Elder Scadden

Elder Scadden

Where's Gregory?

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

Monday, January 25, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (January 25, 2009)

Hello to all from Albania!

Wow, it has been cold this week! Over all though, Albania seems to be less cold than NC. The other real issue is that I am outside for much longer hours than I would be in the states. It's also good to hear that Grandma is alive. I’d just like to shout out to Amanda and Stephanie Bray who have their birthdays this week, Happy Birthday! So the sickness was quite cumbersome. I was confined to quarters until Thursday. It was extremely refreshing to be out working again. I do not understand how I’ve managed it but I sure do seem to get sick a lot here. It is somewhat dishonoring. Maybe I need to be better about using that hand sanitizer that you all sent me for Christmas. I still find it difficult to use often. I sometimes wonder what kind of super bacteria I am helping to create when I use it. When the scriptures talk about the pestilences of the last days, I tend to think that they will come because we started relying too much on strong antibiotics that really are just making us weaker in the long run. Anyway, enough of my ridiculous medical opinions.

Last week I mentioned Elder Turley going home. He is home now and our retention, Zef, has been chosen to take his place. He has been in Elbasan for 4 days now as a missionary. He was super stoked about going. We talked to his comp yesterday and he seems to be doing great. This is an excellent opportunity for him to prepare for a full time mission. One year from now he will be getting ready to leave. That is pretty exciting. However, now our teaching pool has been reduced to zero. We’ve been doing tons of finding and have several new investigators but we will have to wait and see if they progress anywhere. None of them seemed out of this world prepared but at times the prepared can be hard to see. I am ever hopeful. Due to the sickness, and our lack of teaching pool, we got 4 lessons this week, my least yet on my mission! We had more new investigators than lessons though, which was somewhat entertaining to report, but I hope that this week will remain the weakest, number wise, on my mission. Though, I must say, while our numbers were low the days we were actually outside the house were really quite good days. I feel like the Lord is helping me to become a better, more effective finder.

During my time inside I remade my language study plan. My language study had been kind of weakening in effectiveness and consistency, but the new plan I’ve set out is good. It is surprising how much more we are able to accomplish when we just do a little planning. As for my language itself, it is doing OK. Elder Thackeray and I only speak in Albanian to each other outside of the house. I’m certainly improving but have a long way to go. Fortunately I have a year left to continue to improve, more time than I have had in the country. I feel like I’m in a good spot.
I’ve also been reading the New Testament. I have always found it intriguing how the devils and evil spirits always testify of Christ. At times, at least according to the record we have, they even run up to Him, declaring Him to be the son of God. However, Christ always quickly silences them. I do not recall if James E. Talmage address this in Jesus the Christ (I’ll find that out when I reread it here soon), but I wonder why Christ resisted the testimony of devils. There is one obvious possibility, even though they spoke the truth they were still evil and enemies to Christ and their testimony was viewed as something wicked. I don’t know really. It was just an interesting thought I had while reading. If any of you have any insight into that, I’d love to hear it.

So here in Durres there is a Sister named Motra (sister) Cherma. She is bedridden and we bring her the sacrament every week. She reminds me a great deal of Sister Hodge. She is kind, loving, full of stories and wisdom. Our visits with her make me miss Sister Hodge and I am sad that in this life I will not be able to meet with her again. One of the best things about current Albanian culture is how the old women act and treat others. They are all like a bunch of fairy godmothers, especially those that are members. Unfortunately, it is a culture that is dying with the rising generation. The majority of the youth are embracing most of the negative aspects of western European culture without taking any of the good. I am glad that the Church exists here because I have seen very strongly the way it is helping many youth avoid the destructive behavior and influence that is becoming so prominent in their country.

Mum and Dad, I do just want to say that I chuckled a little when Dad told me you all go to the empty nesters family home evening. But it is a good thing that it exists!

I have a complaint that I would like to share. It is that many of our Albanian young single adults leave Albania to go to school and then get hitched to Americans and never come back! I therefore have decided to always encourage my nephews, nieces, friends and children to never think about marrying someone who should be going back to their country, marrying someone there and building Zion in their place! I NEVER thought that something like this would bother me. I’ve always had the attitude that it's great if members from other countries are able to come together and get married but it is one of the most damaging qualities that exists in the church here in Albania. So many good members, male and female, have gone off to BYU I-do and never come back! Thus, even the oldest branches continue to struggle to find effective, young members who have more or less been raised in the church culture. Roflcopter. Really random, I know, but we missionaries mourn a great deal over the many that have been lost to American marriages.

