This week has been one of the hardest and most amazing weeks of my life. I had the most amazing spiritual experience with one of our recent converts and I have become friends with one of the members in our ward. He has been finding things for me to listen to that will help me with the language. He found the Bible in Albanian and gave it to me to listen to so that I would get better with the language. He also helps me with all of the language questions that Sister Zollinger can't answer. He speaks English so well. He just got back from his mission in Birmingham, England 2 months ago, his sister is also AMAZING. I just love their family so much. Their brother is on a mission in England right now. He makes fun of me because of my Utah accent. Make sure that you change names of people to keep them safe. You can share pictures of missionaries, but not members or investigators. (I will call him Anthony and his sister as Sonia).
So I'm going to start with Monday night. We went to go teach FHE and I was super nervous. We did pretty well, but I could not remember any Albanian words to say. We taught about Family History and my friend, Anthony, sat in the second row and he was super calming. He was the only one who was actually nodding his head the American way for me. Albanians shake their head side to side for yes and it is super confusing because I think they are all shaking their heads for no at me. Afterward, I was still trying to calm down and stop shaking when one of the members came up to me and gave me a hug and said that she loved me which is a big deal here. When they say I love you here they Really mean it. She told me that her friend had been my companion in Durres last week at the mini missionary event. Her friend told her that if she saw me, to tell me that I am a great missionary. It was really sweet of her. Then because she could tell I was still trying to calm down, she said that she actually loved our lesson a lot. She said, "Even though you didn't say very many words you brought the spirit so well and I could feel it very strongly." Also, we showed pictures of our families in FHE. I showed the picture of our family with the Albanian flag and they all got so excited. They all thought it was so cool that I have a picture of my family with their flag. Then Anthony came over and started talking to me. He answered a bunch of my language questions. Usually, I ask Amy (name changed) my language questions, but she was sick and left early. I was asking him ridiculous questions, such as if he can do a British accent. He speaks German partially (and Italian and Spanish and French and like 3 other languages). He also says cool beans and posh because he speaks British English and it is super funny.
Tuesday was just a normal day. We had dinner with the girl that I used to Skype, when in I was in the MTC, and her mom, who is the relief society President. It was good because she made pica and qofte (pizza and meatballs) and we talked a lot in English, but we were a couple minutes late for curfew.
Wednesday was basically the worst day ever. We did only street contacting the entire day and we had absolutely no success. A lot of buildings have gates and we can't get into them. There are no subways here, we walk everywhere except Kombinat because that's like a half hour away. There are buses that go everywhere, and the fare is only 30 cents, but it's just easier to walk. I was feeling super discouraged because we haven't gotten any new investigators since I got here and the investigator that we do have wouldn't answer her phone. We were going to take her to institute and it was going to be amazing, we haven't talked to her for a week and a half. We went through the entire white handbook to find what we were doing wrong and we couldn't find anything that would cause this. We think it is just a trial of faith. I have the quote in my mind as I think about it: "The night is always darkest just before the dawn." Because Thursday was SOOOOO good.
Wednesday night I had a dream about Sonia, and I had not met her yet, so that was weird. The next morning I woke up not thinking much of it. But then the whole day I had this unmistakable feeling that I was going to see them both somewhere. We went out to Kombinat for other lessons that we already had scheduled. We taught two lessons and then we went to the third lesson, but the mother was still at work, so we told them we would come back later.
We were on our way to go surprise visit someone else, but when were halfway there when we decided it didn't feel right to visit them. I told Sister Zollinger about my feeling that we would see Sonia and Anthony today and she said that she had dreamt about them the night before as well. We immediately went back the family (whose mom was working) and rescheduled to come on Friday instead. Then we started wandering around, I was trying to find the street that I had seen in my dream. We called Amy to ask if she knew where Sonia lives, and she told us she didn't know. We decided to get on a bus and go back to Tirana. We walked to the institute quickly and we walked in and Sonia was the first person we saw and Anthony was the second person that we saw. They were just about to leave so if we had been a couple minutes later we wouldn't have found them. I know for a fact that we were supposed to find them on Thursday. We followed the spirit and got on a bus and went 30 minutes away just based on a feeling that we both had and it was one of the most amazing spiritual experiences that I have ever had. We talked to them for like an hour and half and then we did a quick lesson and left the institute. I love them both so much!! We were almost late getting home for curfew. They refused to let us go by ourselves so they walked us almost all of the way back to our apartment. So don't worry mother, people here are looking out for me. Anthony looked so concerned when we told him about being constantly harassed by cunes at night (cune literally translates to boy or little boy so we call the guys that hit on us cunes because they act like little boys; gjarper is the term for the girls that hit on the elders. It's cool though). We also get fed a lot and people buy things for us all the time...like water when I forget to bring some when we went to played soccer on Saturday. When we got back to the apartment we were so happy neither of us could sleep. We were so giddy and giggly about everything. We kept quoting Pride and Prejudice where it says: "Is it possible to die from this much happiness."
