Elder Scadden

Elder Scadden

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (December 28, 2009)

Hello all from Albania!!

Happy New Year (almost)! I hope you all are doing well and that your Christmas finished up well. I was so happy to talk to you all and see you all, it was great! It is really hard to believe that I have been on my mission for almost a year, and only have a year remaining. It is exciting to think that I still have more time left in Albania than I have yet been here. There are still many experiences to be had, trials to face and growing to do. I do think that the next time we talk to each other I will prepare one question to ask each individual, so that I can hear everyone speak at least once.

Oh, next P-day I will be writing emails on TUESDAY because it is a big transfer day. Saturday we find out where we will be going, if anywhere, and who will do what. I could be training again but we will see, these things are really impossible to call. When it comes down to it, it is between President Neil and the Lord.

Hilarious thing occurred yesterday. I have mentioned the Gjoligus before (we went over to their house for Christmas eve, also know as Christmas Adam). All their kids are American and at church on Sunday, Bekim, the oldest boy who is 8 yrs old, said something hilarious. Two Albanians came up to him at church and grabbed his cheek, it’s a big thing that people to here and I’ve had it happen to me about 40 times. Well, Bekim was somewhat unlearned with that, since it’s not a huge practice in America, though some do it. After it happened he started to cry and said to his mom “That is so messed up, why would they do that? What is wrong with these people?” We laughed pretty hard knowing that we’ve all asked ourselves those same questions in other situations. A different culture, a different place and it’s a lot different than America.
Hey, I ate my Zatarrans Red beans and rice (which was great) but I was wondering if anyone, like Mum, Lauren or the Brays, had a recipe for a good red beans and rice dish. I imagine it’s got to be pretty straight forward but I’m pretty sure there is more to it than some red beans and rice. The reason I ask is because I can get red beans in a can and rice here and if I know the extra stuff I need for it I bet I could easily mix it up myself. So if you could, I’d like to know what other people do to prepare it

2 good pieces of news this week. Our investigator, Julja, who is the girl friend of a member and who also dropped off of the face of the earth when that member broke up with her, showed up to the ward Christmas party with that same member. They appeared to have worked out their problems and she is excited to continue learning after the new year (This week is one of the slowest missionary work weeks of the year, apparently, because everyone wants to wait until the next year to meet). That was very exciting because she seems to be really ready for the gospel. Now, we had hoped she would have came and met with us even during this stuff with Harbi, but that’s alright, we have hope that she will begin progressing again soon. Also, the Kumria girls and their dad, the family that we recently started trying to work with to reactivate, came to the ward activity. They performed, which was great, and it was the first time they had been seen in the church for a number of months. Unfortunately they didn’t come to Church the following Sunday but we are ever hopeful that maybe their hearts are softening.

This week we had some problems with finances. It would seem that president Shima did not receive adequate training on the matter by the previous president and so after transfers we will be doing financial training. It’s pretty cool because I already know quite a bit about the financial ropes of a branch now and the skills learned from this further training may come in hand later on in the mission and in life. I hope that once we all get trained on the matter and also a new ward sec. is called, we missionaries can start phasing out of the financial process. I wonder what it must feel like to be a missionary in autonomous wards and branches. I did not expect that missionaries would be given so much responsibility and control within a branch. I will be happy when Albania is able to function entirely without missionaries but that is some years down the road.

Along those same lines, I was very pleased this past Sunday when the people passing the sacrament were all Aaronic priesthood holding youth. I have not seen that before I believe. If we can get 2 other boys to attend more regularly, I believe we might be able to have a completely Aaronic priesthood operated sacrament ordinance. I hope that I will get to see that before I leave 2nd branch.

As part of our helping President Shima learn the ropes of being a branch president, I recently saw a document that contained the full statistics of our branch. I was extremely surprised by what I saw. In our branch live 268 baptized males, 78 of which are Melchizedek priesthood holders. As I was just looking at it in passing, being pressed for time, I did not look up the total population of the branch, but even with just the men we have enough people for 2 full and functioning wards. Taking the potential population of women into account we probably have closer to 3 wards. I was really blown away by that. We average 70 people, including 6 missionaries in church a week. The church could be so extremely strong here! A Stake could really actually be here! But the turnover rate of new members to inactivity is so large that we really aren’t growing and haven’t really been growing, for the past 7 years. I wonder if this is the sort of thing seen all over the church, not just in new areas. I have heard that church activity is something like 30-40% of all baptized members. If that is true, Albania certainly follows that pattern. That makes me very sad, but I suppose it applies to the scripture that says many are called but few are chosen and on top of that in 2 Nephi it talks about how many members of the church will be far too complacent and will fall short of the mark. I wonder what the entire world would look like if we had 80-90% activity rate. Of course people would still have struggles and short comings, but if that missing 40-50% still tried their best imagine the huge contribution they would make to the Lords work and how much faster the work of the Lord would roll forward! (hmm I also just realized that I really over use !!!!! points in my emails. I fear I will never be able to write an effective essay again). Well, it is no use worrying about the numbers. If we do our best to do our part, we will truly be blessed and will rejoice in happiness with those we have helped and strengthened. Despite Albania’s struggles, I know that the work will roll forward here, and that one day Albania will have many strong members within the wards of her Stake. I look forward to that day.

Anyway, I am doing well. I miss you all even though I only just saw and talked to all of you (that actually probably made it a little worse temporarily, LOL). I love you all very much. I know that this is the Lords work, I am blessed to be a part of it. Jesus is the Christ, and if we will come unto him, forsaking our sins and taking up our cross, we shall be saved in the Kingdom of our God. Thank you all for your prayers and great support. May God be with you until next week!

Elder Skadi

Monday, December 21, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (Decemeber 21st, 2009)

Merry Christmas to all from Albania!

I hope you all are well and excited for Christmas because I sure am! I first want to shout out a Happy Birthday to my sister Rachel. Oh man, I get to talk to you all on Friday, I am so extremely excited! It really doesn’t seem like it was so long ago but so much has happened and much time has indeed passed. I already feel time starting to speed up as I approach my year mark. I was commenting on how fast the time is flying and Sister Boyer, who is dying in two weeks, reminded me about how much it speeds up after a year. It is hard to believe that time could go faster but according to every missionary it does.

So Mum wanted to know how we will be celebrating Christmas. Well, on Saturday, the one that has passed, we sang at the Qender (the big square in the center of Tirana). That was a lot of fun. I actually didn’t sing at all but instead manned the table with Elder Flack and Elder Allen that had pamphlets and the like for people. We have been invited over to a member's house for a little Christmas party on the 23rd and on the 24th is our ward Christmas party (strange that it is on Christmas eve but if you ask most of the members here in T2 the idea of celebrating Christmas at home is foreign to them, they always do it at the church) and we will also be going around and caroling to many people that day. On Christmas day it is the same thing (except that there is a baptism at 11:30, again different). We also get a 3 hour lunch with our sisters and the Shupes (the couple missionaries that are in our district) are having us over to their house. And then we will talk to YOU ALL! and afterward we are going over to a member's house. It will be fun. I will also be opening my presents that are under the tree. I will really miss our big Christmas eve party that we have every year and opening presents with the family, but that is ok! I am on the Lords errand and am where I need to be. Oh, and I also wish to announce that Elder Seevers fixed the CD player so we are listening to that Christmas CD over and over again!

I forgot to thank you all last week for the conference issues! They are great! I am looking forward to opening the CDs up on Christmas (yes, guessed that one) and listening to them as well. The words of our living prophets are so powerful and moving. I especially enjoyed Elder Oaks Law and Love talk, it really expanded my understanding of the relationship between Justice and Love. I will enjoy reading the whole issue several times.

Ok, so last week I vented pretty badly about my cynicism and lack of charity. Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot and decided that I really needed to change my attitude. One way I did this and now every morning I buy 4 mandarin oranges. If anyone asks me for money, I offer one of those. I know it really is nothing but it is infinitely better to me than snubbing them or giving them money. Doing this has also helped me to feel more compassionate towards them. I do wish that, like in the days of Alma, they poor were generally humbler and more open to the gospel because that really is the greatest gift we are trying to impart to people. Perhaps today that is still so but we do not see it here in Albania.

Elder Seevers continues to be an awesome companion. I love serving with him and I continue to learn things from him. The longer we are together, the better we get along. I am pretty sure that in two weeks we will be splitting up but it has been a pleasure serving with him. We have had an excellent time, and the Lord has blessed us with considerable success.

