love and support even across these many waters. I miss you all, and I love all of you very much. I know that this is the Lords work. All of you take care and may God be with you!

With love
Elder Skadi