Dear Family and Friends,
Thank you so much for your email and your support. Being a missionary is a lot of tough work, and it really helps to know that others are thinking about and praying for you.
Darn, I can't believe that Psych ended. That's so weird to think that, but yeah I agree that some of the plots were getting weird. It's so weird to think of all the things that will happen in the next two years that I'll miss. At times it can be hard because we'll be walking down the street and we'll hear a song playing and then we think of all the music we've missed in the past few months. But that stuff can wait for a while. It'll still be there when I get home. Speaking of months, I've been in Albania for a whole month already! çne!?! ("çne" = "What the heck?") Time is going by so fast! I've been on my mission for three months already, that's a quarter of a year! Time is flying! Wow.
Elder Clawson and I don't have an entire house. Here in Albania, no one really has a private house in the city. They only have small private houses in the villages. There are three floors to our building: The first floor is a pastry shop and a machine shop; the second floor is where we live; and the third floor is where our landlord lives. The first floor of every building is usually a shop of some kind and then the rest of the building above it is apartments. There are tons of large apartment buildings that are built, but the insides aren't finished. That's one thing that was really difficult for Elder Clawson and I when we were looking for a place in Lushnjë. The building where we live is entirely furnished, so moving in was really easy. It's a really nice place, I can't complain. On our windows, we have something called shields. They're very similar to storm shutters, but they block out EVERYTHING. We compare them to blast doors from Star Wars frequently. We can make our place pitch black in the middle of the afternoon. One other crazy thing about Albania is that everything shuts down in the middle of the day for a couple hours. In the summer, it is very hot and very humid so people will go home and sleep during that time of day, so the entire city shuts down. School lets out for a couple hours and then starts again later in the afternoon. Businesses close and reopen the same way. So we get a two hour break for lunch and an hour of study time after that in the middle of the day when everyone is at home sleeping, and then we work from then until the end of the day.
I haven't taken a picture with the John Lennon statue, yet, but it's right here in Durrës near the Vulga. The Vulga is right along the sea coast and it's essentially a constant fair. There are thrill rides and games, and it's a very beautiful part of the city. There are TONS of people on the Vulga in the evening, so we have contacted there quite a bit. Speaking of people who are popular in Albania, did you know that Mother Theresa was Albanian? I didn't know that until this week! Crazy! Also, Jim Belushi is Albanian as well! His parents are from a city called Korçë. I found that out a couple weeks ago, but it slipped my mind. People here absolutely LOVE Jim Belushi! Elder Clawson told me this one story of an investigator he had and one time in his prayer he prayed for the safety of Jim Belushi. People here have a lot of pride in Jim Belushi.
I don't have my new name tag yet. The name tags are here in Albania, but they're in Tiranë and you have to get them in person. I'll be going to Tiranë the Monday and Tuesday after Mother's Day for an appointment at the US Embassy and for our half-way training. Wow, I'm already at the half-way point of my training! That's kinda' scary to think that I'll be done with the training program in six weeks. Elder Clawson said that after the training program you usually serve with someone from your MTC group. That's a scary thought! I've been talking with a lot of the missionaries from my group and most of us feel like we don't understand anything that's going on. But if we trust in the Lord, He will help us grow and improve.
Wow, it's weird to think that there's still ice on Mille Lacs Lake. The temperature here has been about 20 C, which is a really comfortable temperature. It's rained a lot here this last week too! There was one day that it down poured nearly all day, and the roads were starting to flood over! Some of the side roads turned to streams. This last week I was really grateful for waterproof shoes and an umbrella! It sounds like things are going on like normal at home. It's nice to hear that things are getting done little by little. I feel the same way right now, I'm growing little by little and one day I hope to be finished and happy with the results! Just remember these profound words, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't slow down and look around once in a while, you just might miss it". -Ferris Beuller
This past week has been really interesting. It started off really great! Elder Clawson and I set a goal to speak Albanian with each other more often to help improve our language. We just left our house one morning and we were walking down the road and I said to him, "Ai ka një ari. çne??" He looked at me really weird because I said, "He has a bear. What the heck??" He thought that I was just being weird and random, but then he looked over and he saw a man walking a bear down the street on a leash. We both got really excited and we asked the guy if we could take a picture with the bear. He said yes and he handed the leash to us. We got pictures with a bear!! We were so excited that we forgot about our goal to speak Albanian with each other more. We can all improve in something. But, anyways, we got pictures taken with a bear! A pretty decent sized bear too! That was so awesome! Also, Elder Clawson has been giving me more opportunities where I have to rely more on my own abilities. He's made me speak on the phone with Albanians a lot this week. It's really difficult because I don't really understand them when I'm speaking to them face-to-face, so when you add in the static and the background noise of a phone call, it gets even harder! But some of the other elders in my district listened to me during my first phone call and they said that they were really impressed, so maybe my language is a little better than I give myself credit for. The elders here in Durrës are very kind and they help me to improve! The week started off on a really high because we contacted some people who seemed really interested in learning more, so we set up lessons with them. However, when the time for the lessons came, they didn't show up and they wouldn't answer our phone calls. So right now we don't have any investigators. It's been really tough on us. At times it's been really discouraging because we've been seeing the other elders have tons of success and we're just contacting all of the time with pretty much no results.
However, I know that if we are patient when things aren't going the way we want, then we will find success. Trusting in the Lord is key whenever we are going through hard times, whether it's not having success finding investigators, or if it's a time when nothing seems to be going right for you even when you are doing everything right. Trusting in the Lord is essential when we go through trials. Even when we aren't going through trials, we must continue to put our trust in the Lord. When we think that we can do this on our own, the Lord will let us. Imagine this, the Being that created the Universe, that has all power and all knowledge, that is perfect in the very definition of the word, can and will help us with anything if we let Him. It's our choice. Either we can trust that He will help us with our problems, or we can rely only on ourselves. He loves us and he wants us to be happy right now, but each one of us has to make that decision for himself or herself. I don't know about you, but I'd want to have help from God in everything that I do. I want that help in my life, so what will I do? I'll trust in Him. When things go bad, I still want that help so I'll continue to trust in God. If I ever stop trusting in God, then it'll be like I'm saying, "I don't want anymore help". As long as I trust in the Lord, the Lord will help me. I know that the Lord will help EVERYONE that puts their trust in Him. Do you want help from God in everything that you do? If you do, then what should you do? Trust. I challenge each of you to trust more in the Lord this next week and see the blessings that come from it.
Say hello to Grandma and Grandpa Hawkins, the guys at work, and the Princeton Ward! Send them my love! Thank you for all of the love and support you give to me, I couldn't do this without you!