Grej, Kein and Donald continue to do great. On Sunday Grej received the Aaronic priesthood and will be passing next week. It would make me happy to hear about him and Donald going on missions in a a few years. Grej's mom continues to progress and come to church but I still feel like baptism is a little ways off into the future for her. We need to convince her to meet with us more than one time a week, she says she is too busy! We are happy that she does come to church and enjoys it.

Elder Seevers and I are also having a bit more time for finding, which is nice. Knocking on doors might not be the most effective form of missionary work but I like it because I find it makes me work hard. It would be very neat if on my mission the Lord allowed me to find an outstanding person who will get baptized by tracting. We still are having problems getting new investigators but the work is still progressing.

Well, I hope you all will have questions for me on Friday so that I’ll have things to talk about since I probably will be relatively blank minded by the joy of seeing and talking to all of you. I am REALLY excited! It is great that we’ve got the technology to talk to and see each other simultaneously without much cost. I again wish you all a very Marry Christmas! I love you all and I miss you all. I testify to you that Christ the Lord is our savior and through Him can all our sins be washed away. Think about me as you eat wonderful food. I will talk to you SOON!

Elder Skadi

Monday, December 14, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (Decemeber 14th 2009)

Hello from Albania!

I hope everyone is doing alright, I am doing great! It is almost Christmas! Wow! And I will get to talk to you all on Skype! Wow! It is hard to believe that it is already time for another conversation. May doesn’t seem that long ago. I also got some wonderful packages, one from the family and one from Jenni. I was thrilled to see all the good candy (btw I just wanted to say, not that there was any in these packages, but if you send me chocolate only send me Reese's or Hersey bars, everything else is found here, I thought I would just say that before it happened) and the other great things I had. I have not opened my wrapped presents. They are all sitting under my beautifully ghetto Christmas tree awaiting the 25th. However, I did open the Christmas music, which Elder Seevers and I both were so happy to receive because neither of us had any. For the first 3 days though my CD player had stopped working completely. Elder Seevers then manhandled it a little while I was in the shower and it started working just fine again. So we enjoyed the music for the first time today and it was great! I am also sharing my goodies, not wanting to horde them all (though I only share the Reese's I got from Jenni with Elder Seevers, they are too valuable to be further distributed.). I am also saving the Hickory Farms things for the week before Christmas. I’ll be honest, I am surprised to see such traditions of the Christmas season in our home find their way to me here in Albania. Thank you all!!

OK, so I have some stories from this week. First we had Zone Conference. It was good. I always enjoy Zone Conference. Anyway, the “presiding sisters” (I really don’t know what they are called, but they are the sisters in charge of the other sisters) gave training about doing language study. They handed us a piece of paper that had various things written on it and asked us to take a little self-evaluation. I finished quickly and noticed that at the bottom of the page was written “Never give up, never surrender!” so I laughed to myself and raised my hand to ask which of the two sisters had chosen the Galaxy Quest quote. They both stood there, a little confused, and at last Sister Kennedy, from the UK, said something to the extent of if you were cultured you would know that it is actually a Winston Churchill quote. BURNED. It was quite amusing, and I wasn’t really offended because I served with Sister Kennedy for a transfer and she usually burns people in like manner. My embarrassment was somewhat softened when President Neil said from across the room “Don’t worry Elder Scadden, I thought it was from Galaxy Quest too” LOLOLOLOL. In my book, that quote still comes from Galaxy Quest. Winston Churchill has plenty of other inspiring quotes to compensate for the loss.

The other good story of the week. We have been trying to meet with an inactive family, the Komerias, for the past 2 transfers, but they have always not answered their phones or been too busy to meet. Their home teacher, President Baird (the American working at the embassy), told us he didn’t understand their inactivity because they seem to still love the church, love having the missionaries and had no apparent signs of commandment problems aside from not coming to church (which is a big one). They have only been inactive for about 5 months or so they say. Well, we finally got a meeting with them on Saturday and we decided to talk about service and try to get to know them. Sister Komeria had to stay with their store but Brother Komeria went with us into their house and we met with him and their three daughters, Jane, Anji? and Elisa, 17ish, 15ish, 12ish respectively. We talked for awhile, they were nice and welcoming and we found out they were all musicians and they showed us the electric guitar they had. We went ahead and had the lesson. The 2 older girls and the father really paid attention. There were no signs of being tired of hearing the gospel message. Elder Seevers and I felt the spirit strongly as we testified about the greatest service ever rendered in the world, the Atonement of Christ. Afterward the conversation flowed back into normal things and Jane got out the guitar to do a demo of a song she had written for us. It was really quite good. The Dad then got up and played an awesome Elvis song and then an Albanian song. Finally the Dad told Anji to go get her violin and Jane and Anji played an absolutely amazing duet on violin and electric guitar. Their unison was amazing. The music they played just flowed through me (as those of you who know me may know good music does when I hear it). I was astonished by such talent in these young girls. I will admit that the music is probably not music I would play in my missionary house being somewhat outside of white handbook standards, but at that time as we listened the music turned my thoughts turned powerfully to Christ and how this family needed His light and love and how the church needed them. We left extremely edified but with no greater knowledge as to why they do not come to church. They have been added to our reactivation projects list. I might be leaving in a couple of weeks but hopefully we will be able to find the reason for their inactivity and the missionaries that follow, along with strong help from the members and a strong spirit, might bring them back.

Another thing that I wanted to talk about. Last week Ken sent me a short email, but in it he contained some important council. He said specifically this “I hope you do not [allow your sense of compassion for others to degrade]. Cynicism is a barrier that hinders us from loving others unconditionally the way we should.” He also said he just thought he’d share that with me, not really knowing why, but I needed to hear it. Of all the things I did not expect to happen on my mission, this one troubles me most, for I feel that while I have learned greater charity for certain people and groups of people, I have also lost a great deal of compassion for the poor and downtrodden of the earth. Daily I am asked for money by the Gypsies whether it be by the youngest child or the oldest and most worn. I have raised my voice in frustration against those whose begging becomes so incessant that they attempt to stop your way of walking. In Shkoder the Gypsy kids were our friends and I did gain charity for them, but that has not been carried over to Tirana. Only one time did I give a little girl some nuts that I had gotten off the street. Though I pray for Charity daily, my Cynicism runs deep. It is against our rules to give things to the Gypsies. Some of them are legitimately poor and others earn more then $500 a month (that’s close to above average here) from their begging and you usually cannot tell any difference. At times I feel my heart moved in compassion towards them only to feel that driven away as I hear the same memorized line “Me falni qind leke?”. I have often thought what I must do to gain a greater love for the poor of this country. They refuse to hear our message of Christ, we cannot give them money and they tend to be quite disrespectful. We pay a generous fast but still I am stepping over my brothers and sisters that lie in the gutters of the street. What should I do? I could pray more specifically for them, I could try to look for opportunities to serve them more. It has caused me much trouble and often I just say to myself that I will make it up once in the States when I am no longer obligated to not offer sustenance. Now! I hope that doesn’t put a damper on every one's Christmas spirits. Our Church has done many great things for the Roma community. This summer we opened a school specifically for their instruction. This fall we opened a clinic where we teach women to sow on machines so that they have a real skill to offer people. The poor of this country are being helped, but not by me on an individual level and I do not like that feeling.

Anyway, I hope you are all doing well. You’ll hear from me one more time before we get to see and speak to each other on Christmas Day! Thank you all for your prayers and your support. I love and miss all of you! I wish all of you a Marry Christmas and hope that you are all remembering the spirit of the season. Despite my previously mentioned concern, I am still seeing miracles and the I felt the Lords spirit more abundantly this week than I have for awhile and it feels great! Until next week, take care and may God be with you all!

Elder Skadi

Monday, December 7, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (December 7th, 2009)

Hello all from Albania!

I hope you all are well, I am doing well. I would like to shout out to my friend Jed and wish him a Happy Birthday! I also would like to condemn his heretical actions in not ever writing me as he said he would. And also today, 68 years ago, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Empire of Japan. My grandmother and grandfather were there at the army base as Japanese fighters and bombers strafed the barracks. It was the event that pulled the US into the worst of the modern wars. While a terrible chapter in the history of the world, the people of America demonstrated incredible bravery and discipline against the enemies of the time. I will always admire that generation and the battles they fought.

