Contact Elder Watson

Jacob will be unable to read this blog during his mission. If you wish to contact him, please use the information below.
He may not be able to respond directly to each letter or e-mail, so check back weekly to learn of his progress!

Adriatic South Mission
P.O. Box 2984
Bulevardi "Gjergj Fishta"
Qendra "ALPAS", Shkalla NR. 5,
Apartamenti NR. 14
Tirana 10000, Albania

Thursday, December 25, 2014

25 December 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Yeah, it was really awesome to see and talk with my family today! I really enjoyed it. It's kinda' sad that we didn't get a chance to talk for longer, but it was still really good to talk for the little bit that we had. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and I hope that you'll have a wonderful New Year! I hope you have safe travels to relatives' houses this time of year. Give them my regards!

This last week was really good. We met a man this week named Loni. We just talked to him in the road about He is the Gift, and invited him to watch it. He had time right then, so we went and we watched the film together. After the film, we talked a little bit more about the Gospel, and he has an amazing knowledge of the Bible. As it turns out, we found out that he had met Mormon missionaries in Fier (another town in Albania) a few years ago. We talked some more and he was really interested to learn more about our beliefs. We ended up having another lesson with him about three days later. As with all our investigators, we asked what he had read. He said that it started talking about Nephi and his family. We said that was right, and I felt like I should ask him if he read anything else. I asked and he said, "yeah, Nephi's brothers complained a lot. They didn't like hard work. They had to go back to Jerusalem to get a book." So I knew he had read the first couple chapters of 1 Nephi. I asked again if he read anything else. He said, "Yeah, Nephi got help from God and they built a boat and went to America. And after a little while, Lehi blessed his kids and died." I was blown away! He had read all the way until 2 Nephi! I felt like I should ask him again. He said, "Yeah, then after that I read something about them working in a vineyard." Immediately Jacob Chapter 5 entered into my mind. However, I didn't think that he read that far, so I was racking my brain, and I couldn't think of any other reference to a vineyard. So just to confirm with him, I opened up the Book of Mormon to Jacob 5 and I asked him if he had read that far. He said that he had, and he continued, "The last thing that I read was about a king named Benjamin." Loni had read from the beginning of the Book of Mormon until Mosiah!! I was blown away! That's over 150 pages in three days! I couldn't believe it, but he was able to tell me in considerable detail what had happened during that period of time. It blew my mind! He then expressed to us how he felt that the Book of Mormon was true. We invited him to be baptized and he accepted, so on the 24th of January, he should get baptized. It's amazing to meet some of these people whom the Lord has prepared to accept His restored Gospel. There are some people that only need to find it. It was an amazing experience! I always love meeting with Loni!

We've also been working with one of our investigators preparing her for her baptism this Saturday. Her name is Besa, and she's actually been learning from missionaries for quite a while. I think she's been learning from the missionaries, on and off, for about two years now. However, we saw her name in our Area Book and we called her up and asked if she wanted to start learning again. This time around she's been completely on board and now she's really excited for her baptism! About a month ago, she was hospitalized for a sickness and she had been pretty weak from that. In our first lesson after she got out of the hospital, she said that she really felt the love of God for her when she was in the hospital. She said that if God didn't want her to live, she'd be dead right now, but He allowed everything to happen how it did so that she could have a better perspective in her life. After that, she has been very excited about the Gospel and now she's getting baptized in two days! It should be a wonderful thing! I'm really excited for her and her decision to get baptized. It was a testimony builder for me about using the Area Book. Some times we don't want to use it because it's paper work, but it is so very important that we have records like that. If we didn't, we probably never would have met Besa, and she probably wouldn't be getting baptized this weekend. It's amazing to see the Hand of the Lord in this great work!

We had a ward Christmas Party on the 24th here in Durrës. It was really cool to see all of the effort that the youth and the primary put into it. It was a really cool experience! The Spirit was very strong at that activity. I really loved being there and feeling the wonderful Spirit that the members brought into the activity. I really love being a missionary at this time of year! I think this year has been the first time I've been this focused on the True Meaning of Christmas, which is Jesus Christ the Lord. Every single day since Thanksgiving, I've had the wonderful opportunity to talk with people about the importance of Christmas. I think this year has been the first year in my life when I've been entirely focused on Christ for this season. I think in years past, I'd get excited about presents and family gatherings (don't get me wrong, they're still wonderful things!) but this Christmas Season it has been quite wonderful focusing every thought on the birth of Christ. I'm so very grateful for this and I give my testimony of God's love for us! I know that God loves us so much that our little, finite minds can't comprehend it! I know that Jesus Christ came into this world to give us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins. I know that Christ lives and that He truly is the Gift of the First Christmas, many years ago.

Thank you for all the many blessings, prayers, and the support that you give me! I couldn't do this without you! Ju dua shumë! Gëzuar Krishtlindjen! Ju uroj një Viti të ri të mbarë! Kalofshi bukur!

Me dashuri të madhe,

Elder Watston

Some New Year's Lights . . .
yes, here they are called New Year's Lights.

