Another awesome and busy week here in Albania. As always I don’t know where to start. At the beginning of last week we lost our District Leader, Elder Turley. He had to go home because he had some pretty bad medical problems that just hit him. It was a sad day because he was an awesome Elder. He had been training Elder Castro-Guzman as well, so they had to bring a new Elder in to train and take Elder Turley’s place. The replacement is Elder Kline, who has only been in Albania for 3 months, but he seems like a great missionary. When Elder Turley left he gave Sister Bentley and I all of his investigators, so we had twice the work to do, which was great. But when Elder Kline got here we felt bad that he had to start from scratch, so we gave back some of the investigators, but not all of them.
We kept Lindita and her two daughters, Kejsi who is 9, and Sara who is 13. They are amazing! They used to live in Detroit, where actually lots of Albanians live, and they have only been here since last spring and plan to move back to the states after this semester of school. The girls love America and really don’t like it here in Albania too much, just because there is not nearly the opportunities here that we have in the U.S. They both know Albanian, but understand English better, so our lessons with them are in English! YAY! Our lesson with them was so fun, because I actually got to really teach and contribute. In fact, Motra Bentley just let me take over because she said it is super awkward and hard for her to teach in English. After our lesson, Motra Bentley was like, “Wow, you are a really good teacher.” Not that I was a good teacher, but compared to the few lines I say in our Albanian lessons, it was a big change for her to see me teach and talk I guess. Anyway, Lindita, the mom also knows English well since they had been in the U.S. for so long, and she is fabulous too. They told us that they read the Book of Mormon every morning as a family, and they have decided that they want to come to church every week. This week Sara even asked how you can get baptized, and of course we were happy to explain why. They have so much excitement about the gospel. I love it! This is the “Good Stuff” of the mission!
Also, on another good note, we have a baptism tomorrow, which will be my first one here in Albania. Her name is Gledis, and she is 9. Her family are members, but they have been kinda inactive, so she never was baptized. It has been so fun teaching her and she is so excited about her baptism. Her mom told her that one day she could be a missionary like us, but she didn’t seem too excited about that. Haha! Baptism is a good start though.
To increase my cultural adaptation I have experienced two new types of food that are main food groups in the Albanian diet. The first is called “sufflaqe” and it is basically like a gyro. It has the pita type bread, some veggies, fries, and then they saw the meat off of the spinning meat pin (I don’t know any better way to describe it.) It wasn’t too bad, but not to different from the gyros I’ve eaten before. And then I had ”byrek,” which is like manna to my lips. I love it. It is basically like an English Pasty. It is a pastry with different stuff in it like cheese, or vegetable, or meat, or beans. I’ve only had the bean one from the street vendors, but it is excellent. I am not worried at all about starving here, there are so many delicious foods.
Motra Bentley and I also had an interesting experience this week. We were delivering a card to one of the people we teach, and we got to see this Albanian rapper filming his music video in this ghetto park in front of her apartment. We have no idea who this kid is, but we got some pictures from the top of the apartment building, in case he might be famous. I tried to convince her that we could talk to him and give him a pass-a-long-card, but we both chickened out. What might have been…?
We got an awesome referral this week from the Zone Leaders. They ran into this young college girl while they were tracting (knocking doors) and she said she would like to meet with girls. So we showed up to this lesson and she had all her roommates there and one even had her younger brother there. We taught all 5 of these college kids and it was actually a really good lesson. All, but the one girl who actually met the Elders, are Muslim, but they still were cool about hearing the lesson. We just did the overview of Joseph Smith and the Gospel, and then we told them that if they wanted to know for themselves we could teach them and we would give them things to read and to pray about so they could find out the truth for themselves. They ALL agreed to hear the lessons! It was kinda interesting though, because when we prayed a couple of the girls started giggling and were trying to cover it up, and then when we were done they said they were so sorry. We of course didn’t mind at all, because it is easy to see from their perspective they have never heard someone pray like us to God like a Father. It is a totally new concept to them. They are actually a great group of girls and I’m looking forward to teaching them.
In order to find more people to teach we try all kinds of ways to get people interested. I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but like the girls that I just talked about, most everyone here is Muslim (like 75%). But when they say they are Muslim what they are really saying is that their family historically has all been Muslim, but they don’t really practice any religion themselves. Anyway, so this week to try and get a chance to talk to people while we were contacting we took a huge whiteboard on a stand and went to a street corner and the only thing we wrote on the whiteboard was a big question mark…. ? We kinda felt dorky for a bit, but then a couple people came up and asked us what the question mark was for and we were able to start talking about the gospel. It was random, but kinda fun!
I guess our cultural lesson this week is kinda short, but if you didn’t catch this from my story about me being told that I was “cold,” Albanians tell you what they think and they have no problem doing it. This week we were teaching our retention (recent convert) and her name is Xhili. She is about 19 and I love her to death she is awesome and she knows English perfectly. While we were teaching her I was trying to explain the plan of salvation and finally she was like, “Please, this is painful, please speak English.” That is actually a nice example. Usually Albanians just tell us that they think we are looking kinda fat, luckily I haven’t gotten that yet, but I’m sure its coming. Or like the other day one of the members was looking at the one family photo I have, and she said, “you used to be so pretty.” I just think it is super funny, and you can’t help but love them still!
Anyway, I guess that is all the excitement I have time to tell you about this week. Just know that I love you all and I’m so grateful for your support and prayers. I love being a missionary here and I love the Gospel so much! It is such a blessing to watch the gospel change people and their lives for the better! I know the Savior lives and can give us strength to overcome all things!
Have a great week!