History of the Church in Macedonia

Macedonia, in 2012, was opened for missionary work, making it the last country to be opened in all of Europe. The only city open in Macedonia right now is Skopje. We use Serbian materials for the most part. All we have in Macedonian are the sacramental prayers, the Gospel Fundamentals Book, and A Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. We have most of the other materials in Serbian, but for example, we use the Croatian Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, since those aren't translated yet. We learn Bulgarian in the MTC, which is similar to the Macedonian language. Macedonian is a part of the Adriatic South Mission because of the high presence of Albanians and the low geographical area of the mission. Even with Macedonia, it's still the smallest mission area-wise in the European Area. Currently, it's illegal for us to tract (knock doors), so the bulk of our finding is done through street contacting.

An LDS couple, the Junckers, were doing some kind of work unrelated to the church in Skopje in about 2009. At the end of their stay, they were asked by a church official to extend their stay and to serve a mission in Macedonia. They agreed, and they worked there as humanitarian aid missionaries. In 2010, Elder Russel M Nelson traveled to Skopje and dedicated the country. The Junckers talked with their associates, found 6 people, and those 6 Macedonian people became the 6 founders for the Church in Macedonia, and the Church became officially registered in the country.

The first proselyting missionaries came in April 2012. Despite being there to proselyte, it was illegal for them to do so. One was pulled from Albania, and the other from Serbia. They couldn't bring up the church to anyone legally, the people had to come to them about it. Even so, they managed to catch the attention of Elmaz Arif, who after being taught for quite some time, was baptized in October 2012 and became the first member to be baptized in Macedonia. During this time, church was held in the Juncker's home in Skopje. The Junckers were replaced by the Andersons that year.

In 2013, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Sants got legally registered in the country, making proselyting legal for the missionaries there. The church started renting out a conference room in Hotel Arka for Sunday services. 4 Macedonians got baptized that year.

Sisters were brought into Macedonia at the beginning of 2014. The Skopje group also became the Skopje Branch, with James Swineford put in as the president. 2014 also saw the baptisms of 9 people, including the first family (link to an article of one of the members is at the bottom).

At the beginning of 2015, there were a total of 10 missionaries in the country. With help from the lawyers that work with the church, a building was found that would be suitable for the church to have a more permanent location in the municipality of Zdanec, Kozle. 2 people got baptized.

Released Elder Rigby

July 31, 2016

Richard gave a wonderful talk yesterday about his service as a missionary in Macedonia. He considered his time there the best two years of his life, and will really miss being there. He enjoyed the Macedonian people he met, the dedicated local church members, the missionaries he worked with, the couple service missionaries, and he said his mission president was truly inspired. One country, but several religions and languages, and a mix of cultures.

Elder Rigby came home with a bag of missionary badges printed in different languages which illustrated the first challenge he faced: talking to the people. He learned Bulgarian in the MTC, needed to learn Macedonian (took about 8 months to begin fluency), but since the mission also covered Albania and Kosovo (speak Albanian), he learned a bit of these other languages as well. His Bible and a few church pamphlets were in Macedonian, the Book of Mormon was in Serbian, and the D&C was in Croatian.

Only street contacting was allowed, which meant they had to find investigators by talking to people on the streets. He told about working with a single fellow and a family that were eventually baptized. Economic hardship is a part of life for many Macedonians. Many grow up smoking and drinking alcohol, Turkish coffee and tea. These were challenges to baptizing people. However, because any family benefits from gospel principles and the church, he was instrumental to helping them want to eventually be baptized with persistence and the help of the Spirit. Some had to travel quite far to get attend Sunday church meetings.

A pivotal time was when the mission president challenged all the missionaries to read the entire Book of Mormon in a month. Then again the next month, this time seeking to better understand Christ’s atonement. These challenges helped improve missionary desire to share the gospel and their fluency in speaking to the people about the blessings the Church could bring into their lives.

Elder Rigby hopes to keep in contact with members, ex-missionaries, friends, and others he met on Facebook and other social media. Next he is heading up to BYU to study Mechanical Engineering.
Pics -- with my dad and brothers and sisters:
The extended Rigby family: grandma, uncle Paul and aunt Michelle, and cousins:
At Gaslight Theater with the Rigby side of the family:

July 27, 2016

Elder Richard arrived home safely.

July 25, 2016

Short and Sweet...So I don't have any emailing time. I just drove up to Tirana and I'll be here for the last few days of my mission. But I just want to say that I'm so thankful for this experience I've been able to have serve as a missionary the past 2 years. I really wouldn't trade it for anything, because of the knowledge I've been able to gain, and the people I've been able to meet. I know that God loves all of his children.

