Thursday, February 27, 2014

God Loves His Children

Beso means "BELIEVE" in Albanian.  (Kiss in Spanish:)
Hello Dear Fam!!
Well I'm glad to hear it's getting a little warmer out there in Utah. Sorry the snow has been so yucky. I'm sure it'll be fantastic the year I come home.
This week went by way fast! A lot of it was spent in finding efforts once again, but hey, that's just how the cookie crumbles. So yeah last Monday after P-Day ended we just went onto the main road by the church and street contacted for a few hours. Got a few numbers but one of them was a lady that asked "So do we only meet and talk about God? We don't meet and have fun?" So yeah we gave that number to the sisters.
No idea how he got chocolate on his eyes.
At church yesterday though, we were met with quite a pleasant surprise. There was a girl named Dori who was sitting with three boys. I was greeting all of the members so I told Elder Eliason to go and introduce himself and tell them how we were missionaries and to kinda get to know them. He talked to them for about 15 minutes and then he came back with a huge smile on his face. Apparently these boys are super interested in learning about the church and want to serve missions in the future. They said that they've seen missionaries before and been impressed by how they act and what they do.
So after church, I got to talking to them and we gave them some Books of Mormon and just simply gave our testimonies on how we know these things are true and that they are the words of God. They were all super stoked to be learning about the church and we have a meeting with them tomorrow so we really hope they come. That would just make my life to have someone to study for!!
This week I also had an exchange with Elder Tanner while the trainees went together for the day in my area. I stayed in Elder Tanner's house, which we call the Treehouse, because it's in the Tirana e Re area. We had planned for a pretty full day of lessons and we had really high hopes for a day of success. We woke up the next day and had to head to the church at 7 o'clock because we had to fill up the font for a baptism. I'm the only Elder in all of Tirana that knows how to do it. We waited till about 10 for the 3rd Branch Elders to come and take over since it was their baptism. 

Growing up in a bakery came in quite handy Sunday.  Jed's got some great kneading skills.
 I think Sister Winder was impressed:)

As we went throughout the day it started raining freaking hard. Therefore, due to the natural thoughts of the Albanian people, you can't go outside when it's raining or else you get sick. (James said that the people in Taiwan thought the same about rain. 23 years ago. If they went out in it, they would get sick, so rainy days in Taiwan were not productive either.) That sucked. So no lessons showed up that day and no one would answer their phones. DAH!!
Elder Eliason and Elder Baldwin had about the same day as us. No lessons and no numbers. But I did have one interesting experience. We were street contacting and I stopped an older gentleman and he asked me who I thought Jesus was and then he proceeded to tell me how I'm too young and too stupid to know anything about the nature of Jesus or God. I was wasting my time preaching false doctrine according to him. That kinda broke me down a little bit but I just sucked it up and put my big boy pants on. But at the end of the night, Elder Tanner built me back up and told me that he was really impressed with me and how I take missionary work and he told me I was a fantastic Elder. That just made the whole day better, especially coming from him. It's amazing what nice words can do for you.
This was a meal of Qofte which is like sausage, and Lakror which is an Albanian quesadilla:)

I'll tell a bit about what happened yesterday too. Right after church we went straight to the Winders for lunch,(The Winder's are a wonderful Senior Couple from Idaho that are serving in Jed's area.  Most of the dinner appointments Jed has had, have been at the Winder's home.) WHICH WAS HEAVENLY!! After we ate we went to a lesson with the other Elders in our branch to help them. We met with 3 Evangelists at the church. They wanted to see what our church looked like and what we taught. The other Elders had one lesson with them about a week ago and they were given a Book of Mormon. They had a lot of questions about it.
Ice Cream! 
Here's how it went: I was sitting while all the other elders were standing and then the 3 "investigators" surrounded me. And then came the torrential onslaught of emotional, spiritual, and mental racking comments. These were 3 kids who were about 25 years old, picking on a small 18 year old kid who has been taken from his comfortable home in America, thrown into a country where he can't speak one of the hardest languages known to man, ripping him to pieces with comments and questions, trying to make him doubt the only things he knows are 100% true. 

These people were not there to learn about my church, but to mock it and criticize it. I didn't Bible Bash. I simply answered their questions with honest answers that were coming from my heart.