So, what has happened this week? Well, yesterday I was asked to translated during testimony meeting for a little American boy who is in our branch and that was no problem. But as I descended from the stand a visiting American man asked me to translate for him. I had worried about this happening even though Elder Turley had specifically offered to translate for him (Elder Turley is 6 months my superior and is extremely good at the language). So he shared a powerful experience that happened in his life and used a lot of words that I had no idea how to translate into Albania. It was tough! Fortunately I don’t really feel shameful when I make such mistakes in front of our members but it definitely was a humbling experience. I have so much more that I still must learn! I need to make sure that I do not become complacent with the level of performance I am at (I can effectively teach all the lessons and basically any gospel principle but when it comes to many other facets of life, I lack the vocabulary.)

Oh could someone tell Colin that I did get his package? I got a dear elder from him in which he lamented that he had misaddressed my package. I had received it some weeks before and have written him back so he may already know. It brought up a good point that I would like to share with everyone. My address is extremely simple: Elder Gregory Scadden, POB 2984, Tirana, Albania. I know that the Mission office gives this long winded thing but let me tell you what it all means in Albanian: The first part is the name of the church here in Albania which is The Liahona Foundation (according to the government, our tags and churches all bear the proper name. The reason for this is that there are only 3 religions in Albania, according to the government, Catholicism, Othodoxism, and Islam, all other sects and denominations are called CULTS not religions. We are working on that). The rest of that address says this: The first large building you see on the road, right across the street from the 22nd post office. Super ghetto. The only information that is needed is the one I gave above, it will get here with only that! Of course, if you desire, you all may continue to use the full address.

So I heard a good story this week, about our newly baptized members Grej and Kejn. Their mom is investigating the church but she has a problem with the word of wisdom. We have taught it to her and it was also with the help of Sister Shupe (one of our senior couple missionaries, to give us more credibility). But she still refuses to accept that the promises that God has given us for obedience to that law totally outweigh any thing red wine can do for the blood. We are working on that. But she came and talked to sister Shupe one day, since they have become friends, and she told her that she decided to test her sons commitment to the gospel. She offered them red wine and then tried to order them to drink it, but both of them refused, they would not, they knew they had made a covenant with God and had to be faithful. Now its kind of jacked up that a mom would tempt her kids in such a way but it is great news for us because it just confirms out boys commitment to the gospel. We were so proud of them! We aren’t allowed to tell them though because Sister Shupe wasn’t supposed to tell us. It is difficult to explain how much joy it brought me to hear of their faithfulness. I sometimes worry that our new converts are not being as faithful as they might appear to be at church. I no longer have worries for Grej and Kejn.

So for about 5 months now I have been searching for the title of a book that I read in High School, however, I could not remember the author or the name of the book and therefore felt it was useless to write home about it. While at Grejs house yesterday, after our lesson with their mom, we were discussing books that we had read and she mentioned An American Tragedy, which immediately rang a bell. She then said it was by Theodore Dreiser and that rang a bell too. I asked her if it was about a kid that drowns his pregnant girlfriend in the 1920. Yes! It was a very unexpected way to find the title and author of the book. I would never imagine that an Albania would have read it. She also talked about another book, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and I recalled that that book was very popular in my Arabic program my last semester before I left. I wanted to know if any of you have read it, because I have heard many people acclaim it as excellent, and I am considering adding it to my “to read” list. Has anyone read it? Is it worth the read?

Hmm,what else was there to talk about and discuss? We haven’t gotten new investigators for 3 weeks now. I am sadface about that. It is clear why, Elder Seevers and I have not being doing a great deal of finding because we have not had a lot of time. About 7 weeks ago we were getting tons and for 3 weeks running we had quite a few and some good referrals and then we became very busy with all that and now they are all either disappearing, not interested, not progressing, or are baptized, have a huge desire to be baptized, or are still on the road to being baptized. That pretty much covers every possible option huh? The work continues to go well and I think we are working hard, it just does not look good that we haven’t been doing a lot of finding. This week, though, I believe we will have a little more time to do finding and I hope that will yield fruits. I feel very blessed to be in a mission where we are expected to find new investigators weekly. There are a number of missionaries that would be thrilled to get a new investigator once a transfer in other parts of the world. Crazy!

Well, the time has come. I am super excited about "seeing" my family and Jenni on Christmas! I will have details about that next P-day. We receive them on Thursday at Zone Conference. Dad you will need to send me an explanation about Skype and the account etc. I love you all! I miss you all, may God be with you until we speak again!

Elder Skadi

Monday, November 30, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (November 30th 2009)

Hello all from Albania!

I hope you all are well, I miss you all. HILARIOUS PICTURE WITH MY FACES!!! Lolololol. I view this as a gift, thank you all for including me in Thanksgiving, I am going to keep these. I also wish to congratulate Tony on his team's victory over mine, State is doing bad this year. It is not so bad of a blow since VT is my second team, thanks to tony, so at least someone I like won the game. So I hope thanksgiving was an excellent meal and a good time. Our thanksgiving was excellent, good food and a fun time but it still was nothing like our mighty Scadden family thanksgivings. The sisters did a bunch of decorations and they asked me what I was thankful for, for the purpose of writing it down on some random paper cutouts and they said it could not involve my family or Jenni, or religion so what do you think I said? The U.S. Army! Elder Esplin and I had a good time together discussing such things during dinner. Our meal was pretty standard, turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. There was a large variety of desserts. It might surprise all of you but I actually made a cheesecake, a very large cheesecake, and it was completely devoured and got good reviews from all. The only issue was that it didn’t chill quite long enough so it was a little runny. Pretty amazing for a first time. We then watched this new Pixar movie called Up. Apparently it did very well? I enjoyed it, it was a good movie, except for how sad it was. In the first 7 minutes they just break your heart and they whole rest of the time you are waiting for it to be repaired and it doesn’t really happen. So we didn’t get our football, but I approve of the alternative.

In Dad's last email he asked me how my Mission President felt about my army recruiting efforts. Well, I really don’t know. Usually though he likes missionaries to have something of a plan when they are going home and I feel that by encouraging them to look into the military it gives them some semblance of potential paths they might take when they get home. I am surprised by how many people have no idea what they are going to do when they get off their missions! I suppose that is a lucky thing about ROTC and having a beautiful future wife, 2 of the biggest post mission problems are well on their way to being solved. It doesn’t work too well on Elder Seevers, he just wants to live in the middle of nowhere Nevada and be a baseball coach at a high school.

The work is slowing down a bit as I suppose is to be expected when your investigators get baptised. Donald's parents continue to be stalwartly opposed to his baptism but Grej and Kejn are now members! That is very exciting. Their mom is learning from us but we had a somewhat disheartening lesson on the Word of Wisdom. She is convinced that red wine is good for you and that there is no alternative. I don’t care what doctors say it does for your heart! The best doctor, the creator of all and most professional and educated of all scientists insists that we do not drink it and He also gives us a promise far greater than any doctor could promise about any diet. We will continue to pray for her and to hope that her heart will soften.

So I have been studying the Old Testament with the LDS college student manual. I have been thoroughly enjoying it. The strict punishments exacted in the Law are pretty intense. I would have been executed years ago for blasphemy or for trespassing the Sabbath. However, I have learned that the Law of Moses is so much more than a list of laws that exact harsh punishments. The law constantly points towards Christ and His coming. Within the law there is also much instruction on what we need to do to be better, not just things that we should not do (though personally, I find DO NOT DO laws pretty great because it tends to be more difficult to find gray areas in keeping them and also it is more difficult to justify not keeping them). I also do not think so badly of the Children of Israel anymore, now that I have been reading their account. Previously I always thought they were the most hardened, illogical, completely stupid people in the history of the world, seeing right before their eyes the manifestations of God and still hardening their hearts. I now realize that while they fell short of the blessings God wanted to give them (I.E. appearing to them that they might see Him with their own eyes) , they still were quite faithful and even were so excited to build the tabernacle that they had to be commanded to stop contributing gold and silver because they just had much more than was needed. From the example of the patriarchs and Moses I am learning a great deal about the mercies of God and the diligence of His servants in fulfilling His commandments. The Old Testament has much more value than I ever thought it did.

Ok, so this is a pretty lame email, I hope that next weeks will be better. Thank you all for your emails, your prayers and your support. This is the Lords work and I feel blessed to be a part of it. I miss you all, and I love you. Until next week, may God bless you!

Elder Skadi

Monday, November 23, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (November 23, 2009)

Hello all from Albania!

