Now that we are almost real time on the blog, I have to update you on our progress and responsibilities in this small branch in Fier, Albania. When we arrived there were 9 people in church that Sunday, not including the missionaries and us. There were more attending church a few years back but do to internal strife, they experienced difficulties which lead to many becoming inactive or falling away. Many of the situations and problems we encounter here, I can only imagine, are like many of the situations encountered in the early days of the church in America. The church is located on the second floor (picture shown) of an office/ apartment building. It has been here for approximately 16 years. Currently through our presence, activation, and persistent love, we have about 20 to 30 coming to church.
In our home ward with it’s membership, if you can’t fulfill a particular calling (responsibility) you call someone else, if they can’t do it, then, you just call someone else, and so on. There is usually a long line of people willing and able to take your place. Here, if you look behind you, there is NO ONE ELSE, YOU ARE IT. There is some wonderful aspects that go with being needed. You really feel wanted and needed on a whole different level and that you have something to contribute. It is a special feeling. I personally think it creates a spark within you that can’t be felt any other way. Back home you kind of blend in and are one in a number of many. Here you are the number. No one else is going to do it. So the blessing of being needed has it’s counterpart, and that is, you MUST fulfill your responsibility, because there an’t no one else going to do it for you.
The mission does about 200 baptisms per year here in Albania and there are approximately 3000 members. The Church created the first Stake in Albania in 2014 which consisted of 6 Wards and 4 Branches. Much of the leadership of the church is placed on the shoulders of men and women who have very little understanding of the gospel, especially the ecclesiastical aspects, but try their best. You just have to help them and LOVE them a lot, and then look the other way as they do things sometimes that make you cringe and laugh at the same time, much of which disseminates through their cultural background, both Muslim and Orthodox, and then the Communist influence.
You can’t help but love these members and investigators, especially as you get to know their individual personalities, which we would love to share with you but just too much to write, as we could not leave anyone out of the picture. These are the things for which you receive as a rich reward for serving in your designated areas of mission life.
This is Xhoni (pronounced Johnny) our first baptism, since we came to Fier. He is a young man with lots of joy and creativity. His understanding of things in life is quite good and he enjoys learning. He came to the church through english class and once he began learning about the gospel through the missionaries, he never stopped. I gave him the priesthood and ordained him a deacon a few Sundays ago and last Sunday was the first time he passed the sacrament. He was so anxious and proud to do so. I gave him his “silver dollar” in sacrament meeting. Something we do in the states to help young men start thinking and saving for a mission. As you can see he loves to imitate the missionaries and is wearing their coat and name tag. The other week at school was kind of “show and tell”. He brought the BofM (Book of Mormon) to school and told the class it was his favorite book.
About 98% of the membership of the church here, do not have cars, despite the fact there are so many cars that it leads to congested traffic. A few members could afford a car but choose not to have one simply because there is no need. They generally live their lives in small cities and everything is within walking distances. Here in Fier where we live, as mentioned before, there is not one traffic light in the city and by in large we walk to most all places ourselves. When you might need to travel to the capital, Tirana, or other greater distances you hop a ride on a van, bus, or Taxi or someone using their car as a taxi service.
Video of father and daughter having a raw egg sucking contest. (“Teeth” in next blog)
So this is Fjona (13), same girl sucking eggs and front girl in seminary photo, who is performing in our one and only mall with a group of other performers. This is a popular Abanian song as you can hear the crowd join in on the singing.
We won’t list all the responsibilities we have nor what a Branch President does, but here is some of the things we do.
Monday- Is P day (preparation day) doing odds and ends, cleaning, shopping, laundry, washing car, etc. Every other Monday we do FHE (family home evening) with the YSA (young single adults) group in our home. (Church has it’s fair share of acronyms !!)
Tues.- Wendy teaches seminary class and we teach english class in the afternoons
Weds – We have DL mtg. (district leader meeting) in another city and sometimes our YSA Advisory board mtg.
Thurs – English class again
Friday and Saturday – Usually some type of branch activity or project, and we clean chapel ready for Sunday
Sunday – Church services 10 to 12pm. Wendy teaches S.S. (Sunday School)
Other responsibilities include: Cooking occasionally for missionaries, inspecting 4 missionary apartments, going to zone mtgs every 6wks., visiting the homes of investigators and members, attending seminary and leadership mtgs, etc. Senior couples have a great amount of flexibility compared to the younger missionaries and their regimented schedules. So we enjoy time together and personal study both secular and religious, read, play games, work on the language, go out to dinner and take time to write or visit (Skype) with family and friends. We could watch tv but as yet we have not decided to buy one. It’s amazing that what once occupied a great portion of our time, we now find other avenues of enjoyment and use of our time.
AND FINALLY…………. a lot of “LORD, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE US DO?”, things.