Well that is all for today. Something that I realize about my emails is that I don’t share tons of spiritual experiences. Allow me to say that I have them but that I just do not often feel compelled to share. A lot of them are little, small, unexpected blessing from the Lord.l Others are really great events. When it is something that I really desire to share, I will share them, but I simply didn’t want any among you to wonder if I wasn’t really having any because I don’t write about tons of them. Fear not!

You all take care, I love you all and miss you all very much. I feel the power of your prayers daily and am ever grateful for your love and support. May God be with you!

Elder Skadi

Monday, January 18, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (January 18 2010)

Hello from Albania!

I just want to shout out to my nephew Jordon and wish him a Happy Birthday! Congratulations on being 12. So, guess what? I am sick again! This time it was just a sinus infection and today I seem to be doing better but we have to wait to see if my fever will come back in the afternoon. I figured it out, I have been sick EVERY transfer of my mission. I guess I am not as army strong as I would like to be.

So let me tell you a little more about Durres. It is right on the coast so we get a lot of wind here and a considerable amount of rain, but not as much as Tirana, since Tirana is at the foot of a mountain range. It is clearly the second biggest city in Albania, at least as far as I have seen. It's primary function is as a port city. It is probably also the best laid out city in Albania, it is extremely gridded. When the communists came to power they literally bulldozed the whole city and rebuilt it in a much more comprehensive lay out.

Elder Turley, an Elder who I served with in my last district, is going home for medical reasons. Towards the middle of last transfer he started to complain about weird heart pains. After a couple weeks he started to get tests run as the pain started to get worse. Finally, with an MRI, they were able to find that it is not actually his heart but that his back is super messed up with 3 different things (none of which are scoliosis) and they require surgery asap. He is past the point of no return on his mission, which means he has less than 6 months left so he will not be able to return. This is really disappointing news, I had become good friends with Elder Turley.

Ah, so a funny story. Do you remember the mud incident from last week? Well, this is mud incident part 2. Again, we had gone out to Zef's for a lesson (who might quickly become a mini missionary because of Elder Turley's emergency situation). As we went back, we reached a part where we could not find the stepping stone. Allow me to deviate and say that Elder Thackeray had just gotten his pants back from the dry cleaners from the time he fell in the mud and was wearing them. Well, Elder Thackeray decides to grab a rather large rock, now this thing was big. I have to admit that I only made mild protestations to the action he was about to execute. He took the rock and hurled it a few feet away. Well, as you can imagine, the rock sent soupy mud flying everywhere, particularly all over Elder Thackeray and half of myself (being somewhat blocked by Elder Thackeray). His pants, again, need a good dry cleaning. He just cannot win, LOL!

Currently the work moves along slowly. We did get a new investigator this week, a middle aged women. I hope that we will be able to get her whole family involved, but she shows a a great deal of interest in finding out more about the church. Numerically this has been the worst week of my mission, potentially because we had 2 meetings in Tirana and I got sick, but those are just excuses! We are doing a great deal of tracting. Our street contacting is starting to improve. We are focusing more on trying to stop people than waiting for them to kind of stop and talk to us. I hope that next week will be a stronger week.

At this time I do just want to leave a brief part of my testimony of the plan of Salvation. For years I misunderstood the plan and its purpose but through softening of the heart and study, my blindness has been taken away. Our Father in Heaven has prepared for us a plan where by we may all have the opportunity to return and live with Him again. It is a plan of goodness and mercy. With the knowledge of this plan also comes the understanding of the importance of the family history work we strive to do. We cannot be saved without our dead! By doing our family work, we give all of our ancestors the opportunity to accept the fullness of Christ's gospel.
Well, until next week, all of you take care. I miss you all, I love you. You all are in my prayers. I thank you for all your prayers and support. May God be with you all.

Elder Skadi

Monday, January 11, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (January 11, 2010)

Hello all from Albania!

Congratulations Sarah and Luis! I wish you a long, successful and happy marriage! I am disappointed I could not be there but the Lord’s work waits for no one. I am glad that Matt Bray took my place and wore my face for the pictures. That was very awesome of him so now I can pretend I was there LOLOLOLOL!