Christmas in Durrës

Sunday, December 21, 2014

15 December 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you for your emails you send me every week! I really enjoy reading them every week. Sounds like you had a fun filled week! It's a little different being a missionary for Christmas, but I love it a ton! This time of year, there are so many miracles and things happening that it's super exciting to be a missionary. We've been working really hard, and we've been really busy so it blew my mind that Christmas is already next week! Crazy! So our P-day is moving to Christmas Day next week, so I won't be emailing anyone on Monday. But I'll get to Skype with my family on Christmas, so that'll be exciting! I hope you had fun at the various Christmas parties you've gone to this past week. The Hobbit 3 is coming out this week?? Wow, you will have to not tell me too much about it, otherwise, I'll be thinking about it a bit too much. I'll get to see it soon enough. Wow, I can't believe the Sisters in your ward are getting transferred this close to Christmas! That must be rough! I couldn't imagine that. Our transfers fall on the week following Christmas, so that's kinda' nice.

This week was really awesome. We actually had the opportunity to go to a Stake Priesthood Meeting this last Saturday. It happened at the church here in Durrës, so that was super convenient! There were a ton of amazing talks! I don't know why, but for that meeting, I was a able to have really strong focus, so I was able to understand nearly everything that went on. It's still hard to understand when people give talks in church, but if I really put all my focus forward, I can get stuff out of it. However, if I'm not completely focused, I'll just zone out and I won't get anything out of it. So I was super happy with how much I was able to focus on Saturday. There were a TON of amazing talks. I really enjoyed it! Also that night, we were blessed to have a baptism! Two in fact! Two people named Anxhela and Ledion got baptized and confirmed this last weekend. It was super amazing! They were very excited and very happy about their decision! They will be amazing members of the Church! If everything goes well, we should be having another baptism before the end of the month. She has a really strong desire to be baptized! She's learned from the missionaries in the past, but she had stopped meeting with the missionaries for various reasons, but now she is excited and ready for baptism! It should be really awesome! We also had a couple people who we think would be ready for the 27th of December; however, they think it's a little fast. We want them to feel comfortable with the decision to get baptized, so we're not shooting for that day with them. However, I'm certain that they will get baptized before the end of January, and they'll be awesome members of the Church as well!

This week, and the past couple of weeks really, we've been experiencing a lot of miracles and blessings in our work! We've been working with He is the Gift a lot, and we've been seeing a lot of blessings from it. There have been a couple times where we've been able to invited people into the center from off the street to watch the "He is the Gift" film, and they have had sincere interest to learn more about the Church.

It's an amazing time of year to be a missionary, and I'm super glad that I have the chance to be a missionary here in Albania at this time. I can't think of any other place I'd rather be. I love the Gospel, and I love that I get to focus on the Gospel 24/7! I absolutely love missionary work, and I know that we get blessed greatly when we do missionary work. Rachel, I'm glad that you've been inviting tons of friends to come to church with you! That's super amazing! You're doing great missionary work already! I know that we truly are blessed abundantly when we obey the Lord's Commandments. I've seen many wonderful blessings come into my life from the Gospel and I know that the Gospel has the ability to bless the lives of everyone who accepts it!

Thank you so much for the love and support you give to me! Ju dua shumë! Javë të mbarë. Kaloni bukur! Gëzuar Krishtlindjen. Jam shumë i gëzuar për të folur me ju javën të ardhshme.

Me dashuri të madhe,

Elder Watson

Down by the coast there is a portion of the city decorated
with lights.  Pretty cool!!
Decorating the Christmas tree at Church.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

8 December 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you for your emails! I love the opportunity I have to read your emails every P-day. So the hat in those birthday pictures from last week is actually one of the other elder's hat that his family sent him for his birthday. He let me wear it for that day, and then they made me a bow tie mustache out of it. Yeah, so one of the groups of elders found a place that printed T-shirts, and we decided to get some made. However, sizes here are really different. I got an XXL, but its probably the size of an adult S in America. So that was an interesting surprise. 

That's awesome that you were able to Skype with Grandma and Grandpa! This time around will be a little different than Mother's Day. We are only allotted 40 minutes for Skype. So we won't be able to talk as much as we did before, but at least we'll be able to talk a little bit. Wow, sounds like you'll have a full house for a few days with all of the Grandkids. I know one thing you could do for Christmas Eve! You could try making Salep as a family. Salep is a drink here that is amazing! It literally tastes like Christmas in a cup. I don't really know how to explain it, but it totally tastes like Christmas! I love it a ton. I don't know if you have the right stuff to make it over there, but you could give it a shot.

I don't know if we'll get the chance to watch the First Presidency Devotional. Maybe we might be able to download it and watch it some day during lunch, but I haven't heard anything about it. So for Christmas and New Years, those days have turned into P-days for us. So we'll probably just be hanging out together as a district. We might play some card games, or might go and do something fun, but we haven't decided that quite yet. We'll be having a Christmas party at the Church here in Durrës on Christmas Eve, so that should be a lot of fun! 

This week was an amazing week here in Durrës! We were blessed very much this last week. I know that God was helping us out a ton! All of the missionaries are working super hard during this month to complete a large mission goal. For the year of 2014 the Adriatic South Mission has a goal of 300 convert baptisms. We're super close, but we need to work super hard and we need to work effectively if we want to accomplish this goal. We're thinking that the last Saturday of the year, the 27th of December, will be a huge baptism day! We have two individuals who have committed to that date for their baptism as well! We're really excited to see how all of that turns out. One of them is one of Esmeralda's sisters. She's super prepared and super excited for her baptism! This just goes to show that working through members is one of the best ways to find people to invite to learn about the Gospel. I know that we can all do missionary work by inviting our friends and family members to learn about the Gospel! It has worked out amazingly for us!!

