Tuesday, June 23, 2015

400km adventure on P day..Macedonia, Lake Pogradec and Korca

All the elders that toured with us, including
my companion Elder Befus in the front

Again, no time so I’ll be brief with my remarks! I’ll try plan for more time next week but man, transfer calls are coming so I’ll probably have no time at all next week as well... that’s mission life for you, busy busy!

Well, yesterday was an awesome P day. The reason I am writing today on Tuesday is because I completely ran out of time yesterday! We rose and left the house by 6.30am and got home at 9.00pm, drove about 400km's, taught a few lessons, crossed a few borders - man it was awesome! 

A little Macedonian shop, the lady spoke no english or no albanian, 5 minutes from the border
A little orthodox shrine in the township
So the Assistants to the President called and told me I needed to leave the country to sort some visa stuff out, and then after that they wanted me to teach some received referrals in a southern city called "Korca", which is not open to missionary work at the moment. It was an awesome trip and I had so much fun. The lessons we taught were great and it looked like there could be some awesome potential down there. Maybe it will open up soon. I also met an Australian family down there, which was both strange and awesome! The husband was albanian so the kids understood both english and Albanian. Really sweet.
Did I mention that I was driving? Haha craziness. This right hand side driving business is great. Slightly terrifying given the arrogance and selfishness of most drivers here, but it was completely great, I loved it. Being behind a wheel again inspired a feeling of trust and confidence.

Wednesday we have a conference as a mission in Elbasan. It should be a really good spiritual experience, I’m excited. Our mission president is awesome. I really look forward to any time I spend with him, because I know I’m going to learn a lot. And thats the purpose of a mission right, and in a greater perspective - life - to learn? 

Mission life is great. Probably the hardest thing I've ever dealt with in my life, but by far the most rewarding. The lessons here have been invaluable and I am so grateful that the Lord has found me fit and entrusted me with stewardship over a part of his vineyard. I know the Lord qualifies those that He calls, whatever he asks that we do, it is written and the promise is true that he will provide a way for us to accomplish that.

I hope you are all well. I brought a new watch. I bargained it down from 35 to 25 (dad, you would have been proud of me in my element) so I thought it was a steal, it's a beautiful thing and I intend to take care of it! I only got it because my watch was breaking and killing my wrist of its circulation, so I thought it was a justified spend :) 

I love you all - Until next week!

Elder Waters

Lake and township Pogradec

The view overlooking Lake Pogradec

A catholic church, it was really really pretty inside

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Kastriot gets baptized!

Our brother Kastriot Sk├źnderaj on his special day
Well Im glad you love photos because I've got a few this week. I've been trying to be better with taking more photos, because you only have one mission right! That and journal writing, I brought a brand new Journal and a flashy fountain pen and since then I haven't missed a day, of which I am really grateful! Its a hard thing to do if you don't have a set plan, but since I restarted, got all nice fresh new equipment it became easy and fun to do! - Much like repentance.... Haha, see what I did there? I love the mindset that being in the service of the Lord puts you in. Everything is spiritual, your spiritual horizons are enlightened and the beauty of life increases as you realize how loving and generous our Heavenly Father is! 

