December 8, 2014

MACEDONIIIAAAAAAA!!!  I MADE IT!!! But I have to start from the beginning.
My last week in Provo was fantastic! It felt surreal that I was actually leaving. It seemed like it was my real mission since I had been there for so long. The highlight of the week was a lesson Elder Messegee and I had with a 13-year old named Walker. He has an inactive mom and the bishop in her ward invited them and us over for dinner, and that's where we found them! The lesson didn't go the best, but at the end of it, I asked him how he felt as we taught the Restoration, and he said that he felt just warm and happy inside that was different. I love the Holy Ghost! This is a kid who didn't know who Jesus Christ is or had ever been a part of any church, and we were able to expose him to the Holy Ghost and help him identify it, which was pretty sweet. I love that guy. Then on Thanksgiving, we had our Turkey Bowl against another zone, and then we just ate at a ton of members for the rest of the day since nobody let's us teach them on holidays. I got my fair slice of pie.
Sunday came, and it just felt strange. These were my last times in a chapel, eating real American food, teaching in English, using a dryer. We got to speak in a sacrament meeting. The night came, so we drove up to Provo for my final interview with President McCune. He's such an amazing guy, holy cow. He was so caring of me, even though I was just there for a short time, and he had 270 other missionaries to deal with. Then Elder Stoker, Tucker, Messegee, and I piled in a car for the short drive to the MTC, where those 3 became a tri-panionship to cover all of Payson until the transfer is over. That's like 70 lessons a week. I do not envy them. I'm going to miss them though, they were all great missionaries, I was very fortunate with that in Povo. Elder Chingas and I met back up, and we(he) finished packing everything, making sure we(he) were good on weight for our bags until like 12:30. After a long hour of sleep, we got up and headed to the airport with Sister Hassell. We were all crazy excited, and crazy tired. After our flight to Texas, on our flight to New York, I sat next to the CEO of a Girl Scouts organization and got to answer many of her questions about Mormons, which was sweet.

We landed in New York, and two missionaries, Elder McCabe and Hussein picked us up. They showed us around Queens while we went contacting. I found out Elder Tanner Morse from my hometown was serving in that mission, so we gave him a call. He was right next to us, so we met up at the mission office, and it was awesome to see him. The next morning, we headed to the Macedonian consulate and picked up our visas. We were figuring it would take hours, but it only took 5 minutes, so then we had some time to check out Grand Central station, although we didn't get to go to Times Square. They took us to a few spots, we contacted some more, and then they took us to the airport, and we were off to Austria! I got a bit of sleep on it, but we traveled through the night, so we had some pretty severe jet lag when we landed at 8 in the morning. We found the gate that took us on a bus to the airplane a few miles away. We got onto the plane, and I sat next to an Albanian Muslim, and tried to communicate with her for a bit. Then she mentioned she is Islamic, which threw me off, and the conversation was over right there. The environment in Provo made me forget how to deal with other people.
We landed, IN MACDONIA! Everything was so green and beautiful. I had been waiting for this moment for so long. Surrealness to the max. We got our bags, and found President and Sister Weidmann and all the missionaries in Macedonia waiting for us. The assistants to the president came, and Elder Chingas and I rode with them to our senior couple's home, the Nelsons. We rode more into the city, and the dirtiness started to show. Graffiti everywhere, surrounded by old buildings, littered with trash. At a few lights, a guy would come up and try to wash our windows, so the assistants turned their wipers on until he stopped. I would say that was the moment I realized I wasn't in America anymore. The assistants said sometimes people would throw a book or something into their car, and tell them to pay for it. Fun stuff. We got to the Nelsons, parked on the sidewalk, which is apparently normal here, and got to know each other, took pictures, while we waited for our Macedonian meal, Domino's Pizza. President Weidmann conducted his interviews with us. His essence was more relaxed than that of President McCune. Several times during the interview, he would pull out scriptures that went exactly with what we were talking about, he knows them like the back of his hand. From what the others have said, he's done a lot with this mission in the short few months he's been here. My interview concluded, then Elder Geirisch took me out to go contacting. We walked over to Old Town, which is what I expected most of Macedonia to look like, with small shops by the road.
The Macedonian seems crazy different than the Bulgarian. A lot of people here can speak broken English, which helps me, but when they are excited while speaking in Macedonian, I can't get a single word. I'm very eager to get better. We went back to the Nelsons, where I found out Elder Prince would be my companion! He's amazing, he's so patient with me, and he's so optimistic all the time, which is crazy important. I'm excited for this companionship. There are only 9 missionaries in the country now, so we all know each other very well.
We went out to teach a lesson, and President and Sister Weidmann joined us. I learned pretty quick President Weidmann is a master at contacting people. Everyone he talked to on the way was very interested in the gospel, it blew me away. The lesson was with Stojan (Stoyan), a taxi driver. He spoke pretty good English, so it was about half and half language wise. It was a good entrance into teaching in Macedonian! We went back home and hit the hay. The next morning we had more training from President Weidmann, then he took us to Mount Vodno, which was where Macedonia was dedicated by Apostle Nelson. We held a devotional there, then they took off, and we headed to a language lesson from a member, Zoki. Those are going to come in handy!
On Friday, we met with our lawyer, who is the whole reason we can even preach the gospel here. It took a very long time for the government to let that happen, and they make us do paperwork all the time for it. Good stuff. That night, we went to Shootka with the sisters, the biggest Roma city in Europe. We taught our only member family, whom only speak Macedonian, and a weird dialect at that. The next day we headed to Kosovo early to our zone training. It was a 2-hour bus ride! It only lasted for a few hours, so then we went out to eat. Delay after delay happened, so we didn't get back until 8. It took up the whole dang day.
We hold church in a hotel, Hotel Arka, since we don't have a building yet. There was a congregation of about 23, including missionaries. We have 16 total members in the country, including a few less actives. Our branch president is President Swineford, who works at the US Embassy here, which is a serious blessing for us. He conducted in English and Macedonian. The meeting was only an hour and a half, so that was a big change from the 6 hours in Provo! That night we went to the Swineford's house for dinner, which were both very American, and very good. Great way to break the fast.
I'm very excited to be here in this beautiful country, and share our message with these wonderful people. Skopje is a better taken care of part of the country, where it could almost count as being 1st world. It's not as different as I thought it would be. Almost everything has English translations because they've pushed tourism so much, which works for me! There's enormous statues all over the city, and it is very compact. Everyone here smokes, and the smell of cigarettes is starting to get to me, but besides that, it's great and exciting! There's so much potential here, and I get to work at it for 20 months.  Elder Rigby
Pics: Elder Prince, my companion. First Macedonian food: beans, sausage, bread  Delicious!
Lower: on the great bridge, center of Skopje, Alexander the Great statue way in background