This time of year is an amazing time to be a missionary! There is a special Spirit in the air. More people are willing to listen to us! We also have a wonderful opportunity to talk with people about He is the Gift! It's such a wonderful short film. It's very powerful! Each time I see it, I feel the Spirit very strong! I know that Christ is the Son of God and I know that only through Him we can be saved. I am so very grateful that we have a loving Heavenly Father that gave us His Only Begotten Son so that we can know what we need to do in order to return to live with Him one day. We've been talking to many people about "He is the Gift" and it is an amazing experience we have to talk so much about the true meaning of Christmas! I'm very grateful for this time of year that I have to be a missionary, to talk with people about the many great, and wonderful, blessings that our loving Heavenly Father has given us! This Christmas season is a wonderful time to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ! I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and that a loving Heavenly Father gave Him to us so that we can gain eternal life!

Thank you for all of your love, support, and prayers! Ju dua shumë! Javë të mbarë. U bekofshit në këtë kohë të bukur!

Me dashuri të madhe, 

Elder Watson

This is our whole mission at the Mission Conference we had
with President Dyches in Durrës a few weeks ago.
It has been raining a lot, and this happens quite often.
We have to dry out when we get home!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

1 December 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for everything!! Thank you for your emails each week, thank you Mom, Dad and Rachel for the birthday package, and thank you for your thoughts and prayers! Let me start off by reassuring you that my eye is fine. Don't worry about it. I haven't had any issues with it since that experience I shared last week. It's like nothing ever happened with it. There's only a tiny little mark that's only visible if you really look for it. Earlier in the week it was a little more noticeable, so a lot of members asked me what happened. It was kinda' difficult to explain because a lot of people don't understand the concept of frisbee here. There are a lot of games and things we do in America that don't get understood here. They only have soccer, so when you suggest doing something else, they don't understand it at all. It's a different mentality here.

This week was really good! This week was a special week with a ton of stuff in it! Monday was P-day, Wednesday I had an exchange with an elder in my district, Thursday was Thanksgiving/Mission Conference, Friday was Albanian Independence Day, and Saturday was Albanian Liberation Day/My Birthday/Baptisms!! It was a packed week! Okay, so the Albanian Holidays weren't as eventful as you would think. No one really celebrated them. I think I celebrated more than most Albanians. I wore a red tie with my black suit on Independence Day, and I wore my Albanian flag hoodie for soccer on Saturday morning. That's really all that happened. We talked with some people in the street and some members and asked what they were doing for the holiday. All of them said nothing, they'd go to work, go home, and eat. It's really different how they celebrate, or lack of it... Anyways, it was good because it didn't hurt missionary work. Everything continued on as normal.

It was really cool to have Thanksgiving here! We had Mission Conference in Tirana all day. We had a special training, and then we had an amazing Turkey dinner prepared by the senior couples and afterwards we had a talent show. The talent show was awesome! It was super funny! There are a ton of super funny missionaries in this mission. It was a great time! Unfortunately, my camera died about halfway through it, so I couldn't get all of it on video. Oh well, it was still really awesome!  I made peanut butter bars for the dessert contest. However, I put a little too much graham cracker and they turned out a little crumbly. Oh well, I thought they were still good.

My birthday was really awesome as well. Here in Durrës, we play soccer with the young men and investigators on Saturday morning. It's a way to find other people to teach. It works out pretty well, because the investigators get to see that the missionaries are normal people too. So we started out the morning with soccer. Then on the way home, we got a call from the ward mission leader wanting to have our coordination meeting. So we hurried home, cleaned up, and had that meeting with him. Afterwards, the district threw me a surprise birthday party. It was a lot of fun. After that we went to the church to see the baptisms! It was an awesome experience!! It was awesome to see 5 people get baptized! It was a Lushnjë baptism, so I got to see the Elders from Lushnjë as well as some of the members. It was awesome! I was really pleased with my birthday! I loved it! Thank you so much for the birthday package! Especially thank you for that Duck Dynasty card! That's one of my favorite quotes, so I was super happy to get that! {Uncle Si talks about how he can make a chicken pot pie with a bunch of random items. . . and a woodpecker!} I also really enjoy the Despicable Me sheets! I'm making good use of them! Also, that scripture case really works well, and comes in handy! Thank you a ton!!! Also, I got a package with a bunch of letters from the Primary kids in the Princeton Ward. Can you please tell Sister Malinka {Priamry President} thank you for that? Can you also tell Grandma and Grandpa Hawkins thank you for their card? Thank you a ton for making my birthday amazing! I hope the Princeton Elders enjoyed my birthday as well. {Jacob's family held a birthday party in his absence with the local Elders as guests of honor.}

Awesome Princeton Ward Elders

So on Thanksgiving we had a training as well from President Weidmann. It was wonderful! We talked a lot about a missionary campaign that all the missionaries in the world will be using. It's called, "He is the Gift". It's a campaign to help people refocus on the true meaning of Christmas. It's a wonderfully, powerful short little film. It's only about 3 minutes, but every time I see it, I feel the Spirit very strong. I know that in today's age, a lot of people associate Christmas with presents, Santa Claus, black Friday, cyber Monday, small business Saturday, and tons of other worldly things. These are all nice traditions and all, but they are not the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is to have a time when we can focus on Jesus Christ. It's a wonderful time filled with a wonderful spirit. I would encourage you to watch the film at <> It will bring a special spirit into your day and you will be filled more with the Spirit. I'm very grateful for a loving Heavenly Father that gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, that we can overcome everything. I know that God lives and that He loves us! In this short film it has three steps. (1) Discover the Gift, (2) Embrace the Gift, (3) Share the Gift. I would encourage you to watch the film, to learn more about the Savior and how He can help you. Afterward I would encourage you to accept Christ into your lives. Show your love for Him by taking hold of the Gift in your life. Take advantage of that love and happiness that comes to us. And finally, I'd encourage you to share this Gift with someone. It's super easy to share on Facebook, or on other social media sites, or on an email. It's becoming easier and easier to share the Gospel with more and more people in today's age with all the technology that we have. I know that this is true and that we have been blessed abundantly in our lives!