I'm going to close this letter by telling you that God loves his children. Last night I was overwhelmed with the Spirit as I was answering the questions being asked me. I know for a fact that I could not have defended my church, my fellow Elders, or for the Prophet Joseph Smith if the Spirit was not with me last night. Joseph Smith was a prophet called of God and he did restore this Church. We are all children of God. The Book of Mormon is true and I have a firm testimony of it. There is no truer book. If anyone reading this email has any questions about their life, they can be answered by prayer. If you humble yourself before the Lord and ask with real intent, I know for a fact that He will answer you. One of the blessings of being out here on a mission is that I get to see this happen in people's lives on a daily basis.
I love this church and I love being a missionary!
Love, Jed
Dear Mom, 
I'm glad to hear it's starting to get kinda springy out there. It's starting to warm up a lot here. Can't wait for short sleeve shirts. The transfer is ending at the end of this next month! My son will be leaving my wing! He's doing well!  Crazy. Well I love you Mom. So much!!
Love, Jed

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lonely Valentine's Day

Hello Everyone!! 

Well I had a really great week. Nothing too crazy or scary but it was fun and we got work done!

This is Elder Tanner who Jed thinks is the BEST DISTRICT LEADER around!!
So the week started out on Mon. with a retention lesson with Algida and Pellum. It went well. I don't know if I have ever really talked about Elder Tanner with you before, but he's my district leader and he's probably one of the best missionaries I've ever seen. He served in Prishtina (Kosovo) for a long time and then he came down with me into the Tirana 2nd branch and he's training a new missionary as well. He gives some of the best training meetings when we all meet as a district. He gave a really good training this week on how to be consecrated missionaries and how if we strive to be consecrated we will receive miracles. That's just my spill on my favorite District Leader. 

This week we met with Emanuela once on Tuesday and taught the Word of Wisdom. She took it very well and we told her that if she is ever placed in a situation where someone is offering her drugs or booze, to give us a call right then. She said she would. After that we did a lot of finding to kinda widen our pool of teaching. Our finding efforts have kinda been slacking lately so we're trying to get a lot better with that. We've met with Evi three times this last week and he is doing fantastic. He and Sam are going to seminary and participating in church and just being good kids. Sam gave a talk in church yesterday about the Holy Ghost and he did fantastic. Short and sweet kinda like Evi's talk last week, but it was still awesome. 

Elder Eliason and I are really trying to get better with our language. We've started a really difficult goal of SYL (Speak Your Language- The missionaries do this quite frequently in the MTC to practice their language.  They can only speak Albanian and no English.) lately too. We speak Albanian right when we get up and up until we come in for lunch. After lunch, we speak only Albanian until we come inside of the house at about 9 o'clock. We've been good with it somedays and not so good at other times. But holy guacamole!! Elder Eliason has had a huge jump in the language and I've been asked by a couple people if I'm Albanian this week!! Miracles happen!!

Valentine's activites with the Young Single Adults.  Elder Clawson became VERY competative during Musical Chairs:)
We had a lonely Valentines Day but it was still fun. We actually took Emanuela to a YSA (Young Single Adult) party with all of the young single adults from Tirana. Stela (Stela is a beautiful Albanian member of the church who helps the missionaries immensely! She helps with lessons, and is the best example of a MEMBER MISSIONARY!  I need to be more like her.) set it all up and she did a fantastic job. Emanuela enjoyed herself and we all had a good time. We played Musical Chairs, (which Jed's companion said he got VERY competitive about!) did some traditional Albanian dancing, and all kinds of other fun things.
So right after the party I was kinda prompted to give Emanuela to the Motrat (Motra is sister missionaries) . Several different reasons for that and it was the right thing to do. So the next day we had a hand off lesson with her, Helga, and the Mortas. We had a Book of Mormon chat and then explained that we would be letting the Sisters teach her from then on. And all she said was "Ok." She didn't even ask us why! Jeez, talk about not being appreciated. Just kidding, it's good that it wasn't a hard hand off. 