Just to clarify something for Dad. He asked me what an outside zone leader was. We only have 2 zones in our mission, the Inside and Outside zones. The Inside Zone includes all of Tirana and Shkoder. The Outside zone includes all the other cities in Albania. So I am an Outside zone leader because I am a leader over the outside zone.

So, a funny thing happened this week. I must preface it by saying that in the MTC we heard tons of stories about how horrible the mud is here in Albania. In Shkoder and Tirana I didn’t really encounter bad mud, so I wasn’t really sure what they were talking about. Now I know what they were talking about. We were going to a recently baptized member’s house to do a retention lesson. He lives right near the church in an area called Kanet. In Albanian Kanet means Swamp. It lives up to its name. The roads were like soup and were barely traversable. Elder Thackeray got both shoes completely covered with mud by missteps. One such misstep resulted in the loss of his shoe but we were able to get it back. After the lesson we asked if there was a better way and he indicated where it was. The road was much better but still a little muddy… and very slick. So as we walked along, Elder Thackeray took a mighty tumble and got mud ALL over his left side. On top of that a whole group of men were watching while it happened. I tried really hard not to laugh, after I made sure he was ok. Then we had to walk half way across the city, with him covered in mud, to the Couple’s house and they helped clean him up. It was hilarious.

Hey, so our Senior Couple here are named Ahburn. They said their son used to live in Raleigh. Did any of you know them? On top of that, Brother Ahburn has been working for CES for his whole life and he worked with Brother Lee in Idaho quite some time ago! It’s pretty cool to see how small the world can be sometimes as we meet people that have met people in the most random places.

Church in Durres was great! Not only is it in a real chapel but we did not have to do ANYTHING to make sure things ran smoothly. People fulfilled their callings, people had the things they needed and it was really great. More people here speak English than in Tirana but here they prefer to speak to the missionaries in Albanian. That is no real problem because I need to learn Albanian better. Right now here in Durres we don’t have any investigators. We had some, a woman, her daughters, her mom and her sister in-law but they didn’t answer their phones for a few days so we went over there to find out what was up. Apparently the woman’s brother came back from Italy for the holidays and was enraged that they had been investigating the church. He ripped up all their books. We could not understand everything the mom was saying because she was talking fast and hushed, but for some reason the Mom and the sister in-law are now hiding the sister in a different house that the brother doesn’t know about for her protection. It’s really jacked up if you have to be hidden from your brother for physical safety. They told us they still have a desire to be baptized but that right now it is too dangerous for them to even meet with us or talk to us on the phone. We had a special fast for them this Sunday, and have been praying much for them. I hope that things turn out ok for them.

Since we do not have any investigators, we have been doing a lot of tracting and street contacting. That has yet to yield much success but we have two potential investigators, college students. They are girls so we could not go in and meet with them at that time, but they were willing to meet with us later when we could bring a member along with us. We will continue to tract and street contact.

The weather here has been really crazy. We had a day where the temp was in the high 60s and now it is freezing again. We’ve been getting tons of rain too. I guess since Durres is on the coast it has this sort of wildness.

We also had a professor accuse us of enslaving people. Fortunately, after talking to him, he was accusing religion at large and not just our church. He had some pretty insane ideas about contextual verse universal knowledge. It was an interesting discussion but in the end we took his argument that he has to find proof for himself if something is true and turned it back on him, offering him a BoM and telling him that by it and prayer he can know for himself. He did not take it, proving the hypocrite in light of his claim as a man on a quest for personal knowledge. But he has his own choice.

The work continues to be great even though right now the fruits are slow in this area (I heard that Grej and Keins mom has a baptismal date, woohoo!). I know that this is the work of God and I am truly blessed to be a part of this work. I hope you all will take care, I love and miss you all, may God be with you all!

Elder Skadi

The following was sent by Gregory’s mission president.

Dear Parents of Albania Tirana Missionaries,

You may have heard news reports of flooding in Albania, homes underwater, and forced evacuations of people. I want you to know that all of your missionary sons and daughters are safe! The entire country has been receiving a lot of rain over the last weeks, but the main problems have been in the north, in the areas surrounding the major city of Shkoder. In a number of small villages around Shkoder, homes have been inundated, and people have been evacuated to the city of Shkoder.