 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers! Ju dua shumë! Javë të mbarë! Kaloni mirë. 

Me dashuri të madhe, Elder Watson

Oragami White Shirt
Chocolate candy with jelly beans and pop rocks inside!
Father and Son reunited at the Mission Conference!
Birthday Celebration. What up with that hat?
Elder Watson with his "Birthday Kek"!
Nice party! Still an interesting hat!
Durrës District in their District t-shirts.
Decorating the Christmas Tree!                                          

Thursday, November 27, 2014

24 November 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you for your emails! I really look forward to reading them each P-day! I'm glad to hear that you've been able to go and help out the missionaries! We're always very happy when members are able to help us out with a lesson. So I know how happy the sisters must have been to have you help out. I'm glad you got to go to Feed My Starving Children! I had a lot of fun with it when I've went before, so I hope you had a good time. This weekend should be pretty interesting for us. We have the Thanksgiving Mission Conference on Thursday, and then on Saturday, there is going to be a baptism in Durrës. It's not an investigator from one of the companionships here, but it's a group of investigators from Lushnjë who wanted to use the Durrës building for their service. It will be super exciting because 5 people will be baptized on Saturday! It's already going to be a great birthday! I'm super excited for it. I'll send you a picture of the white out next week. This last week we had a lesson with the Mema family. They're actually among the first baptisms in Albania about 20 years ago, and now he's the President of the Stake here. He's married to a woman he met at University in America, and they've lived all around the world. Sister Mema is from Ohio, so when we met this last week she was telling us about all the snow that hit the northwest United States. It blew my mind! I thought getting two feet in one storm was pretty crazy. So how much snow do you have left if a lot of it has melted away?

This last week was filled with some awesome experiences. So first off, we have to go back 6 months when I was in Durrës with Elder Clawson. One night, we stopped by the bakery across the street from our house like we did many times before. We order our byrek like we normally do and we are talking with the girl that works there. There are two guys standing near us and I think I hear them talking about us, so I turn to one guy and say hi. We started a conversation and I learned that he had lived in England and Italy for a while, and that he had actually met the missionaries before. He talked about how they would play soccer together every once in a while. We continued talking to him and his friend and we ended up getting their number. Unfortunately, we never got an opportunity to meet with them. Okay, fast-forward to two weeks ago. Elder Keck and I were out talking to people in the road. When all of a sudden, I see these two guys walking along the sidewalk towards us. I said hi to them and they stopped. We started a conversation and one of them was interested in getting a picture of Jesus for his house. I told him that we could help him out and we got in touch. We were able to meet and have a lesson and explain a bit about the church. It was a pretty good lesson. We also invited them to play soccer with us and they came! They had a blast and they're willing to meet with us again. It's kinda' cool sometimes to think about why you are placed where you are. Sometimes you wonder why you were placed in a specific place at a specific time. I think that this could be one of the reasons why I came back to Durrës at this time. Because no one else would have recognized these two guys.

Also this week, we had a lesson with a less active member that we normally meet with about once a week. I talked about him last week in my letter. His name is Vëllai Shkreta (vëllai = brother). We really enjoy our meetings with each other. We had a really great lesson about hope and how hope and faith are related to each other. It was a really great lesson. Okay rewind again... At Mission Conference a couple weeks ago, President Dykes taught us how to make little origami white shirts. He told us that he encouraged his missionaries to make these, and write thank you notes on the opposite side and give them to investigators, members, and others. So he taught us how to make them and encouraged us to use them in our missionary work. So fast-forward again to our lesson with Vëllai Shkreta. At the end of our lesson we told him that we had something for him. We gave him the little white shirt, on which we had drawn a little missionary nametag and tie, with a thank you note on the back. He got the biggest kick our of it!! He laughed and laughed! He loved it! He said that he could keep it in a special place and protect it. It's amazing how something so small as a little piece of paper folded into the shape of a shirt with a little ink on it, can have such a large impact on someone. It was one way that I learned that even the littlest of things count.