All spiritual tangents aside (haha), Are you considering coming over here to pick me up? Because that would be totally awesome. I would absolutely love that. I know it's a pricey pickle, but if you do everything you can to get here I promise you I'll treat you to the best of Albania I can! Hopefully by then I speak a little better Albanian, know a few more people and places, so I'll be able to show you the potential of this Beautiful country. 
Me and Elder Cani studying.  He is the Elder that can read the Greek font on the Apolloni Temple Pillars
Apolloni is beautiful! The view was great, man I loved it. It was just like this awesome massive hill with a 360 degree view of an awesome countryside. Yeah the history is crazy. One of the Albanian Elders that was there had lived in greece for a little while, so he was able to read the old greek writings on top of the massive temple pillars, which was sweet! It was really cool.
The font from down under. It is such a battle to put up and take down, it's a workout!
This week was interesting. It was awesome and it had its hardships, highlight was definitely our brother 'Kastriot Sk├źnderaj' being baptized! He was probably the happiest man on the planet, it meant the world to him. He's great. I gave him a shirt and tie to get him started on his Journey in the church, he loved it. I know I didn't write home much about him but I’ll tell you a little bit about him now, he came along to a ward activity about 9 or so weeks ago, loved it. Has come to church every week since but has struggled to understand basic principles of the gospel, but ever since day one he has just loved the gospel and his desire to serve God has been unparalleled. Even though he doesn't understand a lot, it was really enlightening and inspiring to see him work so hard towards his baptismal day, constantly he would say, with a driving passion in his voice, often banging his hands on the table as he exclaimed that "I have entered into this church, I have chosen this road, I have faith and I will serve Him (the Lord) until the end!". It was a great experience working with him. Your prayers helped, I tell you that!
Us with Kastriot and Endrit. Endrit baptized Kastriot
The weather is a killer here man! She's super hot, I often find myself drenched in sweat every time we get home, it’s great! We have received a commitment from our Zone Leaders based on a scripture found in D&C 123:13, a piece of which says that we should "Waste and wear out our lives [in preaching the Gospel]" and when I get back home and I’m covered in sweat and dust, eyelids almost on the floor I’m so tired, I feel like I'm giving the Lord my all! What a great feeling. 

The new boulevard that they made, its actually really pretty and completely full with people during the night

Fier Branch is crazy, the members here are crazy and I love them. I truly love it here. The city just built a new boulevard near our house and it is real pretty, everyone walks it every night, the city gets busy and everyone is just happy. Its what this place needs, a bit of happy! (And we got it :D) 

If you can’t tell, I’m still buzzing about being here. I love it. Truly grateful for the grace of our Lord and Saviour, for the gift of the Atonement that He has so selflessly offered and for the many things that we can become and accomplish because of Him. Its all because of Him. I know its true. 

Love you mum.
Elder Waters

 Ylli, (Pronounced ew-lee), We are working with him. That shop right there is his. It's where he works.
'Kujtim' . One day we were street contacting, I said to him at his door after he answered "We are missionaries and we talk to people about faith" and he responded by saying "Why outside? Come in Come in!!" Which is a serious miracle here in Albania. We are working with him now.

 One of our investigators, Kleard, he's awesome and should be baptized on the 27 june!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Photos.. And a beautiful letter to his Dad.

Dad, It might sound funny. But Im proud of you too. You are an awesome father. 

The other night I was laying awake in bed, thinking about how ridiculously merciful the lord has been to me (as per usual) and I was thinking about how much of a hard worker you are, providing for your (sometimes ungrateful) kids, and by that I mean me. I remember, and always will, how one time you told me that you used to shave dry (without shaving cream) Just so we could we could have weetbix on the table, to eat. By the way I’m starting to understand the beauty of shaving cream because I’m actually needing to shave daily now, haha. Dad I love you, you have sacrificed much for me, and worked even harder to keep me living and feeling loved. I am glad that I am bringing you honour now by serving my mission. I was reading a section of my Journal where I was staying in the Mount, And bishop had called me and told me that I could be going on my mission in two weeks - and as we both remember I didn't sound too excited (In your own words) - And I wasn't, because I was dead scared. A big part of re deciding to serve my mission and re-doing everything I could to get out was based on the legacy that you have always told me that I would start. That I would be the First "Elder Waters", the way you would look at me as you would tell me this dad - That is the look of pure love - I can’t Explain it any better. Your Righteous desires for me has helped me be a better person, I know you love the Lord. You're an awesome example. You and mum are incredible. The longer I serve the more I begin to understand that this is true. Truly you are my heroes. My heart is always with you two. 

But anyway. Just a little tear shed, here in amongst this rowdy, smoke drenched internet cafe that I stand in. Haha - ain’t that funny, how one can stand amongst such a foul environment but feel the spirit of the Lord ... - anyway not what I wanted to talk about. Time is short. Always. 
Dad I am so glad you are finally doing the work for our family! I have made a goal to go to the temple every week when I return. I never want to miss a week dad. Never again. Never. Never! It would be awesome if we could go together too. It is so important! I’ll say it again, when I get back I never want to miss a week!