Sunday Dinner with the Grimci family.  Thank you Grimci's!!
Sunday was really fun. Right after church, all of the missionaries were invited by the Grimci family (a kind member family) to come on over for lunch. We had pasta, chicken, salad, cherry preserves, and all kinds of good stuff. Then we just talked and shared a spiritual thought about temples with them. Good afternoon. Then we spent the rest of the night out finding at Taivani (the local park). Kinda long but it's good for us.
Elder Clawson in Taivani Park contacting people. And eating an ice cream cone.
 Today we actually went to Krujë! That was really fun. They have a castle there.

Sometimes I can totally tell this kid is barely 18, on his own in a foreign country, and is loving his independence:)

Street market on the road up to the castle.  Pure tourist attraction and tourist trap as Elder Eliason put it:)

Jed's companion Elder Eliason.

(The Krujë castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Krujës) is a castle in the city of Krujë, Albania and the center of Skanderbeg's battle against the Ottoman Turks. The castle withstood three massive sieges from the Turks, with garrisons usually no larger than 2,000-3,000 men. Mehmed II "The Conqueror" himself could not break the castle's small defenses. Today it is a center of tourism in Albania, and a source of inspiration to Albanians.)

and we left this morning and had a blast looking around up there. It was super pretty there too. We had pizza and then came home. Nice P-Day. 

Well that's about it for me. I am sorry the stupid snow isn't staying but ah well. I'm just glad Elder Anderson can't rub it in my face. And I hope he reads this at some point. I love you all and have a good week!!

Love, Jed

Dear Mom, 
I love you so much and guess what?! Elder Austin called me at like 11:30 last night from the AP's phone to tell me he loved me and that he was leaving at 5 this morning. He's been ridiculously sick so we kinda saw this coming but it was still horrible to hear about it. He's the greatest! Well have a good and safe week. I love you!

Love, Jed

Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines from Elder Clawson

Hello Family in Utah!! 

I'm stoked to hear that the church is true and Utah got dumped on with snow and stuff!! Fasting and prayer definitely works miracles. God loves us and always wants us to be happy. 
Jed and a few elders from his MTC group.

So this week was basically just a normal week full of spiritual experiences and laughing children with butterflies flying around their cute little faces. Ha, just kidding. We did have spiritual experiences but no cute children with butterflies. 
A fun note from Evi at church for Elder Kllasen.

So the week started out with lessons with recent converts and less active members. Emanuela has been doing fantastic! (A great investigator they found last week.) Helga unfortunately hasn't been able to meet with us since that last meeting that we had the week before last. But we did also realize that these kids (both girls are students) really need to study if they want to pass their tests and exams.
Remember, 24 Love + 32 = 56

We taught Emanuela about the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Word of Wisdom this week. She has been accepting everything that we are teaching but I don't know if she's really received that sturdy testimony of the Book of Mormon yet which is vital for conversion. She knows that prayer is a direct conversation with God and she gives some of the greatest prayers that I've ever heard. She's still kinda iffy on her baptismal date but we are really hoping to get a date solidified either tomorrow or tonight depending on her study schedule. She is very willing to accept our principles and the only thing that is kinda hindering us is her parents. They don't have any religious background except Islam and they are kinda against her getting baptized into another church. She's 19 years old so she can legally make the decision on her own, but she just really likes her parents and respects their opinion. But she thinks they'll say yes when she catches them in a really good mood. 
Jed and Elder Eliason with the Motra's (sister missionaries) teaching an investigator.

The park where Jed does a lot of contacting.

That's been all of our investigator points of view. We've been meeting with Evi (a young man that was baptized just recently) almost every day teaching him the retention lessons. He's going to Seminary with Sam every single morning and he is getting so good with all of these gospel principles. He gave a talk in church yesterday on baptism and he did a fantastic job. It was only like 5 minutes long but he shared scriptures and shared a beautiful testimony of how baptism helps us get closer to God. I also got to meet with the Juba Family this week which was good seeing as I haven't been able to meet with them for quite a while. 
A meal prepared at home for Elder Clawson and Elder Eliason.  I hope they invited friends over to eat all those hot dogs.  But I'm afraid I only see two place settings.
Last night I also got to go to a lesson with the Special Assignment Elders, and we visited a man in my branch named Alli.  He's such a good guy but the only thing that is holding him back from holding the Melchezidek Priesthood is the fact that he has trouble with smoking. We had a great lesson on how God can help us do anything if it's in compliance with his will. 
Lunch with Elder Baker from Jed's MTC group.