There's one last awesome experience I'd like to share with you in this letter. So this morning, we decided to gather together as missionaries to play frisbee for our morning exercise. We were playing and in the course of the game, I ended up getting hit in the left eye pretty hard with the frisbee (Mom, don't freak out, just keep reading). I got a little scratch on my eyelid. It bled a little, but not anything to be concerned about. It was fine. When I got back to the house I cleaned it up and put some ice on it. Nothing major, just very simple first aid. So the morning continues and, during my personal study, I notice that my left eye was pretty blurry. When I closed my right eye it was kinda' hard to read things. I could make them out, but my vision was drastically different than that of my right eye. It was really bugging me, and I was starting to get kinda' nervous about it. I tried doing different things to maybe clear out any tears that might be blurring my vision, but nothing I did yielded any results. I thought that I'll just have to see if it stays or goes away. Anyway I continued to study, but my eye kept bothering me. So I sat there and the thought came into my head about Jesus Christ. When He was here on the Earth, He did many miracles. He healed the blind, raised the dead, cured the sick, and many more things. I thought, "If He could do that then, why can't He do it now?" So I bowed my head and prayed. I explained the situation to my Father in Heaven. I explained that I knew that faith in Christ can bring blessings and even miracles in our lives. I prayed for a while expressing my thanks, and then I asked God if He could fix my vision. I explained that I didn't need it right at that second, but I said that I would accept it in His own time. I closed my prayer. I didn't feel any different. However, I felt that I should close my right eye and just see if anything happened. I closed my right eye, and the vision of my left eye was perfect! It wasn't blurry anymore! It didn't bother me at all! And it hasn't bothered me since! A miracle happened! Because of a simple prayer of faith, God was able to perform a miracle in my life. Some people might try and explain it away as just clearing up on its own, but that's not what happened at all. From that experience, my faith in Jesus Christ grew. I was grateful that He cared enough about me to show His love for me by causing a miracle to happen in my life! In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Mormon taught that God still does miracles, even today! "And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles" (Mormon 9:15). God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has done miracles in the past, He does them today, and He will yet do them in the future. Some people will say that miracles have stopped with the scriptures. About this, Mormon said, "And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust" (Mormon9:20). So we learn that miracles our dependent on our faith. If we don't have faith, we won't be able to experience miracles, but if we have faith in Jesus Christ we can experience miracles in our lives. I am very grateful that we have a loving God of Miracles. I know that if we have faith, we can experience miracles in our lives as well. I've experienced one this morning, and I know that you can experience them too!

Thank you for all of the love and support that you give to me. Thank you for your love and prayers. Ju dua shumë! Javë të mbarë. Kalofshit bukur!

Me dashuri, 

Elder Watson

From a recent convert named Sister Dragoti.  One of her daughters is on a mission
in England right now and will be returning in February.  When we left her house this
week, she gave us a bag that had two pair of socks and two Snickers bars in it!
We were super excited to say the least!!
When the Elders eat lunch together, we split everything we have in sixths . . .
and we eat it all . . . including a whole batch of Rice Krispie bars!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

17 November 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for the emails that you send me each week! I look forward to reading your emails every P-day! Wow! That's crazy! You got a TON of snow this week! I was telling some of the Albanians about how much snow we were getting at home and they couldn't believe it. They were telling me that snow fell in Durrës about four years ago. It was only like a centimeter, but everything was shut down because the snow never falls here. Before I forget, wish Grandma a happy birthday from me! This morning I was writing the date and I realized that it looked quite familiar, and then I realized that it was her birthday. Give her my fala (regards). Say hi to Wes and Becky for me when you see them this week. Also, say hi to Phil when you get the chance. Have you heard any more news about anyone else in the ward preparing for a mission? So this week, we'll be restarting our English Course. We use English as a finding tool, so every once in a while we'll end our course and we'll have a break and restart. It's a way that we can get different people into the course so we can find investigators to teach. So we'll be starting that up again this week.

This last week was kinda' crazy. I had conducted an exchange with Elder Muncy, and that was pretty sweet. We had a lot of fun together. Also, this week we had Mission Conference in Durrës. It was a little different because the meeting took place in Durrës, when the meetings normally happen in Tirana. It was also a little different because we had a guest come. Elder Timothy Dykes from the Quorum of the Seventy came and spoke to us. So because we were the missionaries in Durrës, we had to do some last minute things to get the church ready for the conference. I had the exchange with Elder Muncy the day before the conference, so we had a lot of fun running around getting things ready for the conference. It was a wonderful conference! We learned a lot about strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ and what we can do to develop stronger, more meaningful prayers. We learned a lot about becoming a master teacher to help those we teach come closer to God through our meetings. It was a really great conference! Also, because it was a mission conference, I was able to see all of the missionaries in the mission. It was really great to talk with Elder Clawson again. I was really happy to hear that Nezir got baptized. I'm super happy about that! I also got to talk with all the other missionaries I've had the opportunity to be around. And in a couple weeks we'll be having yet another mission conference! We'll have a special Thanksgiving Mission Conference. I'm really excited for that one as well!

This week I also had the chance to go on another exchange with the Zone Leaders. So a District Leader does exchanges with all of the missionaries in his district, and the Zone Leaders do exchanges with the District Leaders. So this week I got to go with Elder Price in Lushnjë. Yeah, Elder Price and I still get to go on exchanges. It's super awesome! I was so excited to go to Lushnjë again! I loved being back in my hometown and again in the house I was born in. It was wonderful to see all of the members I knew from the last time. I really enjoyed my time in Lushnjë this week. I had the opportunity to teach some of the families that Elder Price is working with. They are wonderful! Some of them are nearly ready for baptism. In fact, they had a baptism in Lushnjë just this last weekend. I also got your package this last week. Thank you so much! Thank you so much for sending it. It means a lot to get something in the mail every once in a while!

