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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

28 April 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for your emails, thoughts, and prayers! I always look forward to hearing from you on P-days! Well the move from Lushnjë to Durrës wasn't too crazy. We had the zone leaders drive all of our stuff to the place where all the buses and frigons are. (Frigons are large passenger vans without seat belts and hurtle down the high way at about 90 mph.) We found a bus going to Tirana and they said that they were going through Durrës, so they would drop us off there. We loaded all of our stuff down under the bus and we traveled to Durrës. For some reason the bus was driving really slow for the entire trip, so we got there a little later than we were planning, but it all worked out in the end. As soon as we got there we had a meeting with the rest of the missionaries in Durrës and they welcomed us warmly. Right after our meeting, we moved all of our stuff into our new house and we went to lunch. We had quite a few meetings that day so we could organize ourselves and get on the same page. That night we did some tracting and we didn't get a whole lot of success from that, but we knocked on the door of a nënë and she gave us some Easter Candy. In Albania, all of the older women are called "nënë" or grandmother. So that was the highlight of our day.

Elder Clawson and I are opening a new area in Durrës, so we don't have any investigators at the moment. We've been trying to work with some inactive members, but they haven't been too willing to meet, which is a real bummer. So the majority of the time we street contact. My entire mission up to this point has been street contacting. The people here aren't as nice as the people in Lushnjë. Durrës is the second largest city in Albania, and the people have more of that big city feel. Not a whole lot of them are willing to stop and talk. Also, I've been sworn at more here than in Lushnjë. All of the boys who learn English can say "Hello, my friends. How are you? I'm fine thanks." and then a bunch of swear words. At times it's hard to just brush it off when someone swears at you in English, but most of the time we let it go. However, we have confronted a couple kids who have sworn at us, and then every little bit of bravery they ever had leaves and they run like a frightened deer.

We have it set up nice with our finances. All of our rent and utilities get taken care of through the office. We don't have to worry about any of that stuff. It's really nice! And then every missionary has a debit card issued by the mission. Once a month we'll get money put into our account and we go withdraw it from an ATM. This is the money that we use for food, travel, and other necessities. When we want to buy personal stuff like souvenirs or clothing, we purchase that with our own personal money. I haven't bought a bunch of personal items yet. The only thing I've bought was a hard drive so I can back up and organize pictures that I've taken.

Rachel, that's so awesome that you got a Frozen piano book! I really liked that movie! Have you seen it yet? When I get home you'll have to play me some songs from it! Oh, I've been hearing a lot of people saying that Psych is ending. Is that true? There isn't any wall to wall carpet in Albania, so we have all hard, cold floors, so I've been wearing my Psych slippers a lot. My slippers have sparked many conversations about Psych and it ending, so I was really shocked to hear that! 

Cars are very different here. I never really understood the genius of a smart car until I came here. Everything is so small and crammed together, so small vehicles are the best option here. I've also seen a lot of cars here that aren't sold in America. All of the missionaries who are in leadership positions have mission cars, and every mission car is an Opal. The one I've spent the most time in is an Opal Corsa. That's the vehicle that the zone leaders have. The other day Elder Clawson and I were talking about how awesome it would be if the mission vehicles were like the Blueberry from Psych. 

Today we went to Divjak for P-day. All of the missionaries in the south zone: Durrës, Elbasan, Lushnjë, Fier, and Vlorë got together to play capture the flag. It was really nice because I was able to see a lot of the missionaries form my MTC group. We played capture the flag on the beach in Divjak, but there were a bunch of bushes that grew very pointy, sharp reeds. I've never seen things like them before! They were pretty sharp! Fortunately I wore jeans today, so I had an advantage over the other missionaries. Whenever I was close to being tagged, I would run into these bushes and that would buy me enough time to get away. We had a lot of fun playing capture the flag today. Our games got pretty intense too! Elder Penrod was telling me that they played capture the flag in Vlorë with some of the members and they don't understand the concept at all. He said that the Americans just walked across their side, grabbed their flag and walked back while the Albanians stood there. So now they just stick to futball.