I hope you all are well! I miss you all. I want to congratulate my niece, Kinsey, on her being allowed to be baptized, that is exciting! I also just wanted to shout out Happy Birthday to Brother Bray, his birthday happens this week. So, remember last week how at internets I was complaining about being a little sick? Well, I got home and found I had a fever of 102.2, and was condemned to stay indoors for the next 4 days. That was horrible! And being sick was pretty sucky too, it got worse that night, but improved a great deal the next day, yet I still had to stay inside for some time. One thing I really did not expect about my mission is how many sick days I’ve had. I suppose they are not exceptional compared to normal life, but in a day of mission life I feel like so much more valuable time is lost. What can you do? I am completely better now. The Lord blessed me with a quick recovery, considering that it was probably the flu.
Grej and Kajn's baptism was awesome! The water was freezing because the gas tank that had gas wasn’t working so the heater wasn’t working but it was still excellent. 2 of their cousins, their aunt, and their mom came. I think the best part of the service was at the very end the mother asked if she could stand up and say a few things. She said a lot of thank yous and the like, but then she said “I had no idea how amazing this church was, how amazing this would be, and I know that I too must follow the same road that my boys have chosen.” It was a great thing to hear! So we are going to start for real trying to teach her again and her boys will be able to help her. It is amazing the way the Lord works. She went from being a very kind, but quite indifferent women to the gospel, to realizing that this is what must be done in her life. I hope to be reporting on her progress in coming weeks.

Donald, our investigator who did not get baptized because of the hardness of his parents hearts, did give a talk in 4th branch on Sunday and it was amazing! The whole audience was stunned by how well this 15 yr old boy delivered his talk and how doctrinally sound and powerful it was. It was a really great thing for Donald to do since he was not able to be baptized that day. I am glad that President Apostulli thought he was a member of the church and asked him to speak. I hope that soon his parents will allow him to be baptized. We are praying much for him.

OH! I have a story! So I have been having mad crazy dreams recently and I do not think that they are fever induced but I would like to share one. It is a good reminder to all of us! So, in the dream, I am driving the Pilot, backing out of our drive way. I am taking grandma to her hair appointment. As I am backing, I see a big black SUV parked at the top of our driveway in the rear view mirror so I stop and I look into my left side view. In the mirror I see Denzel Washington. He is wearing a completely white suite like that of a temple worker and sunglasses. He grabs the edges of the opening of his suite (you know, the V of the suite? He takes them with his fingers) and lifts up his suit jacket a little as though he is indicating it and then says to me “Remember your covenants”. LOLOLOL! The moral of the story, Denzel Washington says, Remember your covenants! Man, I laughed so hard after I woke up, as did my companion when I explained it to him.

THANKSGIVING! We are going to the mission home and having a huge meal on Thursday, so fear not, I will be partaking of some home cooked goodness. However, do think of me because I am sure that it still will not be as amazing as the out of this world cooking that is commonplace at our family meals, especially on so great an occasion as thanksgiving. Now, I asked president if we could play football but he said no, so all those going to the turkey bowl, please play your hearts out for me! Now, I do think we have successfully warded off all the silly movie ideas, like Lion King, a good movie, but thanksgiving and football are inseparably connected, and therefore football must be watched! I think we are going to watch Remember the Titans, great movie!

Dad recently shared a story with me about how his temple shift coordinating always works out regardless of the obstacles that they face. It is a simple testimony builder to me that the Lord will always provide that His work will go forward. It is really miraculous, however small it may seem sometimes, to see His hand revealed. I have seen many miracles, like the one at the baptism last night, as I have been here on my mission and it is a blessing to be a part of so great a work. Anyway, thank you all for your love and your support, and your prayers. I know that this is God's work. I miss you all, and I pray for you often. I love you, may God be with you!

With love
Elder Skadi

Monday, November 16, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (November 16, 2009)

Hello all from Albania!!

Time for the exciting news: Elder Seevers and I are staying together! There is nothing I wanted more than for us to continue working together, he is a great missionary and a good friend. This past week we had a 24 lesson week, only 2 less than the most I have seen in any of my companionships and these ones are worth a lot more. The Lord is blessing us with great success and I hope that it will continue. Graj and Kajn are still set to be baptised on Sunday. They are so excited! Donald's parents have not relented but that is ok, he is aware that he can continue to grow and learn in the gospel until the day the Lord blesses him with softened hearts from his parents. This week might end up being pretty hard because I am getting what at first glance seems like the flu. Not throwing up but I am sore from head to foot with sinus problems and I feel on fire. But because we had to go to the mission home this morning (so that Elder Seevers could get his lejtrendrimi, his right to reside here) I didn’t test my temperature. I’ve had worse on my mission! I bet it will pass in a day or two. Please pray specifically for my health this week, it would mean a lot to me, thanks!

Wow! Thanksgiving this next week! That will be exciting, great food! It will probably be the last time I see my good friend Elder Esplin, the Elder I worked with on Boys Camp. Recruiting efforts continue to go well. We are convincing many getting ready to leave to very seriously look into the Army on their return home. Lol I’ve been so concerned with Elder Seevers language and progress as a missionary that I didn’t start military pitches until about a week ago. Come to find out that he would love to serve in the marines but because he injured his shoulder so bad there is little chance he will be able to but he is going to try when he gets home, A satisfying answer for me. It is a real shame Elder Esplin and I did not get a chance to serve a transfer together, it would have been awesome, but that is ok. Maybe we will see each other in the mountains of Afghanistan or where ever we might be in coming years. I seem to be getting to the point on my mission where the friends I have made among missionaries start to go home. Both Elder Esplin and Elder Hamilton leave next transfer! At least Elder Seevers and I will be here in Albania for a while together. When it comes down to it though, I didn’t come here to make friends (though I am making many more, both foreign and Albanian than I ever expected) and the Lord is blessing me greatly with spiritual strength and growth.

The Branch continues to do well under the new president, he has a lot to learn, but he is doing well. Ermal, our just baptised, is being considered as branch secretary because he graduated in finances. That would be a great calling for him! I hope they decide to give it to him. He needs a responsibility.

Darn I had notes that I wanted to write about but I forgot them at home. What can you do? Well, I’ll talk a little bit more about Donald Graj and Kajn. So when they come to church they give awesome answers. They even quote scriptures they have read etc. It blows our members away! They get a great deal of strength and encouragement. Last Sunday, Presidenti Apostulli (president of 4th branch, and yes his first and last names in English are Apostle Apostle) did not realize that these kids attending his ward (just so that they could learn more) giving great answers were not members and he assigned Donald a talk for next Sunday! We are going to help him. Presidenti still wants him to do it even though the confusion has been cleared up. He is excited, it will be great for him because that same day his 2 friends will be getting baptised and he will not so he feels he is still are part of the church. They also attend seminary twice a week and give outstanding answers. They love this gospel. It is amazing. I do not think I have found such excitement and zeal in a person their age (except my friend Erik Wells) ever in my life. It is wonderful!

Ok, sorry for shortness this week, this was a hard one to write without notes! I am very grateful for your prayers, I feel them daily. I miss you all, you are in my prayers, I love you, may God be with you all!

Elder Skadi

Monday, November 9, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (November 09, 2009)

Hello all from Shqiperia!

I hope you all are doing well! I am doing well. This week I want to shout out to… My self and Jenni! This week we have been together for a year!! Time just continues to fly. Also I was asked to tell Bej Fala (which means give my regards) to Mum from Motra Balilari. We visit her house once every two weeks and she feeds us a ridiculous amount and tells us she is our temporary mother while we are away from our moms. She is the head desert chef at one of the two nicest hotels in all of Albania, so you can imagine that the food is pretty good. But I will be honest, it is nothing like the good cooking I had grown accustom to at home.

I had a question about disciplinary councils in the Church, since I just read the section instituting the way they should be carried out in the D&C, but all I wrote as a reminder was "disciplinary councils", so I have no idea what on earth I was going to ask about them.

Hey! I had a really outstanding idea for Sarah's wedding! So I am her only brother and it is a big disappointment (at least for me, I’m not really sure how much it disappoints you all) that I will not be there. However, I decided that I could at least be there by proxy of a life sized cardboard cut out of me. There are places that make those in our area! I would be thrilled to get a picture taken with my sister in her wedding dress. What does everyone think? If you think it is tacky, you can hid me in a closet or the kitchen or something. just want to be in some pictures. If you all didn’t have any worry, it would be even better if I could stand in that welcome line thing the family does at the reception where all the guests shake our hands upon entering. Anyway, it was just a thought. It is your day Sarah, so if me being there via proxy doesn’t flow with your plans, don’t worry about it, I am unoffended hahah!