About once every week, we meet with a less-active member here in Durrës. We just saw his name in our Area Book and we decided to go try and visit him one day, and we've been able to meet about weekly for the last month. It's been really great! We've found out that he had a very strong testimony that the Gospel is true. He just has some family issues that are keeping him from coming regularly. However, I've seen a big change in him since we've begun meeting with him regularly. We meet in his shop because he said it's a better environment than his house to talk about the Gospel. So we go to his shop and we have a chance to sit and talk about the Gospel for about half an hour. One of the first times we met with him, we asked him about his personal reading from the Book of Mormon. He went over to a cabinet and opened it. He rummaged around in it for a bit and pulled out a copy of the Book of Mormon. It looked like he hadn't touched it in quite a while. However, when we went back and met with him last time, he had it out in the open, and he had papers in it containing notes he'd written about what he read! Also, when he lifted it up, I noticed that there was a hymnbook open underneath it. I was really happy to see that! As we were leaving, he told us that our weekly meetings were a miracle for him and he has felt that a fire had been reignited inside him again! I'm so very grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the opportunity we have to repent. Sometimes we think of repentance as a painful word that only means bad things. However, repentance is when we change doing something so that we can follow the teachings of Jesus Christ more exactly in our lives. I'm grateful for the blessings of happiness and peace that come and replace those feelings of shame and guilt. I'm grateful for the repentance I've seen in this man, and I know that it's blessing his life in many ways. I'm also grateful for the blessings that I have in my life that have come through repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that if we all humble ourselves and we repent of our sins, if we change how we're living, we'll have much more happiness, peace, comfort, hope, and many other great blessings from the Lord!

Thank you for the love and support you give to me. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers! They are heard! Ju dua shumë! Kalofshit bukur! Paçi siguri në bor!!

Love, Elder Watson

Buying all of the drinks for the Mission Conference.
                                  Back in Lushnjë with Teja . . .
. . . and Juxhin.  Awesome Lushnjar members!

"And in the morning . . . I'm making waffles!"
Well, we went to a place and had waffles for P-day.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

10 November 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for your emails! I always look forward to reading your emails each P-day. It sounds like you had quite the week! It sounds like your Stake Conference was pretty good! I always enjoyed going to stake conference. We haven't had a stake conference here since I've arrived, so I don't know what it's like here in Albania quite yet. This week in sacrament, I actually had to play piano. I never thought I'd have to do that in Durrës. I found out I was playing two minutes before the meeting started, and I'm not good enough to have all the hymns down, so it was interesting. I was glad when it was over. Dad, I'm glad that you got to go out hunting. I'm sorry to hear that you didn't get the chance to shoot at anything. I hope you'll get to go out hunting again and have some more luck! Seeing those pictures of snow was really good! I miss snow so much, and it's kinda' sad thinking that I won't get to see snow for a long time yet. Hopefully I'll get a chance to go up north again and have a chance to see some snow. 

 The snow begins.

And now--20 inches!
So no, we don't really have any restrictions for cold weather or snow. From receiving emails from other friends on missions in different parts of the world, it doesn't really sound like we have many restrictions like they do. I've heard of a lot of missionaries not being able to leave their apartment for different reasons, and I haven't heard of any experiences like that here in this mission. Rachel, you're going to be in a play! That's awesome! What play will you be doing? What part will you be playing? You'll have to tell me more about it! I hope everything goes well with getting your braces changed around. Just remember that after it's all finished, all the pain and annoying things that come with it is totally worth it!

I'll tell you a bit about the missionaries in Durrës. I'll start with Elder Keck. Elder Keck is from Layton, UT. He is the youngest of 3 kids. He is a huge Ultimate Frisbee fan. He played on a club team in high school. So today, we went and played Ultimate at the stadium here in Durrës. When I say stadium, don't think that we actually got to play in a nice facility. We played in a sandlot next to the big futboll stadium here in Durrës. He's also a big Football (American) fan. You'll never guess who his favorite team is. The Packers. Yeah, crazy huh? He's super awesome and I'm glad to have the chance to serve with him. So I've already told you about Elder Dahl, he's in my MTC group, but he's from New Mexico. He actually went to BYU for a while before his mission as well. He played tennis in high school and he also plays clarinet. He's also super awesome and a great missionary. Elder Muncy is from California. He was actually supposed to be in my group, but a couple days before reporting to the MTC he got in a car accident and had to wait 3 months to report to the MTC. When I found that out, it blew my mind! I couldn't believe it! He's super awesome, as well! He's my Uncle. (He was trained by Elder Foster, my grandpa.) So that's always interesting to bring up. Elder Rasband is from Brigham City, UT. He's a super strong missionary. Elder Rasband and Elder Muncy are in the same MTC group (one after me). Before his mission, he was actually in an alternative rock band. He has some pretty awesome stories about that! Elder Matson is from Alabama. He's the oldest one out of all of us. He'll be ending his mission this coming April. He loves being a missionary and working hard. He's a strength to the Durrës district! All of these elders are super great! It's such a great opportunity to be their district leader and serve them. We're all working super hard and we're enjoying our time as missionaries!