I miss Lushnjë a bit, but I'm glad to be here in Durrës. I know that transfers and changes like this are always a little rough at first. Things were just starting to pick up for us in Lushnjë after three weeks, and now we have to start all over here too. Today, when I was in Divjak talking to the other missionaries in my group, they were talking about all the lessons and success they were having, and that was a little disheartening to me. However, I just need to stop worrying about myself and what I want and I just need to focus on doing the Lord's will. Street contacting can wear pretty hard on you sometimes, and, at times, it's hard to stay hopeful. However, I know that the Lord has called me to come here to Albania. I know that He needs me here in Durrës. I know that He will help me with this work. I know that a mission isn't easy, and I knew that when I put my mission papers in. I know that the Lord will qualify us for the Work that He calls us to. I know that He will help me to understand what everyone around me is saying. I know that He will put me in the path of those people who are ready to hear and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that God lives and He loves us. I know that He won't forget us. I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior, and I know that through His Gospel, we can become happier in our lives. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that God loves us because He sent His Son to Atone for our sins. Now, God gives us prophets to help us, and He gives us His Word. I love reading from the Book of Mormon and the Bible. I've learned a lot from their pages, and I know that I can still learn much from them, as well. I know that the Lord knows each one of us individually and He cares about us personally! We should never forget that!

Thank you so much for your love and your support! I definitely couldn't do this without you!

Javë të mbarë!


Elder Watson

Batjar, Elder Watson, and Juxhin in Lushnjë
View of Elder Clawson's and Elder Watson's new place in Durrës
View of Elder Clawson's and Elder Watson's new place in Durrës
View of Elder Clawson's and Elder Watson's new place in Durrës

View of Elder Clawson's and Elder Watson's new place in Durrës
Elder Clawson in the Durrës house

Monday, April 21, 2014

20 April 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Easter in Albania is a little different. You can actually say "Happy Easter" to people in public and they won't get offended. From our apartment we can see a big banner that says, "Gezuar Pashket" (Happy Easter) that stretches across the street. There are signs all around town wishing you a happy Easter. It's really nice how you can be openly religious here and not have people freak out about it. We went over to our branch president's apartment for a while last night to share an Easter message with him and his wife. Whenever you go into an Albanian's home, they always give you a drink and a small snack. It's a tradition that every Albanian practices. However, since it was Easter they gave us a special treat. We talked with them for a while and we shared a message from Helaman 14:17 and talked about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and what that means for us. Elder Clawson made me give the thought last night and I was kinda nervous, but everything went well. Another thing that Albanians do on Easter is they dye hard boiled eggs red, then when they have dried, each person takes an egg and you hit two of them together on the tips to see who has the strongest egg.

That's awesome that you had Stake Conference this last week. I always enjoy stake conference, and I'm looking forward to going to Stake Conference in Albania! They've only had one Stake Conference here in Albania because they've only had a stake since the beginning of the month. This week, the youth were having an activity at the church building in Lushnjë and we met the Stake President there. He speaks English very well! That's so awesome to hear how the Princeton Ward was represented at Stake Conference! {Members of our ward were called upon to bear testimony, play piano, and say a closing prayer.} That's so awesome to hear about Spencer, Grant, and Mikey. That makes me so happy! (A few of Jacob's friends who will be receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood.) Also, say, "Përshendetje!" to the Jensen Family for me when you get the chance. {Friends who sent well wishes who also have a daughter on a mission to Salt Lake City, UT, right now.}

Yeah, The Palace isn't best situated for four missionaries, but that will be changing on Tuesday. Elder Clawson and I have spent a lot of time looking for an apartment in the past couple weeks and we finally found one that is perfect for us! However, it just wasn't meant to be. On Sunday night we received a call from our Mission President, President Ford, and the area that Elder Clawson and I have been working in is being closed and we will be reopening an area in Durrës this Tuesday. Now there will only be four missionaries in Lushnjë (two elders, and two sisters) and there will be six missionaries in Durrës (six elders). Durrës is a coastal city in the middle of Albania, and is much larger than Lushnjë, so there will be more work for us there. I've only been in Lushnjë for 18 days, so this is very soon. Usually transfers in Albania last for 13 weeks, but I guess that it is needed for Elder Clawson and I to go to Durrës right away. Elder Clawson is very excited to go to Durrës because that's the city he was born in.