We have four missionaries in Shkoder, and I've been in frequent contact with them, as well as with the US Embassy, and locals who are aware of the situation. Our missionaries are in no danger, and are fine. They are continuing to work, and everyone in the city itself seem to be carrying on normally. It's reported that nearly 5000 persons have been evacuated from the outlying villages, and have been brought into Shkoder for care. The national highway connecting Tirana to Shkoder is underwater, and transport is only by military vehicle. The highway connecting Shkoder to the north is open, and there should be no problem with bringing water and supplies into the city as normal. Just in case, I asked the missionaries to get a 5 day supply of food and water.

The missionaries have checked on our members, and the members are doing ok. It doesn't seem that the weather forecast is going to help us out much. We will continue to monitor the situation with our missionaries, to ensure that all are safe.

Warm Regards,

President Neil

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Once upon a time in Albania (January 05, 2010)

Happy New Year to all from Albania!

Wow, 2010! We continue to not be sending space ships to Jupiter, but what can you do? I hope you all have a really great new years, I will talk a little more about mine later. Ok, transfers have occurred. To my dismay I have been transferred out of 2nd branch. I will now be serving in Durres with Elder Thackery as outside Zone Leader. Out of all of our guesses, this is not one that we had predicted. Being a Zone leader is basically just more work without many perks and I hope I am able to fulfill all of my responsibilities but I am excited about being in Durres and I will get to see every city in Albania now! We also have our own car, though I may never drive it because my driver's license is expired. However this is Albania, so President may choose to wave the rule of having an up to date drivers license. That’s ok, driving in Albania is INSANE! I do not know much about Elder Thackery, he only has 3 months left on his mission and he sounds like he is an obedient missionary. Plus, he LOVES to cook, for this I am also excited. So the reason I was dismayed about the transfer was mainly leaving behind 2nd branch and our 4 boys. I never thought that I would have a difficult time saying goodbye to an area, but yesterday was a pretty depressing day. Fortunately I will have other opportunities to see those boys and the other members that I have become great friends with. Now it is time to give all I have in a new area!

One cool thing that occurred last week was that we went to the CIRCUS! Woohoo! It was basically awesome. It is not nearly as big as the circus that comes to NC but they still had some neat performances and we were only a foot away from the ring, so we were right up with them. Elder Allen, from my MTC group, got lathered with shaving cream and sprayed by an Elephant. That was quite a bit fun!

The mission continues to go flying by. My year mark is close to coming and I will be home less than a year from now. It is hard to believe that the year of 2009, with exception to 3 weeks, was dedicated to my mission. And now it is over. I still do not feel like I have been here that long but I am definitely growing still. The language is coming along but I am often surprised by how little I really know about it.

Man, I really did not take notes on things to talk about this week so I am having a hard time writing! Some updates on investigators from my old area: Grej and Kein's mom is getting close to baptism and I hope that it will happen within the next transfer. LOL on Sunday, after I shared my testimony because I was leaving, she said quite loudly from the audience (in Albanian) “can I please say something?” she wanted to protest my leaving. She wanted to talk to President Neil to try and convince him that both Elder Seevers and I must stay, because we were like her sons. Those around her explained to her that it really isn’t the mission presidents decision but is more God's decision. She finally grudgingly accepted it.

Well I suppose I can say a little about what I know of Durres. The branch here has one of the two church constructed buildings in Albania. The branch has slightly less sacrament attendance than 2nd branch (btw we had 88 in church on Sunday, woo!) but the branch functions more autonomously and people more effectively fulfill their callings. Of course, it still has its problems but I have also heard that it has already endured the great apostasy that every branch seems to have to suffer here in Albania. Hmmm I do not know much more about it than that…

Ok, I give up. Its one of those p-days when I cannot think of anything to write! That is ok, though, because by ending early we will have time to get some other things done since our p-day sounds like it's going to be extra short today because we must teach an English course at 3.

Anyway, I do wish to testify that this is the Lords work. His Angels are around us, bearing us up. Today there is a living prophet and he has authority from God to lead this church. I am blessed to be on a mission! I love you all, thank you all from you prayers and your love. I miss you all and I hope that all is well. May God be with you all!

Elder Skadi