Ok, an update on our great investigators Donald, Graj and Kejn, they are still great! They are progressing really well and have such a desire to feast upon the words of Christ. They love coming to church and to seminary as well as English class (though it is less spiritual). They ask us outstanding questions. Graj and Kejn's folks continue to be supportive of their decision but Donald's parents are skeptical. We have a date set for the 22nd of November but Donald fully understands that if he does not have permission from his folks he will have to wait but that he can still be fully active in the church. I am very excited for the 3 of them!

Next Monday is transfers. There seems to be a great deal of risk that one of us will be transferred. We are both very sad about that, Elder Seevers and I make a great team, and have enjoyed working together. I suppose we will just have to wait and see what happens. I do not want to leave but I will willingly go wherever the Lord sends me. Due to the great necessity I have to be further educated in the ways of Charity, I would not be surprised to go to Fier, a very small city that once had a branch of close to 70 active members but they all apostatised from the church in the matter of about 4 weeks. There are now something like 8 active members. I think I would have a lot to learn there. I also would hope that I would be able to work hard and see that place be better than when I left it. That is only a thought! This transfer everyone, and I mean every missionary, could potentially get transferred. The entire board can and has to change (because 1 transfer from now we need 4 new branch presidents that are missionaries, a new assistant, a new office elder, a new zone leader and they don’t want the brand new half of the mission to have to fill those spots). Exciting!

Anyway, it is that time again. I hope this email was sufficient. Today we are going to go eat American cuisine at a restaurant called Route 66. That is about as American as you can get. I’ll let you know how it is. I miss you all, thank you very much for your prayers and your support. I love you all, please take care. May God be with you!

Elder Skadi

Monday, November 2, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (November 2 2009)

Hello all from Albania!

Woohoo!! I got a GREAT package this week! I am very pleased with its contents, you all are wonderful! I also want to wish Grandma a happy 89th birthday. Wow! Grandma has seen many of recent history's most important events. Oh, back to the package, what was up with sending me vitamins especially for people 50+ yrs old?? Lol, no problem, I compared them to the other ones I had and they are essentially the same, so no worries. I just thought it was funny.

Well dang, I forgot to take notes about what I should talk about. I hope this email is not too lame. It is getting cold here in Tirana, I’m not too excited about that but I have plenty of good items to keep me as warm as possible. So what happened this week? Well, we are still teaching those two awesome boys I think I talked about last week. (Hey, did everyone like how I told the same story to weeks in a row with Elder Seevers telling me I needed Charity? I’m telling you, all is as one day here. I is so hard to distinguish one day or week from the next.) Well they are still awesome! Now we have another boy with them, Gray's younger brother, who is also great. All three of them want to be baptized. However, seeing how 2 are 15 and one is 11, we wanted their parents in on this. We visited the family of Donald. They are quite a wealthy family for Albanians and live in a very nice house but they had all the usual, lame Albanian excuses about learning more about the gospel. They are the kind of people that would have answered the door, said they were of a different faith (when in reality they don’t know anything about their faith and don’t ever go to services) and then closed the door. They claimed they had such a huge faith in God but I told them they had no actions to show for it and that this faith is worthless if they do not act the way God has commanded. (I said it in nicer words) We discussed their son getting baptized but they were skeptical. They said they would talk about it. They were kind, respectful people but quite willing to parish in their ignorance. I think it was one of the hardest lessons I have been a part of yet on my mission because they threw so much stuff out there that usually just stops a lesson dead. But because of Donald’s requests we were permitted to push onwards. The Lord certainly helped us to get through that lesson as well as we did, there is no way I could have done it on my own. Gray's family was somewhat different. His Mom is the closest thing I have found in Albania to a hippy. She is a really energetic, kind lady and told us pretty much straight off that her sons had total permission to be baptized and become members in our Church. She is also willing to learn from us, but I think it is more out of respect for us and her sons than anything, but a willingness to listen is a step, I believe. So our plan to see their families baptized is not so close of a goal. We will continue to teach the boys and gage their readiness for baptism.

So we are not the only missionaries in our area who have great people right now. All of Tirana e Re (which is 6 missionaries: us, Elder Turley, Elder Loose, Sister Bojer, and Sister Bentley. So there is no confusion, the ZLs are also in our district but their branch is fourth branch) is having huge success with finding and teaching. The Lord is really blessing us with many miracles.

Our branch president was replaced on Sunday. Sparti has been called to serve in the District Presidency so he could no longer be a branch president. We were all extremely surprised when Shpetim Shima was called as the new BP (he is the father of the two kids baptized when I first came to Ti-re). The surprise is that he has only been a member for 8 months in a branch full of older members. I think it is great!! He has such a huge amount of faith. I believe he will make an outstanding BP and his counselors are all experienced men. It was fast and testimony meeting so after the counselors and BPs had born their testimonies, it was opened to the congregation. Immediately s women in her late twenties rushed to the microphone, absolutely balling, and told us she was never coming to church again (which is ironic because that was the first Sunday in a couple of months that she had been at church). I will admit that that was super awkward, especially because we had 3 investigators in church. However, it got tons better when every other person got up giving large thanks to Sparti and declaring their support for the new BP. They were mostly the stronger, older members of the branch but I believe that a majority of the active branch agrees with them. Brother Shima is well loved. Still, having talked to a few of the members who are younger, they all worry that this will ruin everything. They just haven’t experienced changes like this before. The Lord's work will go forward.

Well, shorter email for this week. Next week might be my last P-day in Tirana e Re. I talked to the Assistants today and it looks as though there will be huge changes this transfer. We have to prepare for January when 14? Missionaries are leaving. 4 Branch presidents, an assistant, and a zone leader need to be replaced because of the changes coming in January and so they need to start getting that set up now. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself in a different city next transfer but I really hope that I do not move and that I get to stay with Elder Seevers. He is such an outstanding companion. Anyway, that’s all for this week. I love you all. Thank you for your support and prayers. You are all in my prayers, may God be with you!

Elder Skadi

Monday, October 26, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (October 26, 2009)

Hail all from the shores of Albania!

I hope you all are doing well! So I do not read my emails when I do email, instead I print them off and read them later. Though, while I was copying and pasting the emails to Word, I caught something about Sarah and Louis getting married?? I hope there are more details and I hope I am not jumping the gun by saying Congratulations!!! To them both. I am now feeling somewhat left out that the marriage will probably occur while I am here. Char me boh? I hope to hear more from Sarah and anyone else.

OK order of business number 2: Mum asked me to start asking for things for Christmas: Shoe inserts that give great arch support, and I mean GREAT inserts. I have some OK ones as we speak but with all the walking we do they aren’t the most fantastic. Fear not, I do not go in everyday suffering from huge amounts of pain, I’m just looking for a greater level of comfort and better flat footed prevention. Also Advil, it can be purchased here in Albania, but for the equivalent of a $5 bottle in American you must pay $350+ dollars here in Albania for it. Heinous, I know, or a potential commercial endeavor with which to make bank, unfortunately the Whitehandbook says not to engage in commercial enterprises or I probably would have already sold my remaining 10 pills for $15 each. Lastly, I do not know if I told you this so it might already be coming, but more daily vitamins, I am almost out! Alright, so enough selfish asking.

This week has been GREAT! Thanks to the many hours of English Advertising we did, we now have two outstanding investigators. They are two friends, both 15 years old, and both very exceptional boys. They learn English in school and take a private course but on top of that they come to our English course just for extra practice. On Saturday they came by even though there was no English. Elder Seevers and I were standing outside the church waiting for a retention that we were pretty sure wasn’t going to come (mainly because we had failed to set up the appointment and he doesn’t have a cellphone and he wasn’t with his sister, so we were just hoping he would pass buy, which isn’t actually that far fetched of an idea if you know Roni) and they came around. I told them that we would have institute in an hour and they were welcome to come. They said they would and we continued talking. It turns out one of the boys had been tracted into before 2 years ago and had the BoM still but for some reason his family never met with the missionaries again. We asked them if they wanted to come inside and watch a movie about Joseph Smith and we would talk a little more about the BoM, they quickly agreed. They were so excited about the film and its message! They agreed to meet with us consistently and to come to church the next day. The spirit was very strong during the lesson. Later that night I introduced them to Sister Shupe (the senior sister who runs the institute program) and learned as Donald (the boy tracted into) told his story that after the missionaries had found them, he had wanted to come to our church for 2 years because there was just something about it but he could never work up the courage to come. Until he saw the missionaries advertising a free English class for all ages and he said it was just what he needed to break the ice so that he could start learning about the gospel. How awesome is that! In church yesterday, Gray, the other one, came dressed in a shirt and tie and Donald took notes during all the classes. Who are these kids? People prepared by the Lord as I see it. I hope that the many bad examples from members of the church that are in their same age will not draw them away from their fire and desire to learn and progress in the Gospel. The beginning of their teaching is truly a miracle from the Lord, how blessed are we to be a part of His higher plan! So please pray for these 2 kids, Donald and Gray, that they will continue to progress and that, if they choose to accept Christ and be baptized, that their families will be open to the decision.