Okay, Elder Clawson wasn't literally born in Durrës, he was born in Idaho, but we have a bunch of mission language that I'll explain really quick. The area where you are trained, or first start you mission, is where you were born, and the area where you finish your mission is where you die. And missionaries that have finished their missions are referred to as "dead." If you serve with a missionary who is "dying" in that transfer, you kill that missionary. Your trainer is your father or your mother for elders and sisters respectively, and the rest of family relations branch out from there. So my father is Elder Clawson, my grandfather is Elder Foster, and I have a brother Elder Eliason. Elder Clawson showed me a family tree that follows our line back to 1995. It's pretty awesome!

Lushnjë is pretty small so there isn't a whole lot of public transportation. A lot of people like to own their own vehicles, so traffic gets pretty bad. But in the larger cities, there are buses that go around the city. But mainly people walk, bike, or drive. We have tried a lot of candy and sweets. There are a lot of things that are sold in Albania that aren't sold in America because they're too high in sugar or fat, like Fanta Exotic. Fanta Exotic is a drink that taste like someone liquefied a bag of gummy bears. There is a lot of good chocolate like Kinder, Milka, or Lion. There is something called Nucrem. It's like nutella, but it comes in a giant bucket and it has chocolate and vanilla flavors. The food here is so amazing and I've only scratched the surface.

Wow, the weather in Minnesota is so crazy! {Last Wednesday we received 20" of snow and schools were closed; but by Sunday, the temperature was in the high 60s!} We've had a cold snap (as far as Albanian weather goes) this last week. It's been kinda' chilly and rainy for the last week. When it rains, it puts a damper on the work because people don't like to go outside at all. The weather in Albania is pretty bipolar, but not as bipolar as the weather in Minnesota. For example, this morning was chilly and rainy again, but now it's very warm! I'm not looking forward to the summer here, it sounds like it's just as humid as Minnesota, but much hotter.

Wow, that is surprising! Dad, you'll be more familiar with technology than I will by the time I return! {Dad showed Rachel how to use a feature on the TV remote.} That's so awesome to hear that Elder Dobbins came back! Wow, I remember going teaching with him about this time of year, two years ago! Time is flying by! I can't believe that April is almost over already! I can't believe that I've been in Albania for almost three weeks! Wow, that's amazing!

It will be a little different being in Durrës because we won't be living with the zone leaders and we won't be able to take advantage of their automobile privileges. Like today, we went to Vlorë for P-day. We met up with the other missionaries in Vlorë for lunch today. After lunch we went to the beach and drove up to a castle ruin on the top of a mountain overlooking Vlorë. It was so calm and peaceful on top of the mountain, and the view was absolutely beautiful! I'll definitely miss P-days with Elder Palmer and Elder Bilodeau. We've had some great P-days together!

I've become a little more confident in my language this past week. I've been put in more situations where I have to use my language on my own. For example, on Tuesday this last week Elder Clawson had District Leader training in Tirana, so he and Elder Price, from Vlorë, went to Tirana and Elder Penrod came up to Lushnjë for the day. Elder Penrod and I were in the same MTC group, so neither of us knows the language very well yet. However, we were able to talk to a lot of people and we actually got a couple phone numbers from people who seemed interested. It was a difficult experience, but it was good for Elder Penrod and me. We could see that the very limited Albanian that we know, and the even more limited Albanian that we understand, could be used to do missionary work. Up until that point, both of us relied more on our companion to do most of the work, but I think both of us had a confidence boost from that day. Also, I've been sharing more of the spiritual thoughts in the English class we teach and at youth activities. I'm getting there little by little. "A rock upon a rock becomes a wall; A wall upon a wall becomes a castle."