If you want anything more than that, go to my homecoming or something. Well, I'll see all you guys on the flip side. Love you all!
Elder Rigby

July 18, 2016

The Last Full Week! I've said that time is flying before, but now it's like it got on the star ship enterprise and it's going warp speed. I'm really going to miss the mission and all the great people here.
This week we found a whole lot of Muslims that were very grounded in their beliefs. Usually when people want to start bashing, I try to end the conversation as fast as possible because there's no point, but there were some real persistent ones this week! So we entertained them a bit. For the most part, they try to explain what Islam is about, and expect us to agree with them upon finally finding out. I let them know that I've been here for about 2 years talking to Muslims, and usually they get pretty taken aback, and don't have any real arguments worth arguing about after that. It felt good to testify about what I know to them, even if they don't want to accept it.

Since my time is winding down and no one new wanted to meet this week, we met with some old investigators this week. One of those was Alexander, a tour guide that Elder Prince and I used to teach. He doesn't really want to change his life and keep commitments, so after a time we couldn't meet with him anymore. He would always wear a shirt that says I LOVE HONG KONG. I told him that I'm from there, and he has always brought it up ever since. He's also got the most booming laugh. 
We met with Danilo and his family also this week, who are old investigators. I've been over to their house 3 times, each time about a year apart from the last. They're some of the nicest people I've ever met, and we got fed by them. And it was STUFFED PEPPERS. Grandma, if I didn't like those back when I was home, I don't know what was wrong with me. We had a really good discussion about Jesus Christ though. They're 7th Day Adventists, and it was a Saturday that we met with them, so it worked out well! 
Speaking about food, the worst thing by far I've had on my mission is Ajran. It's like spoiled milk with some salt in it. One day through the week, we got lunch as a district and we decided it was time for the new sisters to try it. They weren't buying into it that it was good to drink it, so Sister Dow took some massive swigs of it. Good on her for making the sacrifice. They decided it was safe enough after that, and we got to enjoy their priceless reactions after the fact.

Sister Kelly, who I served with here in Skopje about a year ago, finished her mission about half  year ago, but she came back this week to visit! It was pretty weird to see her as a non-missionary, especially since I'm still a missionary.

Elder Rigby

For any who want to come, my homecoming talk will be July 31st at 8:30am at the Cortaro Ward. The meetinghouse is located at 3530 West Magee Road Tucson AZ.

July 11, 2016

Ending with the Beginning! Going back to the center area of Skopje, I've returned to the exact same area where I started my mission. But it's not like there's a lot of other choices! I get to work with Bojan and Frosina again though, but this time as recent converts! Well, at least with Frosina. Bojan went off to England a couple weeks ago to go work without even saying goodbye to anyone! So unfortunately I probably won't be seeing him again. Frosina was telling us how she's still deciding whether she will go too. She told us she would have to pay 900 Denars (~$18) for her flight to London, and then the bus ride would be 1200 Denars (~$24) to the city where Bojan is at. But she was also telling us that Bojan found the church in England, so all is good!

There's a couple in our branch from Russia called the Relkovas. They've got really strong testimonies, and they're great members, but they've always been hindered a little bit because of their limited Macedonian. But with Elder Bowen here, and our mostly English speaking branch, Sister Relkova gave a talk in Russian, with Elder Bowen translating to English, and some missionaries translating for those non English speakers in the seats.. I could pick up bits and pieces of the Russian. It's like the equivalent of regular English and the hardcore Pidgin English they've got in Africa! She gave a way good talk though about the Restoration. Such a cool couple. 

On Saturday night, the sisters came back from Tirana with some new sisters, so we're back to 10 missionaries in Skopje now. They seem like they're ready to help though, so that's good. 
Elder Rigby

July 4, 2016

HAPPY AMERICA DAY!! Don't worry guys, after this one, only 3 more emails will be going your way from me!

The assistants called us Monday night, telling us that we would be heading to Kumanovo to check out the city! So we headed over there on Thursday. I've been there a few times, but this time was by far the most successful. Everyone was very open to talk, and I'd bet 99% had never seen missionaries before! We were scouting for a place for church along the way, and we found a guy who I'd bet owns about half the city. He kept showing us place after place. But in the end, we found out from President Weidmann that now is not the time for Kumanovo. 

The Watermans had us over for an early 4th of July party! It was a lot of fun. It also happened to be Canada day, so we got to make a lot of jokes at the only Canadian and only non-American there, Sister Dow. 

This week was also transfer week! I'll be following the same path that my trainer, Elder Prince, had, and I'll end my mission by being with my trainee, Elder Dibble, for one month. Elder Dibble is a serious stud, so I'm way psyched for it!

One fun fact about my mission: the first 13 months of my mission, I had 13 companions; the last 11, only two, Elder Chingas and Dibble. 
Elder Rigby