So I have decided that I enjoy tracting far more than I enjoy street contacting. More people get mad at you tracting, people tend to be ruder, but it also forces us to work harder and also if someone is welcoming to the message it is an immediate lesson instead of waiting a day or two to call a phone number you got on the street. But when we are on the street it is easy to let inhibitions prevent you from being most effective. Oh that person doesn’t look like they want to be stopped, oh that person clearly doesn’t want to listen. But while tracting you knock on every door and speak to every person that answers. Does anyone understand what I am saying? Essentially, I am a bad street contacter and thus tracting makes me feel like a more effective finder, LOL! But the best way to find new investigators is through our members. I hope that soon we will be getting some good referrals.

Elder Seevers is an awesome companion. One of the many reasons I loved Elder Flack so much was because he was never afraid to tell me how I could improve and what I could do better. He was always blunt and straight forward. I am finding that Elder Seevers is very similar and I am extremely grateful that he also has that quality. Early this week I was in a bad mood while tracting because we were getting hit with the most irritatingly dumb excuses for not listening to the most important message in the world and he just straight told me “Elder Scadden, you need to have more Charity for these people!” It was a good reminder. So even though I am teaching him and helping him (he himself is also very good at taking constructive criticism), he is teaching me and helping me to be a better, more effective missionary and member of the church. It is a pleasure to serve with him.

This past Thursday was Zone Conference. We had the pleasure of watching part of Elder Hollands BoM talk that had been dubbed over with some music and some pictures. It was extremely powerful. What a testimony! I hope to get permission from president to watch the whole talk during lunch this week. While Elder Holland is much more eloquent, powerful, and convicted, I do wish to add my testimony to his that I know that the Book of Mormon is true. It contains the words of ancient prophets of God. It is not a fake. It is not a farce. There is no way that a book that brings men so much closer to God could be frauded into creation. I have read it and many times repeated the promise given by Moroni in the end to pray and ask God to know the truth and every time the spirit whispers with undeniable affirmation that it is True! And I could never deny it.

I love you all, I miss you all. Thank you very much for your prayers and your support. I am seeing miracles on my mission, I am growing and I am seeing people around me grow. It is a blessing to be here in the Service of the Lord. Until next week, may God be with you all.

Elder Skadi

Monday, October 19, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (October 19, 2009)

Hello all from Albania!

I hope everyone is doing well! First I would just like to wish my niece Kinsey a Happy Birthday!

So what do I talk about this week? This week has gone by fast, it is Zone Conference, which means that this transfer is already almost done. We’ve started to hear Christmas music on the road. It is hard to believe that it is almost here! Fortunately we have Thanksgiving first. We will all go to the mission presidents house and Sister Neil will cook us a meal, how lucky we are! We are also going to watch a movie. Last year they watched Remember the Titans. I would like to watch that this year. So would over half the mission. But some people are proposing lame ideas like Harry Potter. Not that that is bad, I’ve heard this one is really good actually, but its Thanksgiving!! That means Football! Well, I guess we will have to see how things play out. It won’t be long before I get to talk to yall over Skype!

So I will tell you all a little bit more about my companion. Elder Seevers comes from a little town called Pioch, in Nevada. 800 people live in his town. There is a full, strong ward there. In a nearby town of 700 people they have 2 wards. These little towns were all founded by the Pioneers. But Elder Seevers himself is a convert to the church, he has only been a member for 4 years. He played football in High School as quarterback and actually went to Boise State to play ball there. If I remember correctly Boise has a pretty good team! But he injured his shoulder really badly. And then, after a surgery and therapy, he injured it again. He finally decided to leave Boise because he felt like he was wasting their time. In reality the Lord just had other plans for him, like a mission to Albania. He has done 3 years of school, majoring in History. He wants to be a high school teacher and baseball coach (he played that too). Now he is here, stunning people with his 6ft 6in of height. He is just as I was when I came into the country, weak with the language, but not terrible. Already in 13 days or so that he has been here I have seen dramatic improvement in his language capabilities. He is also really good at calling me out on things I need to do better, in a non-holier-than-thou sort of way. Last night I was getting really irritated with the excuses and rudeness of people at doors and he very blatantly reminded me that we need to have charity for all these people. It was a good reminder. In any case, he is a great companion and I am learning many things from him. I hope he feels he is learning many things from me.

This week we went tracting for my first time in a number of weeks (I think this is why I was getting so irritated with people, I had forgotten the sort of emotions and rejections that come along with knocking on people's doors). I think the most amusing thing that happened was when we knocked on a door in a dark stairwell and the people came to the door, turned the outside light on, looked through the eye hole for about 2 seconds, and turned the light back off, leaving us in darkness, and walking away. Some people! We laughed about it though, at the utter ridiculousness of it. The J-dubs (Jehovah's witnesses) have waged Jihad on Tirana for years. Tracting really is not the most effective method here. They are uses to seeing J-dubs at their doors once ever few months or so and they confuse us with them. It makes me sad that such an obstacle has been placed in the way of a good finding method. It surprises me how strong a force the J-dubs are here. I had always thought they were a random ridiculous sect of religion that just existed, but in this part of the world they are very prominent. Elder Layton (one of the zone leaders) and I might actually be attending one of their services to represent the Church this week (we have been invited). The best thing that happened was when we knocked on one of the last doors we planned on knocking on that night and a man opened the door and invited us in. We first clarified that we were missionaries and that we had a message to share with him and he said “I know! Please come in!” His name is Ismiel and he is a really great guy! He doesn’t trust the self proclaimed religious leaders of the world because he feels like they don’t have the authority to speak for God. He disapproves of the mechanical prayers preached by various faiths and believes that we must pray from our hearts. He is not well learned with the stories of the Bible (having grown up in communism) and does not frequent any places of worship. But when we told him the story of Joseph Smith and told him that we have a prophet on the earth today with Authority from God he was very interested. I feel like he has been prepared to receive the message. We will see. He has agreed to meet with us 2 or 3 times a week for the next 3 or 4 weeks. He is aware that we are here to help him find the truth for himself and he knows that if he indeed finds that testimony, we will be inviting him to be baptized. Let us hope he progresses.

We also have another new investigator named Elida. She is catholic, but seems to be very interested in the church. We had an excellent first lesson with her and 2 member girls, but of course, as usually happens when using the untrained in lessons, later topics of discussion that at first appear strange, like baptisms for the dead, were brought up. It doesn’t seem to have weirded her out and she stayed for all of institute. If she indeed starts to progress we may hand her over to the sisters as it would just be simpler for them to teach her (we would always have to find back up when teaching her). Regardless of who ends up teaching her, I am excited for her. She had many good questions. As with Ismiel, I hope to see her walk towards the waters of baptism!

Anyway, enough of that random subject. Oh, I wanted to leave a message for Jenni, who has not yet received a letter from me this week: I indeed sent one, but I do not believe it was sent until Thursday of that week because while I was with Elder Vail in his area, while we were waiting for our trainees, we could not find a post office to save our lives, so I had to wait til I got back to my area on Thursday. Sorry its coming late, I hope it comes soon!

Alright everyone, it is time for me to go. Until next week! It will be here before we know it. Time is just flying! The crazy thing about it is people keep telling me, "You think time is flying now? Just wait til your year mark, then it starts to Rocket by." I cannot even imagine that! Time already is rocketing by! I guess it will increase to warp speed then. Well, I know that this is the Lords work and even though time is flying, I know that I am being successful. It is such a blessing to be here. Thank you all for you prayers! I love and miss you all, may God be with you!

Elder Skadi

(The following are excerpts from an email Gregory asked be forwarded to his last companion who has completed his mission. Gregory indicated it would be ok to post this.)