My testimony of revelation has grown this last week. I've been thinking a lot about my Patriarchal Blessing and the blessing I received when I was set apart as a missionary, and I have seen the blessings and promises becoming real! I know that God still speaks today. I know that He has restored His Priesthood to the Earth again. I know that through the power of the priesthood, He directs this Church today. I know that He calls worthy men to be priesthood leaders, such as: prophets, apostles, bishops, branch presidents, stake presidents, mission presidents, and so on. I know that these men can receive revelation from God for us. With how well I've adjusted to Albanian culture and food, and how my mission has gone so far, I can see revelation from God through priesthood leaders being fulfilled. I love the chance that I have to serve here in Albania, and I can't think of anywhere else in the world I'd rather be! I know that Jesus is the Christ, and the Savior of the world. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the church that He directs today. I love this Gospel and I know that it's true. I know that everyone can come to know that this is the Lord's Church through sincere prayer. We truly are very blessed.

Thank you for your support and encouragement!


Elder Watson

                                                          Photos from Vlorë

Monday, April 14, 2014

14 March 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

It's so weird to think that I've been away from home for about three months now. Wow, time flies! April is half over already. Where does the time go??!

The food here is amazing! I'm afraid that I'll gain a lot of weight here! Food is super cheap and eating out isn't much more expensive than making the food yourself. I had qofte for the first time this week. One of the missionaries described qofte as the animal parts that aren't worthy enough to be made into hot dogs. That sounds super sketchy, but it is so good! There is a grill that sells qofte right by the church, so for lunch we'll usually get some qofte. Enough qofte to feed 4 elders, including drinks, is only about $8. Food is very cheap, but very good! We haven't found an apartment yet, but we've been looking. There aren't many places in Lushnjë that are renting a furnished apartment in our price range. We have found a couple possibilities, but we don't have anything definite yet. There was one place that we found that we really want to get. It used to be the church in Lushnjë when it was very small. It has two floors and is really beautiful. It would be the most awesome place to live, but the people that are selling it are asking a really expensive price. Elder Clawson and I, as well as the zone leaders, have all been looking for an apartment. We even went to the old part of town and we couldn't find anything in the old, run down, communist housing areas. So we're still staying with the zone leaders at their apartment. Their apartment is in Lushnjë on the edge of town. They probably have the nicest apartment out of all the elders in the mission! It is referred to as "The Palace" by all the missionaries. It's really awesome and I love living there, but it's too small for four elders to live there. I would like to get a place so I can finally unpack and sleep in an actual bed, but we're making it work right now. We live with Elder Palmer and Elder Bilideau. Elder Palmer is from Richmond, Virginia, and he is almost done with his mission. In three months he'll be finished and on his way back home. Elder Bilideau is from Martha's Vineyard and he has about five months left on his mission. They are great missionaries and they have a makinë ("car" is a bad word in Albanian, so we always say makinë) so we get spoiled a lot because we get to hitch rides with them. We get to go to some awesome places on Pday! Last week, we went to Apollonia and this week we went to the beach of the Adriatic Sea! We wouldn't get to do all of these things if we didn't have a makinë!  

Lushnjë has a branch of about 35 that attend regularly. This last Sunday was a fast Sunday, so I got the chance to bear my testimony in Sacrament meeting. After the meeting, several people came up to me and said they were impressed with my language. The other missionaries said that I spoke very grammatically correct. Imagine that, I have better grammar in Albanian than in English. Over the past couple of weeks I've been thinking about memories that I have, talking to people and public speaking, things like that, and it's really weird to think that I did that in English. Looking back it seems so weird that I was ever afraid of speaking in public... in English! That's so easy now!