I had a dream the other week. That I had returned from my mission and was working back in burger king, I was doing the same old stuff, in the same old mindset, with the same old attitude -"I cant wait to finish work and go home". It was highly symbolic and as I began to understand the symbolism, my heart began to sink. The significance of it was basically this "You spent two years serving the Lord and when you came back home, you returned to your old habits and your old ways, you did NOT change, and fell subject to the same temptations that subdued you beforehand." 

Can you imagine that? Spending two years in the service of the Lord and not changing at all? Well I was forced to imagine it and it racked my soul. Dad I’m not a disobedient missionary, I try pretty hard - but Am I doing enough? When I go out to work each day, to do the Lords work, is my heart fueling every single feasible effort? Or am I just labouring with my might and strength, and withholding my heart and mind. The principle lesson to my dream was this - are you efforts towards serving God really changing you? Are they changing your natures and your core values and beliefs, or is it just a mere temporal adjustment to your behaviour? 

This dream has stayed with me dad and it keeps me on my toes. Every single act we commit that honours our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ should change our natures for the better, and we should do All that He asks with a willing heart. 

May the Lord bless you and our wonderful family, wherever we are in the world.
Elder Waters

Theres is this place called a 'creperi' and they sell crepes, which are like pancakes wrapped up with different ingredients - I go there often and order a "Waters", which is the white chocolate crepe you see in the photos... Yup, I got it so much that I asked for a nickname about it!  And now, every time I walk in, I ask for it hahaha. It's great!

Me getting a haircut at this awesome albanian barber... it costs me only $2 every time for a quality, FAST (oh man he's ridiculously fast it's so cool) haircut. He is awesome. And then afterwards he even cuts my sides up with a straight blade and slaps me with aftershave! All for $2 each! Awesome.

 More photos that were taken in Apollonia of the ruins..Can't be certain if the apostle Paul actually preached the gospel here or not...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Heavenly Father is always there.

22 years together.. That's awesome Mum..

It's been an eventful week for me too.  I barely have any time or energy to write, its been full on and we've been working hard and playing hard too. Today we went to Apollonia, I'll send more photos next week, so I can focus on writing you.  My email is pretty full, people are so nice and love writing me haha. Bless their souls - I can't find the time to write them back! 

The photos of the ruins were taken at a place called Apollonia, A place where Paul, according to the Bible, preached the Gospel. Pretty cool huh!

Tahei is going! Oh man thats awesome. Give her a big hug for me, she's going to be an awesome missionary, once more :D 

That's crazy cool about Jordi and Kyla coming to visit too - she sent some photos as well, Thats really cool mum! She said she whipped you in 5 crowns..

Our investigators are good mum! Kastriot (one of our investigators) is getting baptized this week, it should be good, expect photos! Also our family is set for 13 of June. It's awesome seeing people act on their faith and make changes.. One highlight of my week was after one of our shorter lessons (25ish minutes) I asked if they liked the lesson and they were like "Yeah.... but it was a bit short", HA! I was surprised, I was like wait... you want longer lessons? They were like yeah we want longer we want longer! Hahaha it just shows how much they love feeling the spirit, it was beautiful. A beautiful moment.

But perhaps the most beautiful experience that I had this week was my (unprepared) talk at church. This week was a difficult week. Our branch has been struggling and its been affecting the work.. So when we got to church I started playing the Piano as usual, setting things up, doing this doing that and 5 minutes before sacrament another missionary comes up and says "Hey, you're speaking in sacrament today, you'll be the first speaker". Haha this guy! I totally thought he was joking and I kinda kept on playing the piano, thinking "nahhh, surely he's not serious" . Surely enough, I went and checked with him, got off the piano and inquired. He was dead serious. I was dead scurred! As the assigned speakers had not shown, Branch President Gjika had asked us 3 missionaries to speak. Immediately I quivered with fear, and doubt and worry quickly filled my thoughts. Who am I? I am not prepared! I barely speak Albanian! This isn't fair! .... Soon after my instantaneous and immature reaction, came a still calming thought "Fear not.. Only believe". Never before had these words of my Savior came to me with more force and appeal than now. In that moment my fears had ceased, truly just vanished. For a moment I felt so spiritually at peace and enlightened, so comforted, as if everything was going to be alright. And then the nerves came back, but deep down I knew it would be alright. Even until I was walking up to the pulpit to deliver my talk, I didn't really know what I would say.. But I bore my testimony of the Savior and what I knew to be true. From there everything seemed to flow and I ended up talking about Charity and how we need to develop it in the ward, shared a few scriptures and ended up talking for around 15 minutes or so. (Dad, I am an Albanian minute-man! :D )