This last week was kinda' slow, as it has been going for the past few weeks. Our investigator pool has kinda' dried up, and we have only a couple people who we meet with, and even sometimes it's very difficult to meet with them. So this has probably been the least number of times I've taught a lesson in a week, just because we don't really have anyone established to meet with. Things have been going like this for the past couple weeks; however, this week I felt a lot different. In weeks past, it kinda' weighed down on me and I wondered why we weren't having success. Things didn't seem to make sense to me. However, last Friday President Weidmann shared a scripture with me in our interview. He shared a scripture from Alma. And at this time, Alma has just been rejected from the land of Ammonihah. He had been having great success on his mission, but the people of Ammonihah were so hardened in their hearts that they cast him out of the city. He was walking away being weighed down with all these feeling and wondering what he did wrong. In Alma 8:15 an angel appears to him and says, "Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you." President Weidmann then taught me about the "great cause" that Alma could rejoice over. This "great cause to rejoice" was Alma's obedience to the commandments of God. A lot of time I think we can fall into an idea that success as missionaries is measured by the number of baptisms or investigators that came to church. However, we learn from this scripture (as well as others) that success as a missionary is measured by your commitment to obeying the commandments of God. If we obey the commandments of God, we too will have this "great cause to rejoice." We also learn from Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 that when we receive a blessing from God it's due to our obedience to a specific commandment. I really love the talk from Elder Klebingat from the October 2014 General Conference. He has a quote that says, "Selective obedience brings selective blessings." So if we want blessings, we should obey the commandments. If we want a "great cause to rejoice," we should obey the commandments. I know that obedience to the commandments of God brings blessings in our lives. I know that the commandments that God gives to us is for our benefit and happiness. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and I know that His Church has been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that even though things are going slow with investigators, I still have a "great cause to rejoice" in my life. I love being a missionary!

Thank you for all of your love and support! I couldn't do it without you! Ju dua shumë! Javë të mbarë! Paçit qef në bor. E dua shumë dhe uroj që ne mund të kishim bor këtu në Durrës, por çfarë të bëjmë.

Me dashuri, Elder Watson

Shadow on the Institute Center door in Durrës.
The sea has been a lot more wavy and crazy the past couple of weeks.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

3 November 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you for your emails, especially this week! I really enjoy hearing about how things are going back at home. It sounds like you had quite the week! Which did Rachel like better, being Kili or a nerd for Halloween? Yeah, it looks like you've been doing a lot of work around the house! No one will recognize the house when they come to it for Christmas because it'll look so different!

As for your questions about elections. Yes, they do have elections here, but I'm not sure how they work. I don't think that they are around this time of year, I believe that they are in the summer. Also, I won't know if they are similar to the way they campaign for elections in America, just because I won't be seeing them on TV or anything like that. Dad, I hope that you have a chance to get out hunting and I hope that you'll be able to get a deer! A lot of the time we'll make pasta for lunch, and we found a place that we feel comfortable buying meat from, so we'll have pasta with meat sauce. The meat just isn't as good as that venison hamburger that we have at home. That's one thing I miss quite a bit. 

No, Elder Rasband isn't related to the general authority. {Jacob was on splits with Elder Rasband last week.} That was one of the first questions I asked him. He said he gets that a lot. No way!! Josh {Woodruff, a Facebook friend} is getting married?? That's awesome! I actually bumped into Josh at the MTC twice. He works there as a German teacher. Wow, that's awesome to hear that. Thanks for letting me know. Haha, Juxhin is awesome! {He sent Jacob a Facebook message. Can you tell that Mom just checked Jacob's Facebook account?} In fact, Esmeralda (the girl that got baptized a couple weeks ago) is Juxhin's cousin. So I was really hoping that Juxhin would be able to come to her baptism, but he wasn't able to make it. I was really bummed about that.

This week was pretty good. Probably the highlight of this week for me was Friday when we had interviews with President Weidmann. I love President Weidmann so much! I especially love when I get the chance to see him. At first I was really intimidated by him. When he just arrived in the mission (several months ago) he had an interview with all of the missionaries in their homes. It was kinda' a get to know you interview. He asked me to share with him my favorite scripture. I said the reference and we read it together, then he proceeded to ask me a bunch of in depth questions about it. I wasn't able to answer all of the questions, so after the interview I felt like I "failed" it (if you could fail a get to know you interview). However, now that I've had the opportunity to meet with him several more times, we are a lot closer and I'm not intimidated by him. I really enjoy his company. So I always look forward to meeting with him, or being able to talk with him at any chance I get. We spoke just about missionary work and how things had been going. I expressed to him some difficulties we had been having and he gave some counsel of how we can improve those areas. I really enjoyed the interview with him! After interviews, we had the ward Halloween party at the church. It was a lot of fun. The young men and young women were very excited about it and they spent a lot of time preparing and decorating and they put a lot of work into it! A lot of people showed up and they had a lot of fun! Everyone was really excited and most people dressed up in different costumes.

This week we were able to get a couple new investigators! This is a huge blessing for us. Things had been going really slow for us for the past couple of weeks, so getting just a few people to accept a return appointment has been a great blessing for us. Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers, they paid off a lot! I know that when we are united in prayer together that we can accomplish great things. I could feel a special power with us this week as we were working. Don't get me wrong, this week still had its fair share of challenges and set backs, but I attribute this success in finding new investigators to be due to your prayers. I know that many great blessings come into our lives from prayer and I know that we can cause blessings to come into the lives of others through our prayers of faith. It happened this week. I know that many blessings come into our lives from prayer because I've experienced many of them in my life. There is a scripture in the Book of Mormon that talks about prayer:

"Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed." 
-- 3 Nephi 18:19-21

In this scripture we understand that if we pray to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ and we seek good things, they will be given to us according to our faith. One great way that we can help share the Gospel of Jesus Christ is by praying for opportunities to share it. I know that if we will pray for opportunities to share the Gospel with others that the Lord will give us the opportunity. Then it's up to us to act on that prompting and share the Gospel in the way we feel prompted. I know that through this way, we will be showing our faith to our Father in Heaven and we're also showing our willingness and desire to share His Gospel and the happiness that comes from it. I know that as we pray for these experiences the Lord will give them to us and we will grow from them.