I've gotten really comfortable with talking with strangers. Most of the time we are street contacting because we don't have much work. So I've gotten really good at saying, "Mirëdita. Si jeni? Mirë, a mund të falsim pak? Oh, nuk keni kohë tani? S'ka problem. Mirupafshim." I'm trying to make an effort to talk to everyone, even if it is only saying hello. Yeah, I've had a lot of people ask me questions about my name. "Watson" is very difficult for them to say, but I ordered a name tag that will spell my name "Uacën" That will be a LOT easier for them to say. I'm just waiting for the tag to be made and sent out here. I'm hoping that it will come pretty soon.

We've had quite a few... unique... experiences street contacting. Elder Clawson told me that one of his favorite things about Albania is, "they don't have mental institutions here, so the people who should be locked up are out roaming the streets." I thought he was joking, but a couple experiences we've had has confirmed his statement. This one lady came up to us one day and she spoke English very well. So we were talking in English and all she could talk about is Ronnie Reagan (Ronald Reagan, US President). She was talking about how she saw him in Syria and how he is actually Albanian. She was teaching us about the operations that he had so he could be taller, whiter, have red hair, and speak like an American. She stayed and talked to us for about 20 minutes, and I'm not exaggerating! She has showed up many times to church and the only thing she wants to do is talk more and more about Ronnie Reagan. We've tried talking to her about the Gospel, but it has gone nowhere. This is just one of the many interesting street contacting experiences we've had. Now, don't think that every person in Albania is like this. Elder Bilideau and Elder Palmer met a man street contacting on my first day in Lushnjë, and he is getting baptized next week! He was definitely prepared to hear the Gospel! It's amazing seeing the progress he's made in just two weeks! It is really awesome to see something like that happen!

I love it here in Albania. I love it here in Lushnjë. I can't imagine being called to serve anywhere else in the world. It's really weird, I feel like I fit in perfectly here! I'm really excited to experience more and more of the aspects of missionary work. I am super excited that I can be a missionary here and talk with people about something I love so much. I love this Gospel and I know that it's true! I have found so much comfort in the Book of Mormon and I know that it is truly the word of God! I love learning about the life of the Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that He is the Son of God, and that He is our Savior. I know that God will help me to learn little by little, and soon I'll be able to understand everything and I'll be able to know how to help others more efficiently. In Albania, they have a saying which translates to, "A stone upon a stone makes a wall, a wall upon a wall makes a castle." Right now I just need to keep putting those little stones on each other, and soon I'll have a castle!

Thank you so much for your love and support!


Elder Watson
A view from "The Palace"
A view from "The Palace"
A view from "The Palace"
A view from "The Palace"
A view from "The Palace"
Inside "The Palace"
A view from "The Palace"
A view from "The Palace"
A view from "The Palace"
Unfortunately, the beach along the Adriatic is filled with trash.
A tiny crab found on the beach.
Elder Clawson playing with the tiny crab
Elder Bilideau enjoying the sea
Blue crab found on the beach
Blue crab
Blue crab
Fishing net in the bay

Saturday, April 12, 2014

7 April 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for your love and support! Thank you for supporting me in my efforts in serving a mission! Without your support, I don't know if I could serve a mission.

The trip to Albania was very long and very hectic! One of the elders in my group had a medical emergency and couldn't come with us to Albania. He is okay now, but he has to stay home for a while under observation to see if he can still come to Albania. Please keep him in your prayers. He was really excited to come to Albania, so that was very hard for all of us to say goodbye to him. The flight from Chicago to Vienna was very long! But the airplane was very comfortable and the people were very kind. I sat next to a man from Vienna and we talked for quite a bit. In Vienna, Elder Bangerter and I were looking for a drinking fountain to get a drink, but guess what doesn't exist in Europe? Yup, drinking fountains. So we found a vending machine, but it only took Euro coins. So we needed to go to an ATM, get some cash, go to the gift store and buy something to get change in coins, and then go back to the machine to get a drink. It turned out to be nearly a half hour adventure! But on the flight from Vienna to Tirana, I sat next to a man from Tirana. We talked for the entire flight in Albanian! He talked very slow, but I understood most of what he said! It was the confidence boost that I needed!