Friday was good. We helped our 10 year old recent convert write a talk that he gave in sacrament meeting on Sunday. He did so good with that. His mother is not a member, I sat next to her during sacrament meeting.
Saturday was another amazing day. We went to play soccer in the morning.
There were a bunch of little kids that we invited to play with us. It was super enjoyable because they were so dramatic and competitive. Anthony and Aaron were having a bit of a rivalry as well. Aaron is an intern from Minnesota and none of us have any doubts about that because of the way he says Minnesoda...they were both really good at soccer and Anthony, of course, didn't want to be beat by an American. Then we left so we could have lunch with Amy at her apartment. Later we went to institute IN ENGLISH!!
Which was amazing. Sonia came so that's why we were allowed to go. They have it in English because a lot of the people our age are enrolled in Pathways, which is through BYU Idaho, so they have to know English to be able to do well in their schooling. It was really great not to have to translate for once.
Anyway, on to Sunday. We went to church and I was super excited. I love church because I love to see everyone. Albanian members all sing with their hearts even when they are completely off key. I try really hard not to, but I just smile so hugely during sacrament meeting. We had 2 investigators come to sacrament meeting on Sunday. After church I made breaded chicken with oregano and parmesan cheese (The Parmesan cheese is a huge block of cheese that came from Parmesan, Italy, needless to say it was pretty great cheese.) Everyone kept saying that dinner was AMAZING. So now people actually know that I can cook. Sister Zollinger made an apple crisp and Elders Stjuart and Bangerter asked us if we could cook for them next week and they would just pay for it because it is their turn to cook for the district next week. We get back from church around 12:30 and then we do personal study and training. Then we do a big lunch together as a district. We get a two hour lunch break so we usually cook at the institute. After lunch we went finding out by the artificial lake and we actually had a lot of success. We met this lady on the street. Sister Zollinger complimented her on her voice and she stopped to talk to us and was telling us about how grateful she was to Jesus Christ for giving her, her voice. We then told her that we were missionaries of Jesus Christ. We talked to her for like 30 minutes and we gave her a book of Mormon and prayed with her. She is amazing and even just standing there with her I knew that she needed the Book of Mormon so I gave her the one I had with me and then we left. She was so grateful. The only problem is that she is in the Tirana 3rd ward's area so we don't get to teach her. Then we had to run home otherwise we would have been late for curfew. We barely made it by one minute.
Today, Monday, we went to lunch with Sonia. She took us to this little pizza place that was afer (close to) the institute. It was super good. She made me try some dhalle. (pronounced thall) and it didn't taste that bad, but it was really bitter. It is basically just yogurt and water and salt mixed together. She laughed at me and Sister Zollinger videoed me drinking it.
After we ate the pizza we wandered around and went shopping. Then we went to just sit down at this little cafe that she knew about on a little back road.
I got some really bitter hot chocolate. I had to add some sugar to it. It basically just tasted like water until I added some sugar. I just have to say that I LOVE THIS PLACE!! I LOVE the people here and I can't believe I get to live here.
I am so blessed to be here. I have so many amazing friends that I've made here. It has nothing to do with communication. I know they love me and they know I love them even though we can barely communicate. I wish you could all experience this country. I can't even describe it well. I just love it so much. I feel like I belong here. I am totally comfortable here even though I don't know what people are saying. I can't describe my feelings at all let alone describe them well. Even in just the 3 and a half weeks I have been here I have become so close to so many people. I wish that next transfer I can stay here. I have realized the importance of member work. It is just as important to inspire people that are already members as it is to find new members. I feel like I have done a lot of work here even though we have yet to find an investigator. When I get home we are going to have my homecoming the next Sunday and then we are leaving and we are coming back here so that you can meet everyone I love. They are my family already. They take care of me and they are so loving. I never have to worry about anything. I just am so perfectly happy right now and so full of love for this country.
There is so much love that there aren't even words. And not only that, Gods love you!
I love you all the way to the lost moon of Poosh, and Gallifrey and back!!
Une kam shume dashurin per juve!!
Write to Sister Mandilyn Johansen at mandilynjohansen@myldsmailnet