Mum, I've never felt like a mouthpiece of the Lord more in my whole life. Looking back I was preaching some pretty strong repentance to the whole branch, it's such an interesting thing, as I gave the talk I was completely comfortable, even in Albanian. I have no doubt that the spirit of the Lord was upon me, I found myself in a position where all I had to rely on was the Lord and of course, he delivered me. The promise recorded in D&C 82:85 is true, the spirit filled my voice with Gods word and I was given utterance. 

God fulfills all of his promises to His Children. I know this is true, I have seen it, I have lived it. He provides a way for us to complete every commandment we gives him. Whom the Lord calls, He qualifies.

I have been fortunate to see the Hand of the Lord in the work and, even though at times it was ridiculously difficult, and I often fell, the Lord has always been there, and always accepting of us no matter what we have done. Every night I laid in bed before I slept, I reflected on my day and I am touched so deeply by the apparent mercy of the Lord in my life. My heart pangs, that the Lord can have so much love for me, in all my weakness and inadequacies, even though I can sway and dwindle from his path, and at the end of the Day he still loves and blesses me. He is always there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

EXACT Obedience brings blessings!

Hi mum!
Happy Birthday Nivies!!!
That’s so funny that Nevah got the day off school for his birthday, oh and that he has an Iphone? the lucky punk! hahaha. Man ain’t he just the coolest? How is he going anyway? Big 14 wohoo!! Nevah can now prepare AND pass the sacrament! What a soldier haha, good on yah nivs! Thats so cool.

Here's a little bit of what happened in this awesome, yet tough, but mostly awesome..week.. oh man, this week was Incredible! I cannot adequately express how merciful the Lord is and has been to me.

First of all I would like to share an experience I had on an exchange with my district leader, Elder Linderman.

We were out on the street during the evening contacting and Elder Linderman had a prompting that we needed to have a street meeting in a local park called "Xhaxhi Park" where all the Old Men (or Xhaxhi's) meet to play chess and dominoes and talk about communism. I will say it is not a "hot spot" for missionary work because a typical Xhaxhi will not let
you talk but will lecture you on communism as opposed to listening to your message, So most of the missionaries don't bother going there to the Xhaxhi parks. But I am not one to deny my companions spiritual impressions, thus we unanimously decided to have a street meeting, like missionaries of old. After a short stroll to contemplate everything a street meeting would encompass, and to kindle and control our fears, we finally came to ourselves and went into the Park. I stood up on one of the tables in the middle of the Xhaxhi park, before maybe 50 xhaxhi's, and with a loud voice called their attention, explained who we were and invited them to gather together, exclaiming to them that we had a story to tell them about Joseph Smith. So for the next 5 minutes or so, Elder Linderman and I took turns standing at the top of the table, teaching and testifying before everyone that would hear us, about the Prophet Joseph Smith. Determined, we delivered our message and afterwards approached those whom appeared interested. We only talked to 2 people individually about our message that we shared but regardless, it was AWESOME. I felt so empowered by the spirit. I felt great! There was no one in that park more influenced and touched by the message that we shared than Me and Elder Linderman. In that beautiful moment, I opened my mouth, the spirit supported me and I Feared No Man!!!   Something that is not easy for me to do. I feel like the Lord gave me the strength to do this and realize that "Yes, Elder Waters, you can do Hard Things". And Oh how much did my confidence and courage increase!