President Ford and his wife are very kind! I am grateful that I get to work with them for a few months before they leave. From the first few minutes of getting to the mission home, we were already going out and teaching lessons and contacting people. We were paired up with other missionaries from Tirana and we got right to work. That was very difficult, but Elder Harvey, the elder I went out with for about and hour, said that I did a great job. I didn't understand what was said, but he said that he was impressed with my abilities already.

Elder Clawson and I are opening a new area in Lushnjë so we are starting from scratch. We don't have any investigators right now, so the majority of our time has been spent street contacting. I've been trying to talk to everyone that walks by, but people mostly ignore us. However, when we get to talk to someone it's really awesome! I don't really understand what is going on because they speak so fast in the south, but I've been trying really hard. I feel bad because I don't feel like I've been doing the same amount of work as Elder Clawson just because I have a language barrier. I try and stop people and then usually Elder Clawson takes over after they respond. From some people, I have received some compliments about how good my language is, and also from others I've been made fun of because I can't really speak yet. But I've been trying to think of what I can do and I'm trying to stay positive. However, it can be hard sometimes. But I just need to rely on the Lord and trust that He will help me to improve over time. 

Albania is very different from the USA. There are animals EVERYWHERE! There will be packs of stray dogs that roam the streets and people are selling live chickens and geese on street corners. The old men "Xhaxhi" sit around all day and play either dominoes or chess. Life here is very slow. People take their time. The people are also very poor. Things are very cheap here. The other day we bought lunch for under $3 for both Elder Clawson and I. Since it is very poor, we don't really get fed by church members, because work is hard to find, they don't have much. But the people are very friendly and very kind. Whenever we go into another person's house they always give you a drink and a snack. The people here are very humble and kind. 

The food is absolutely AMAZING! I love the food here so much! I haven't had a ton of traditional food yet, because I've only been here a short while, but some of my favorite things are byrek and sufllaqe. It is absolutely amazing! I can't imagine serving anywhere else, I know that I'm supposed to be here! Elder Clawson and I don't have a place yet, so we are living with the zone leaders. They have an awesome apartment! They have the nicest place in the entire mission, or so I've heard. We are sleeping on their couches and living out of our suitcases, so part of me wants to get a place so I can unpack and set up a place that can feel more like home.

General Conference was a little weird. They only get to see a couple sessions of General Conference. They watch Saturday morning session on Saturday night and Saturday afternoon session on Sunday morning. Then they watch another session on Sunday night. We set up another room where we could watch a couple talks in English so we could understand. So that was really nice! But it felt really weird not getting to see it all.

Thank you for your love and support! I couldn't do this without you! 


Elder Watson
Elder Watson and Sister Atkin, an instructor at the MTC
Elder Watson and Brother Carver, an instructor at the MTC
Brother McGlothin, an instructor at the MTC, and Elder Watson
Elder Bangerter and Elder Watson on their last Sunday together before leaving MTC
Elder Watson and Elder Dahl

Elder Watson and Elder Myers
Elder Penrod and Elder Watson
Elder Simions and Elder Watson
Elder Watson and Elder Squire
Elder Watson and Elder Waters

Missionaries from the MTC together for one last time at a monument overlooking Tirana, Albania,
just prior to their assignments to different cities.

Eating Sufllaqe
Apallonia, where the Apostle Paul once taught.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

3 April 2014

Elder Watson arrived safe and sound in Tirana, Albania on Wednesday.  He will be serving in Lushnjë, Albania, a part of the Adriatic South Mission. His companion will be Elder Clawson.

Sister Ford and I are so pleased to have Elder Watson as one of our missionaries and look forward to getting to know him well. We know that he will be able to contribute much to the missionary effort of teaching the people of Albania about Jesus Christ.

Missionaries absolutely love to receive mail and can be contacted either by email  or by sending letters through the post office.

Sincerely Andrew Michael Ford
President Albania, Tirana Mission

Elder Clawson and Elder Watson

Sister Ford, Elder Clawson, Elder Watson, President Ford