Hey man, life is excellent! The fringo, elder Seevers, is a great guy and is trying hard. Already in the first little while that he has been here I have seen great improvement in his language capabilities. The branch is doing well, Sparti will be released soon as branch president because he is now part of the district presidency. Bro Baird is now district president. I got the photo I wanted from you, so don’t worry about that.

Ermal's baptism was awesome! The spirit was very strong there and Ermal was so happy to be baptized. The confirmation was this Sunday and it went well. He just showed up a few minutes late. Elder Shupe did the confirming. I didn’t know this, but apparently Ermal has been on the active search for the true church for the last 10 years of his life. He grew up Muslim, but decided pretty early it was wrong. Sparti is considering making him assistant to the branch clerk, or just all out branch clerk, because he is a finance graduate.

As for the gossip around the mission, I’m trying my best to stay out of it by not saying anything about anyone and not participating in listening to other people. President really wants to kill this whole gossip thing. I’m sorry to hear that you hear it is still a problem. I hope that by the time my trainee gets done with me he’ll only know mostly good things about missionaries.

The Shima family is well. Soni still doesn’t have the Aaronic priesthood but he should get it soon, Sparti has been working with him. Ermal is set to get it in just a couple of weeks and Sparti agrees with our assessment that that would be good. Ani is working hard at the Crapery. The sisters are teaching another young man that works there with Ani and now the whole crapery staff is planning on coming to English course on Wednesday. What a crazy thing it would be if the whole crapery converted?? Roni is helping us teach Ray, but I’ll be honest, I doubt we will baptize him. He lacks the desire. Elderado is good, Kitio came to district conference and Edi Losha is well… A Frenchman.

Thanks for your prayers Abli, I hope that home starts to get a little more exciting soon! Edi leaves in like 3 weeks, it'd be great if you got to see him every now and again. You have a good one, may God be with you!

Elder Skadi
P.S. I knew the dark knight would blow you away!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (October 12, 2009)

Hello All From Albania!

Wow! What a great week! 2 baptisms this week! Roani and his sister on Monday and Ermal yesterday. What an exciting week! However, this week I am going to direct my email as a mission report to my bishop and stake president. I hope you all still enjoy it, Before I begin I just want to let everyone know that our church building got ransacked. It looks like someone came into the building while it was open, hid, and than sacked it, because there is no evidence of forced entry but tons of evidence of forced exit. Crazy! Fortunately nothing of great value was stolen. Whoever this thief was, they were looking for raw money but didn’t find anything and were clearly not wise enough to realize that our church amplifier and projector were worth hundreds of dollars. Thank goodness! My new companion: Elder Seevers from Nevada. He is awesome! I’ll talk more about him next week.

Dear President Maxwell and Bishop Council,

I apologize that I have not written sooner. Today I will give you a brief report of my mission up to this point. I hope you enjoy it.

Current Status: Successful! Albania is a small, poor country that is still suffering from many side effects of communism. The church is small here but the work is moving forward. There are about 1500 baptized members but only about 400 are consistently active. The District recently took several steps backwards in its progression when a Foreign Service Officer from the US had to be made district president because the current president went inactive. There are 11 branches, 5 of which are in the capital city of Tirana. The Church has built two buildings so far, one in Durres and one in Elbasan. We have many faithful members who are fulfilling their callings and slowly we are adding active Melchizedek priesthood holders towards the qualifications of stakehood.

Personal Development: I am growing beyond that which I could have imagined! Every day I see the hand of the Lord revealed in this work. I have seen the holy spirit work in the lives of the people I have interacted with. I am slowly learning the language of the spirit and my knowledge of the scriptures continues to grow as the Lord enlightens my mind with greater insights throughout my studies. I am surprised at how we can always have more faith, we can always be more diligent and more Christlike. It is a life long development. My testimony of the Savior and his Atonement has deepened since I have been here, as has my testimony of the restoration. I continue to learn patience, charity, and love, as I have had to pray for a great deal out here. I did not realize how self-centered I was until my primary responsibility became the spiritual well being of those around me.

Language: I am OK at the language. I have seen amazing progress over these 6 months and it has been all due to the Lord and his mercies. It is hard to believe that I once could barely construct a sentence when I can now express my self in complex ideas and phrases. I still have a long way to go, I am far from mastering the Albanian language. I have begun training another missionary and I already can tell that this will take my language capabilities to my limits. Indeed the gift of tongues has been a powerful ally here in the country. At times I am extremely surprised at the things that leave my mouth, not realizing before that I had the knowledge to say them.

Successes: My first 3 transfers in the country did not have a great deal of what might be called outward success. In fact, the branch I was in, Skoder, had 30 people in Church my first Sunday. 5 weeks later we had 2. Fortunately at least 1 member always showed up. My time in Skoder can be summed up easily in two words: Enduring Apostasy. That is not to say that I feel my time there was wasted. I felt the spirit work strongly through me numerous times, many people were called to repentance, though such calls were rejected. I challenged people to change their lives, I developed Christlike attributes and I came to love some of the most dishonest and selfish people I have ever met, as Children of a Heavenly King. I have spent 1 transfer in Tirana e Re, in the strongest branch in all of Albania, 2nd branch. Here I have seen people use their agency for good rather than evil. The hand of the Lord has been outstretched to them in love and they have gladly accepted it rather than turning from it for the pleasures of the world. The Lord has blessed me in allowing me to take a direct and central role in the conversions of 2 individuals to the gospel, Ermal Llaha and Roani Kallopi. I have also felt the holy ghost work through me as I have taught people about our Lord and Savior.

Conclusion: I have felt that thus far my mission has been incredibly successful. In the MTC they told us many times that our mission was a success if the only person that changed or was converted to the gospel was us, then we had successful missions. I have been blessed to see much more than that. I know that this is the work of God. Nothing can stop it. I am but a tool in his hands and it is a blessing beyond that which I deserve. However, the Lord in His mercy has allowed me to be in His service. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Almighty God, and the Jehovah that rules this existence. I know that His Atonement is full and complete, I have felt its powerful effects in my life and through it I have been redeemed. Joseph Smith is the prophet of the Restoration and Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of our day. This Church is Gods kingdom on the earth, I know this without doubt. May God be with you.

Elder Scadden

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (Oct. 6 2009)

Hello all from Albania!

Wow another transfer is over! That is crazy! I have been on my mission for 9 months now. That is enough time to have a baby! Kristin is an excellent example. I hope mother and baby are still doing well. Hey, about this! I forgot to put this in my last email! So Elder Abley had 2 nephews born in the same week as Malachi and the crazy thing is that one of them is named Malachi as well! Crazy! So, exciting news, ROANI has been baptised with his sister Elba! How exciting is that!? I suppose if one were to count baptisms this would be my personal first that I had a large impact on. I walked in on Soni and Anxhelas but I was there from the beginning with Roani's teaching. It is awesome to see the atonement of Christ work in peoples lives. I am so blessed to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to help bring His children His words. Next Sunday Ermal will be baptised. That is super exciting! He is so ready! And the Church will bring him so many blessings in his life. Teaching him was so simple, he has such a desire to learn. I believe it is that desire that made it so easy for him to receive an answer of the truth. He doesn’t show much emotion. He is pretty stone faced in fact but sometimes when we talk about the gospel or he sees/hears something at church you just see him light up with eagerness and excitement. I am very happy for him! It is so wonderful to see people accept the gospel of Christ into their lives. OK, let me go on before I repeat myself some more.

Wow! Training! I do not have my trainee yet. For today, tomorrow, and Thursday morning I will be with Elder Vail who is another missionary who will be opening a new area in Tirana and will be training. I could get any one of 12 Elders (since 1 is sick in the MTC and has already been assigned to a companion and one other of the 14 missionaries is a sister). I don’t really know anything about any of them. I have only seen their pictures. I do know that none of them are prior service US military. Sadface. That’s OK, I still have enough time on my mission, I may yet serve with one such person! The task of training is somewhat daunting. I feel inadequate and unprepared but I know the Lord will help me. Last week was one of those weeks were I just felt like my language got worse. I’ve had about 3 such weeks in the country. I think the Lord was just humbling me up some, just so I’d be that much more prayerful and reliant on his arm before the new missionary comes. All in all, my most apparent emotion is excitement! Its going to be awesome! It will be outstanding for my language and also for my work ethic. You will hear about him next week.