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers! Jeni nish! Ju dua shumë. Javë të mbarë! Zoti ju bekoftë!

Me dashuri, Elder Watson

Here's a picture from the Halloween Party. This is Elder Keck and I
(we dressed up as each other) with an awesome investigator, Leridon,
who also dressed up as a missionary! He should be getting baptized this month!
Today for P-day we went to go explore a castle. The drive was pretty nice--
we just needed to look out for sheep!
It was a bit of a hike, but it was a lot of fun.
It was right on the edge of the sea. Apparently, it was one of Skëndëbej's castles.
But everyone says that every little ruin is one of his castles.

Monday, October 27, 2014

27 October 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for your email this week! I really look forward to reading your emails weekly! It sounds like you have had some good weather to do some stuff outside. Here it was really hot at the beginning of the week, but the past couple of days it's been pretty chilly. It's been kinda' different in Durrës lately. Since it's getting colder, people aren't outside as much as they were before. Also it's been getting darker earlier, and this weekend was the daylight savings time switch for us. I don't know if we switch times on the same day or if it's different for you back home. It was interesting because I only heard it in passing from a member this week, so I had to ask a bunch of other people to make sure it was actually the right time to do it. It was kinda' strange how it just happened out of the blue like that. Mom, Dad, and Rachel, I'm glad that you had time to listen to Elder Bendar's talk this week and choose a family you would like to share the Gospel with. I know that the Lord will bless you because of your desire to share the Gospel. In fact, this week I had to give a talk in Church. I was asked to speak on Missionary Work. It was the second talk I've had to give here as a missionary, and I feel like it went very well. That's one thing I've felt like has become a lot easier since becoming a missionary: public speaking. You talk to so many different people and in front of different groups of people all the time, so public speaking becomes very easy. That's so crazy that Mikey has left! It blew my mind seeing those pictures of him at the airport! Thanks for sending those. I know that he'll be a great missionary! Have you heard anything about anyone else in the ward working on their mission papers? 

It's crazy how fast time has been flying by! October is almost over! It's crazy that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. There isn't anything concrete yet, but in years past there has been a Thanksgiving Mission Conference. So the entire mission gets together and usually they have a talent show and a dessert contest. We haven't heard anything specific yet, but we may be doing something like that! However, this Friday we're actually having a Halloween party at the Church here in Durrës. It will be interesting to see how Albanians celebrate Halloween. Apparently, they go around door to door and ask for candy. So guess who's going tracting Friday night!! Ha ha, just kidding, we'll probably figure out something more productive to do instead. They don't have a holiday like Thanksgiving here though. I've also heard that Christmas isn't celebrated as much as in the United States. The biggest holiday that they celebrate here is New Year's. Also on the 28th and the 29th of November they have a big celebration for the Independence of Albania. So I'm excited to see how they celebrate that.

This week has been pretty good! This week I got to go back to Lushnjë! I was only there for a couple hours, but it was really awesome to go back! We had a District Leader training meeting in Lushnjë with the Zone Leaders and all of the District Leaders in Southern Albania. We had to take public transportation there, so it took FOREVER to get there. It's difficult getting there because there isn't a bus or van that takes you straight there, so we had to take a couple different buses to get there. It took about 2 hours when it would've taken an hour with a car. So that was quite a trip, but it was super nice to be back in Lushnjë for just a couple hours. I really hope that I have the time to go back and serve there. I really enjoyed my time there. Whenever I talk to the missionaries serving there they always say that nearly all the members in Lushnjë ask about Elder Clawson and I all the time. So I'm really excited to go back and see them again and actually be able to talk to them and understand what they are saying! A lot of missionaries don't really have the best thoughts about Lushnjë because it's just a small village, but I really love it there and I would really like to go back one day. I hope that the Lord has it in His plan to allow me to serve there again for a while. This week I went on an exchange with another elder in my district Elder Rasband. He's from Brigham City, Utah, and he's super awesome! We got along really well and he's a great missionary! He's a great example of working with a positive uplifting attitude. We had a really great exchange and we got a lot of work done!

One thing we've kinda' been struggling with is finding new investigators to teach. We've been talking to tons of people, we've been knocking on tons of doors, we've been doing everything that we know how to do, but we've had a couple of really slow weeks with finding new people to teach. I know that as long as we are living obedient to the commandments of God, including mission rules, that we'll be able to have the success we're looking for. We are being obedient to the mission rules and the commandments and we know that as long as we are working with all our heart, might, mind, and strength that we will be able to have success in finding new investigators. One thing I would ask of you is to keep that in your daily prayers as well. That we will be able to have a successful week in finding new investigators. Also a passage I read from "Preach My Gospel" came into my mind as I was writing this. There is a section that talks about the importance of members helping with missionary work. There is a quote in there that I don't quite remember the source, but it talks about the importance of members not just praying for missionary work in general, but praying specifically for the success of the missionaries in the ward where they live. So if you could also remember the missionaries in your ward and pray for them, pray for their success daily. I know that their lives will be blessed, as well as yours!

Thank you so much for the love and the support you give me every week! Ju dua shumë! Javë të mbarë!

Love, Elder Watson

A sunset looking out of an apartment building where we were tracting.