May 25, 2015

This one's gonna be short, I don't have a ton of time today because we went to Lake Ochrid! I also don't have any pictures, because I lost my bag this week, which had my camera in it, but I should have some next week...

We ran into a Japanese man this week. He was in his pack of tourists, and he came up to us in the middle of a lesson, looking determined and asked "Are you Latter-Day Saints?" in fairly broken English. We said yes, and he said he was a member! That was one of the few members I've seen not from around here, so it was way awesome! Shortly after the lesson, a man who had said hi to us a couple times that day stopped us and introduced himself as a member from Italy. He was doing some business in Macedonia, and he kept wanting to talk to us, but he saw we were with a guy and didn't want to stop us. We talked to him for a while, went our separate ways, and then ran into him 2 more times. 

The last time, he told us he remembered a story of when he was the Ward Mission Leader, and he wanted to play a joke on a brand new missionary. He got his wife a sister missionary tag, and then they started the correlation meeting with all the missionaries in the ward there, and his wife pretending to be a missionary. Within the first 5 minutes, he completely stopped what he was saying, and stared at the "sister missionary" and said "You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen" and ran up to her and planted a nice, long wet one on her! She seemed perfectly fine with it, and all the other missionaries were in on the joke besides the new one. He said the new guy sat there horrified, not understanding why nobody else saw a problem with that. That story gave me and Elder Gierisch a pretty good laugh.

In other news, we'll be getting a new sister missionary, so we'll have 2 sister companionships by September. 
Elder Rigby

May 18, 2015

It's pretty crazy with everything that's going on here right now, we had to stay inside yesterday because of the protest (about 50,000 people we heard). The other protests throughout the week have been getting around 10,000 people. The protesters said they would stay camped in front of the government buildings (many are in tents) until the prime minister (in office for 9 years) and his cabinet quit. Tonight the political party in power, VMRO, is launching their response protest at 6, so we have to go in when that starts. Hopefully, things will remain peaceful. 

In the separate shooting event, Sasho's house actually got shot at in Kumanovo, and he had to go 2 days without eating or drinking and couldn't go outside at all. Kumanovo is up by the border with Kosovo and Serbia. We heard from a couple members in our ward the armed group planned on doing much more, but the police were successful in stopping them early in the attack, even though 8 lost their lives and 37 were injured. The gov't is checking everybody coming across the border from Kosovo to see if they have any terrorist connections. That’s where the ethnic Albanian rebels came from and lived.

On the other hand, every day when we go outside, I see more and more people with American flags on their clothes. Apparently, America is the newest trend in the Balkans, so at least that means being an America here isn’t bad.
I don't know what the deal has been, but the people seemed much, much nicer this week. We managed to get quite a few numbers from people with some of them becoming some new investigators for us! It came in pretty good timing too, because our investigator pool has been shrinking the past few weeks.

We met with Sasho this week, and he's been opening up a lot with us. He told us about how life has been a lot tougher the past year, but even though it hasn't gotten easier since he's met us, he feels like it's been a lot easier to deal with, and that he's a lot happier. I don't know how it is for other missionaries, but it was one of the coolest moments of my mission being in that lesson with him. I know that through Jesus Christ, we do get extra strength to do things we normally can't do. God has helped me out more times than I can even imagine in my life, and I love being able to see it more and more on my mission.

Sunday we went to church, then we had to spend the rest of the day inside because of a protest going on. There should be a few more happening this week, so it looks like we might see some repeats of that this week!
Elder Rigby

May 11, 2015

This week kicked off with Zone Conference up in Prishtina. President Weidmann gave us some great training on talking to everyone and passing out cards to people, so that should help with our finding a lot! My favorite part was one of the members in Prishtina shared his testimony of how he found this church. He found the missionaries, but wasn't interested for a long time, and only came to church for the ping pong table that they have at the church. After months, he decided he wanted to start taking lessons with the missionaries. He wasn't really going anywhere after a lot of lessons, and he ended up dropping the missionaries. That night, he read several chapters from the Book of Mormon, and prayed the whole night. After pursuing that course the whole night, he called the missionaries and told them he wanted to be baptized. He was baptized a few days later. After his baptism, he was faced with the trial of telling his parents that he converted from Islam to Christianity. He told them, and his parents rejected him after finding out. He started to cry in his room. Then, he decided to pray again, and almost instantly, he felt the peace of knowing he was doing the right thing by becoming a Christian. And now, he's one of the strongest members in the branch there! It's ridiculous how much some people have to give up to be members of this church, and it helps me realize I'm not really giving up a whole lot at all!