So they are putting 2 more Elders in 2nd branch. I believe that the work certainly exists to keep these elders here, the only problem is that this is no clear way to divide the branch between us due to the location of the 2 missionary houses. Tirana e re is essentially shaped like a big rectangle, a narrow, but very long rectangle. Our house is at the far left hand side of the rectangle (the left and right sides being the shorter ends and the top and bottom sides being the long ends) and in the middle of that side. The other T-re house is at the far bottom left hand corner, right at the extreme edge. So, we have a huge area extending out to the right of us, but not much above us, below us, or to the left. There is no way to divide it long ways, and if we divide it short ways that means one companionship will be traveling quite a distance everyday. We will hold a council of war to decide the best way to handle the situation, but I believe we will just be calling it free for all and have tracting zones to make sure we don’t tract over each other.

Was general conference not AWESOME? We only got to see 2 sessions, the morning sessions of both days, but I loved the talks. Elder Bednar's extremely excellent (one of those that I’ll probably write down to read for when I get home), and I particularly liked Elder Uchtdorf's and Elder Scott's talks the first session. The second morning session had good talks too, I enjoyed Bishop Burton's talk about ity attributes. Developing the attributes of Christ is so very important! If we focus on our own personal improvement in those areas, I think we will find keeping the commandments and magnifying our callings and responsibilities as members will come easily. I also learned from Elder Uchtdorf and Elder Bednar's talks that I need to tell my companions that I love them. The only companion that I tell that to often is Elder Flack but that is probably because I really do love him very much. I think, like Elder Bednar said, I tend to be embarrassed to say it and also because I don’t like to just say those words if I actually don’t mean it. However, I hope to try and do better at coming to love individuals. I know that as I continue to pray for Charity and I work on my attitude and also look for opportunities to serve others, I will gain that love for them that I want to gain. I hope you all learned a lot, it is such a blessing to learn at the feet of such inspired men.

OK, I am out of time. I love you all! I miss you all fiercely! This is the Lords work. Everyday I see His hand extended to me in love and mercy. I could not do this work without His help. Thank you all for your prayers. May God be with you!

Elder Scadden

Monday, September 28, 2009

Once upon a time in Albania (September 28 2009)

Hello everyone!

Se pari. I'd like to congratulate my sister Kristin and her Husband John on the birth of their new son and my new nephew, Malachi Fareday South!!! How exciting! It is good to hear that he and his Mom are healthy.

Ok, I am tired!! I have this mild cold, so I tried to sleep it off during lunch yesterday. Ended up sleeping far too long (our lunches are 3 hrs during the summer, so there is plenty of time to sleep too long) and therefore I did not sleep last night at all. Kind of backfired, but what can you do? I'll just spend this week trying to get back on track. We'll get an extra hour of sleep this weekend anyway and then the schedule changes so that we are not getting our night's sleep cut short. That will be nice! I actually don't really like our long lunches. So that's how I am, I hope all of you are healthy and well, I miss you all!

Great week this week! We will have a baptism on Saturday! A young boy we have been teaching will be baptized with his sister on Sunday. He is an extremely quick boy, a concert pianist in fact that has performed in Germany. It is somewhat of a miracle that they are getting baptized. Their parents were against his older sister getting baptized because she had already been baptized in the Orthodox church. They said it was ok for Roni to be baptized but we weren't going to do that without his sister. Then yesterday there was a baptism from 1st branch at our building and Roni and Elbas parents passed by and talked to our senior couple, the Shupes and Elder Abley. Theydecided it was a good thing for their kids to be baptized. It seemed like it was going to take so much longer but it was, just a little meeting in the road and their hearing that a whole family was being baptized that day made them realize it was a good thing. We are very excited!

On top of that, Ermal is progressing great. He is still headed strong towards his baptismal date of the 11th October. We will be meeting with him a lot in preparation. Whoever my trainee is, he will be walking into a baptism is first week in the country! That’s a good thing to start with. Yesterday was the first time Ermal stayed for all 3 hours of church. The Lord works in mysterious ways because since he stayed he was able to be introduced to tons of the older members (he knows a number of the YSA kids because of institute and the like). As we introduced him, one member asked what he studied in university and he told them he had just graduated in finance and accounting. This member told him he knew another member who owned a big super market and he was looking for someone to be the store accountant or something of the like and the member said he would introduce Ermal to this other member (it is pretty cool, but members here that own businesses always seek out to employ other members before they go into the rest of the world for employees). Ermal was very excited about the prospects of getting a good job like that. I hope that he gets it, it will be wonderful for him and it will greatly aid in his integration into the church! We had a somewhat funny experience with Ermal. While he was at the YSA conference in Vlore he heard a speech about staying away from places and situations that cause temptation, like a person going to a bar who has a problem with drinking. Now, bless his heart, he took this to somewhat of an extreme. He said to us ‘if I have to stay away from temptations and things, does that mean that I shouldn’t have a girlfriend? (this guy is 22 years old, he needs to be married)’ we kind of laughed to ourselves, and explained that we actually really wanted him to have a girlfriend, especially one that was a member and that he could apply the same idea to that relationship. The two of them could stay away from situations and places that would tempt them. We also explained that if he dates a member girl, he will probably be dating someone who desires to be married in the Temple and has high standards, though we told him it was not against the commandments to date a non-member girl. We were pretty impressed, because he was totally read to accept whatever we said. Its good to know he probably won’t be having any law of chastity issues! He is a great!

Lol it’s the end of P-day and someone was kind enough to bring me mail. Better late than never! I am across the city from the mission home, you’d figure I’d be getting my mail more consistently than I did in Shkoder, but not so! When people come here to our side of town rarely do they think “oh, I should take them their mail!” That’s ok, I have a plan for getting my mail consistently again at the beginning of next transfer. We will see how that goes. I am so extremely grateful for all the Emails and letters I get! Thank you all for giving me such support, I never fathomed that mail would be so wonderful to receive. I’m also lucky I’ve got such an amazing future wife who writes me so very much!

General conference next week! I am very excited! We only get to watch 2 off the sessions, but that is much better than none at all! I would like to request to Mum and Dad to send me an issue of the conference Ensign as soon as they can, as they did last time, because we will not get our magazines here until close to Christmas day.

Wow, speaking of Christmas, I am going to blow your minds away with rumors. So we all know that I am anticipating coming home a week early. Well, a week early is only 3 days after Christmas. President is considering allowing members of my group to go home yet another week earlier than that. Now, I am not going to come right out and say that I want to go home yet another week early (though being home for Christmas of 2010 would be out of this world awesome), but it may end up that President will send my whole group home together at that time since all but 2 of us are asking to go before Christmas. Can you believe that we are already thinking about this? I just need to be home a week early to get ready for school, which president has already given me the green light on. But I thought I would just mention to you all that President might just send us home even earlier, but don’t get your hopes up! Besides, whats one week anyway?

Wow, I heard a story this week that I found unbelievable but it comes from the Area Presidency themselves. It was on the topic of being a successful missionary which sometimes missionaries worry too much whether or not they are successful when they are doing just fine (yes, I’ve been in that boat before). Here we get plenty of lessons, new investigators etc. Often I feel the spirit of the Lord working through me and I strive to be obedient which are essentially the keys to being a successful missionary regardless of numbers. We were told of a missionary who just recently finished his mission in Germany. His entire mission he only had 7 meetings. 7 times in 2 years where he sat down and taught one of the lessons to non-members. That is insane. I already have been blessed to teach hundreds of lessons to nonmembers. But he still, according to his feelings and the feelings of his mission president, was a successful missionary because he strives to be obedient and many a times he felt the spirit working though him, even if the door still shut in front of him after it moved upon the person opening by the spirit. I don’t think I will feel quite the same level of disappointment on empty days anymore. I have nothing to complain about. So far I feel very strongly that my mission has been successful and I feel like the Lord is blessing me with quite a bit of outward success, or fruits of my labor, and I hope to continue to work with all my strength that I might see the arm of the Lord continue to be revealed. What a blessing it is to be here, in the service of my God!
Yes, so yesterday we had an outstanding meeting with the Shima family (Shpetim and his kids, his kids are the ones that got baptized earlier this transfer). I feel very strongly that their mom and their cousin/niece are progressing quickly to the point of receiving the lessons. I hope that in my time here I can see the family be completely in the church with the baptism of their mom and their cousin and that there will be a road toward the conversion of Shpetims brothers! How exciting it is to see the gospel change and bless people's lives here!!

Anyway, I hope you all are well. I miss you all, I pray for you all often. Thank you for all your prayers and support. I love you all! Until next week, may God be with you!

Elder Scadden