Secondly, was the success we had with finding new investigators and teaching people. Elder Befus and I tried our hardest to be EXACTLY Obedient this week, and I know with surety that we were blessed because of it. We were blessed insomuch that we achieved the "standards of excellence" set by our mission president, the first time in my mission. I very deeply attribute this to the mercy of the Lord. This week I witnessed Miracle after Miracle and I know it was only through Him that we achieved our goals.
However, the greater Joy I experienced was in our new family that we found this week, they are incredible. We found the elect! And they are all incredible. The lessons we have with them are drowned with the Spirit of the Lord, so much that they have all (3) accepted baptismal dates, keep their commitments and even call us to confirm appointments! Exclaiming "When are we going to meet? When are we going to meet?" . They are a family truly prepared from the Lord, to hear this beautiful message that we share. 

 I saw miracle after miracle after miracle this past week. But before we saw each miracle, we were basically dragged through the coal and discouraged in the morning, and then (afterwards) the Lord poured miraculous blessings upon our heads in the evening. We really did only "receive a witness until after the trial of [our] faith", and it was so humbling. It was such a roller coaster ride. Truly I can say, with experience as my guide that the Lord is truly Merciful unto his children. Unto me.

So if your in the middle of being dragged through the coal right now... Just endure! Don't give up! Because the blessings of Heaven are juuuuuuust around the corner, the miracles are there! Keep going and you will see them, I promise you! Keep the course!

Love and miss you deeply all so much! 

Elder Waters

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Short on time..

Sorry mum, like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand, I have also placed my internet time upon the sand, and soon it will wash away!

Saying goodbye to my companion was good mum. It wasn't sad at all, It was just like, well good luck my friend! He's an awesome missionary and I got to know him pretty good for the 6 weeks we spent together. But what will be harder for me, is seeing all the missionaries from my original MTC group go home. I think that'll be a pretty big slap in the face wake up call. Then its all counting down from then on! But hey thats a little way away and we don't have to think about these things. I'm thankful that I haven't been struggling with things like home sickness or worrying about things at home - my mind and heart is here. 

Now I am with Elder Befus, I give him heaps! I love him, he's great. He has served for the same amount of time as me so we get to struggle and learn together at the same pace. He's really awesome. He's from Utah... (It was going to happen at least once in my mission, haha) and we're gonna do some fine work together. 

Given that he hasn't got much time here in Albania, and almost none at all in Fier, I have found myself in a little bit of a leader-ish position. Meaning, I have to lead the planning's and everything as opposed to relying on a senior companion and whew it is rough! Haha. I truly would love to sit here and tell you all about it but time grows short. I am so glad that the Lord qualifies those whom He calls. Without His divine assurance, I would not be able to do any of this work. My efforts would be in vain and I would struggle in vain. But God Lives and he Loves! And he has assured us that we can accomplish all of the things that he has asked of us (1Nephi 3:7 Anyone?). 

Perhaps the most touching experience that brought me to tears was a conversation of Elder and Sister Bednar that I heard, which can be listened to here:

It is the first few remarks that Sister Bednar gives, that really hits me. And should be personal to all of us (Our family), because what she testifies of as being such a wonderful opportunity, has had a direct correlation with our lives. O how great the wisdom and the love! Oh how merciful the Lord is to us and our little family. Let us be faithful in our service to Him!

With love

Elder Waters
This is outside our chapel, me with an ex-sister missionary. Sister Molifua, shes awesome! Mostly because shes the 2nd Polynesian to serve in this mission (she's samoan), I'm still the first Elder tho, wohoo!! (We might have been the only 2 polynesians in the whole of Albania at that time hahaha.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mothers Day Skype!

hey mum :)

Talking yesterday was awesome. It was so good to see everyone and I'm glad things are good - busy is good!  

Well. Something I didn't tell you is I get a new companion this week, Elder Befus, who came into the country same time as me, who also returned back to the field after being out here! I've met him before and all I can say is that it is going to be an awesome transfer!  He is a super awesome missionary and I look forward to it.

Okay I don't have much to say, I said it all yesterday! Haha and what a blessing it was... All the missionaries in my district are buzzing and so happy they got to talk with their families. One of them is my district leader, Elder Linderman, he says hi. He's super awesome, from california, really great missionary, ex assistant to the president, so I get to learn a lot from him.

Hows nan and pop?

Love ya, talk in a week!

Elder Waters