And by the way, the Dart's already had a dog named Annie. Why didn't you name her Mrs. Roach, or Shrimp Toast, or Gus? I will say she looks like a great dog. I like how she's shaggy like Gus was too. Will we shave her or what? Tell Fred thanks and that I like his double chin. 

I hope you are all enjoying the Olympics and tell me how all the skiing stuff goes. Not a lot of Albanians watch it. I hope Dad had a wonderful birthday, I celebrated by going to Qebabtore Gjakova with Elder Baker and Elder Baldwin. Baker came down for a Branch Presidency training with his companion and their Branch Pres..  Elder Baker came out to lunch with us. 

Well sorry it wasn't the most eventful week but it's all I got. I love you all so much!!

Love, Jed

Dear Mother,
I hope you all have a fun week with Valentines Day! How much snow did Basin get? Thanks for the email this week. I hope Annie feels at home and I hope she doesn't kill Lucy. You're the best mom ever and I love you so much!

Love, Jed

Monday, February 3, 2014

Smiles On Their Faces and the Spirit In Their Hearts

Elder Clawson with some new friends.  The young man on the left is from Turkey and was THRILLED
to find the American's.  He had been lost for a few hours, and Jed and his companion helped him
find his Hostel.  The man on the right is the Hostel owner.

Hello Mother and Family!!

This week was great!! Thank you so much for the fast and for all of the prayers because they have really helped Elder Eliason and I so much this week!! 

Jed's bookmark.  Dr. Who fans will get it.  
So the week started out with us still finding people and trying to get some work done. Monday night we taught an investigator named Pelumb and a recent convert named Algida. Actually it was more of them asking Elder Eliason to teach them the Plan of Salvation because they saw that he needed to get some good practice in with speaking Albanian. He taught about the Plan of Salvation and I was just sitting quiet off to the side and answered his questions when he couldn't understand or if he didn't know what to say. It was a good lesson and we had fun. Elder E. is doing great! 
Jed and Elder Eliason riding the train home from a lesson.

Pelumb is actually an investigator in another branch, but he was at the Institute Center when we had the lesson going on and he asked if he could join in with us. He's getting baptized this week and all of the missionaries in the two branches are super stoked! He's kinda been an investigator for a really long time. He had to give up smoking and some other stuff and he's a great guy so we're all really happy to see him progress in the gospel. 

Later this week we went and saw a family that lives out in a little fshat (village) called Kashar. I actually went and visited them every now and then with Elder Matson but their dad wasn't at home because he was sick at the time, and was in Italy. But this time we went with the sister missionaries and the father was there with the rest of the family. It was fantastic! We taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the sister's kinda put an emphasis on baptism because only one of the children is baptized, and the mom and dad are really good people that want to be baptized. We told her that we want her to be happy and not feel rushed into baptism. She knows that it's the right thing and is just kinda stressed because she's always at work and trying to keep her family in line and stuff. 

Elder Clawson and some of his investigators.
One night, I believe it was Wedneday night, we were out street contacting and we had gotten a few numbers and feeling pretty good when I said "Hi!" to this couple that was walking in front of us. The girl stopped to talk to us. The guy seemed kinda ticked that I had stopped his girlfriend. We stated that we were missionaries and that we were talking with people about this book. (The Book of Mormon) The girl told us that her name was Emanuela and that she was Catholic. The guy just told us that he was Atheist. I took the hint that he wasn't very happy to be talking to us. Emanuela gave us her number and said that she was interested to know about the Book of Mormon. We kept contacting that night and got a few more numbers and then went home. We called her that night and set up a meeting for the next. We met her at the park and gave her a Book of Mormon and told her that if she read it, and prayed about it she would receive an answer that it was true. 

This is Elder Clawson street contacting.  No wonder no one wants to talk to him:)
The following night we were out on the street again talking with people on the road and here comes Emanuela. She stops us and says that she has some questions. She was always confused with the Catholic Church and how they believe in the Trinity and such. She asked us what we thought about the trinity and we told her that we believe that they are three separate beings. She said "Okay that makes sense." and basically just left after that. We called her for a lesson at the church for the next day and we met her at the park and she brought a friend with her named Helga. We called some other Elders to meet us at the church and we also called Stela (Stela is a cute member who helps the missionaries out with investigator lessons quite often. )to come and help us out with the lesson. 

