Elder Scadden

Elder Scadden

Where's Gregory?

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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.

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