There was Elder Webster, Elder Braden, Elder Eliason, Stela, Emanuela, Helga, and me all sitting in the chapel. We taught about the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Wow! That was honestly one of the best lessons I've ever had. Helga was asking wonderful questions about being a child of God and at one point she asked "How could these things be true?" And right then Emanuela looked at her and said "Helga these things are true." Holy Cow! Yes they are!" that's what I was thinking. So needless to say, they left that night with smiles on their faces and the Spirit in their hearts. Unfortunately only Emanuela was able to make it to church yesterday but that's okay. We're planning on giving her a baptismal date tomorrow when we meet with her again. Probably Helga as well if she comes. 
So yeah, work has gotten a lot better and we have a lot of potential people to meet with because we've found tons of new phone numbers that hopefully aren't fake. 

3 Generation Photo:  Elder Foster was Jed's trainer, Elder Clawson, and then Elder Eliason who is Jed's trainee.
So in missonary terms Elder Foster is considered Elder Eliason's grandpappy:)
Other things that happened this week:
We were street contacting outside of this center on Myslym Shyri (A main street they contact on.)and out of the blue this guy comes up to us and says, "Americans! Thank heavens!" He was a lost 22 year old guy from Turkey! He had come to Albania on holiday and didn't know a lick of Albanian. He had been looking for a hotel for the past 2 hours and no one could communicate with him. The name of his hotel was "The Tirana Backpacker Hostel". And luckily, I knew exactly where it was. So he walked with us and he asked tons of questions about us. We told him all about the church and what we did as missionaries and all kinds of things. His name was Mesu. He was from Istanbul and spoke really good english. We got to the Hostel and rang the buzzer so we could go inside. The owner of the Hostel came out and you should have seen this guy. It was young Mr. Litizzete. Super Granola! He had a sweet beard, nice ponytail, and his hotel was so awesome! I'm definitely going to stay there when I come back after my mission. It was the most granola looking place I'd ever seen outside of Cache Valley! We're talking Rock Haus and Cafe Ibis kinda granola. So we got him all settled in the hotel and I got a pic with Mesu and the owner and then we left Mesu on his own. I gave him my email and he told me I was his new American Best Friend. He was a total stud. I told him that if he ever comes to America he can stay with me. 

Jed was responsible for cleaning the toilets at the church the other day and he found these cigarettes in the
back of the toilet tank.  He compared it to the $100 bill episode Jed had as a little kid.  Where he stole a $100 bill
out of James' planner, then felt bad about it and tore it up into a million pieces and scattered them around the house.  We realized something was amiss when baby Seth pooped out a corner of the $100 bill.  The part with two zero's.  We knew we were in trouble:) Jed made up 300 stories before we finally figured out what had happened.  Jed said some poor member or investigator must have felt that deep dread, and regret so they stashed the cigs out of sight.
Well that's about it for this week. Hope all is well with you guys. I love you so much and I miss you!! Keep having fun and skiing. Enjoy the Olympics too. 

Love, Jed

P-day and Jed sporting a new haircut, and eating his beloved Byreke. Börek (also burek and other variants) is a family of baked or fried filled pastries made of a thin flaky dough known as phyllo (or yufka). It can be filled with cheese, often feta, sirene or kaşar; minced meat, or vegetables. It was most probably invented in what is now Modern Turkey, in the Anatolian Provinces of the Ottoman Empire in its early era, to become a popular element of Ottoman cuisine.  A börek may be prepared in a large pan and cut into portions after baking, or as individual pastries. The top of the börek is often sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Dear Mother, 
Thank you so much for writing me weekly. Tell Eric and Jess congratulations! I'm excited to see Eve when I come home. She'll be the Jane that I didn't get to experience while I was gone!! I love you Mom! You are fantastic and I couldn't have asked for a better mother! I'm so grateful to have you in my life and to still care about me even when I'm halfway across the world!! Thanks for all that you've done and all that you still do. Tell Papa Jimmy, Happy Freaking Birthday and that "HE'S AWESOME!!" 

Love, The Eldest Elder