There have been a lot of peaceful protests around in Skopje against the current government, which always makes things more fun (sarcasm!). Last Saturday, in Kumanovo, a city 15 miles from Skopje where Sasho is from, there was a rebel attack where 22 people died including 8 police. The whole place was in lock down, but the situation has calmed down now. Then the local ethnic Albanians heard reports of government corruption, spying and not treating them fairly, thus they are protesting. We are OK, when things get to heated, we missionaries stay home. Ethnic Albanians make up about one quarter of Macedonia’s population.

We found out a new sister was called to Macedonia! Her name is Sister Dow I think, and she should be here in September. We did not see that coming, but it's way exciting! I think Sister Hassell and Barch are a bit more excited than the rest of us though haha. Speaking of which, this Friday was Sister Riddle's birthday! We always find her alone near the center having lost her companions, so Elder Gierisch and I decided to get her a leash so she can make sure they don't wander off.

Farewell Elder Krajnc! He left us on Sunday. He's my first companion that I've had to go doesn't really feel like he's gone yet. He was such a beast of a guy, we're all going to be suffering here without him. We still don't know what we're going to do without our Slovenian :(
We had a lesson with Prend, who's a recent convert, on a bench in the outdoor mall here. We just sat down when a Christian guy and a Muslim approached us and asked  "Are you Jehovah Witnesses?" 
I said "No we're Mormons," and they had no idea who we were. So I started explaining, and they cut me off and started going off on me. We could hardly understand what they were saying, and after listening for a bit, Prend jumped at an opportunity. Prend was Muslim, and then Catholic before he became Mormon, so he had a bit of ground on both of these guys. Prend talked to them very sternly and with power, but in a kind way, unlike the way they were talking to us.  He ended up getting the guys to walk off, we had the lesson, and then we went our separate ways. The next day we got a text from Prend, with the name and number of the Christian guy, saying he wanted to meet up and listen to our message. Prend is seriously a wizard, I love that guy!

My favorite part of the week though definitely had to be getting to skype with the family this week in Tucson and Las Vegas! There's definitely nothing better as a missionary :) Love you guys! HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY. Elder Rigby

May 4, 2015

What's up my family and friends!?

Macedonia has a church building where we can meet! The highlight of my week was for sure finally being able to meet in a building we can call our own. The place is kinda out of the way, so we don’t have all the city noise. This makes it more peaceful (MUCH more peaceful than Hotel Arka playing the radio on the floor above us). Currently, we have a 45-minute sacrament meeting, 10-minute break, then a 30-minute class. This was mainly because we were in hotel Arka, and we had only one room to meet in. Now with the new building, we have plenty of rooms, so can split for priesthood and relief society in the future. We have the members for both an Elders quorum and Relief Society. Primary seems to be a ways away.

Sasho made sure nothing was getting in the way of him getting his confirmation for the Gift of the Holy Ghost this week. Even though he was scheduled to work Sunday morning, he switched with somebody early in the week. But in the middle of the week, we got a call from him saying he was in the hospital, and from his voice, it sounded like he was dying. But he recovered quickly from whatever it was, and stayed Saturday night in Skopje so he could get to church on time. We met together at the center bus stop, and walked with the members to the new location since it's pretty out there and the roads are confusing since they change the street names all the time. We were surprised to see new Americans there, some of which were return missionaries from Albania, who were doing a research trip out here. We had 27 people attend. Our order of chairs for the new building hadn't come in yet, so we had to have some missionaries sitting on stairs and standing in the back, but that's better than having less people!

We started the meeting, Sasho got confirmed, we took the sacrament, and had a great fast and testimony meeting. Yesterday in that fast and testimony meeting was the strongest I've felt the Spirit while I've been in Skopje. It was just pure joy, wanting to do more for other people. This building is going to do a lot for us here! It's a huge blessing that's going to impact the work here for a long time :) Since Sasho got confirmed, we have eighteen Macedonian members.

We've got one investigator, Mirche, who didn't seem to have a whole lot of potential when we first met him, but he's turning out to be a stud! One day we were street contacting, and Elder Gierisch handed this older guy a “Because He Lives” card and tried to talk to him, but he just kept going. Shortly after, we were walking to the city center, when somebody stopped us at a bus station. It was the same old man. He started going off about how Jesus Christ never really died since he was resurrected. We started talking about eternal life with him, which he liked a lot. We gave him a Book of Mormon and a Testimony of Joseph Smith pamphlet and got his number, and we went separate ways. We called him, and he decided to meet with us. Most of the people here just want to share their thoughts, but Mirche actually listened. Plus, the guy read the pamphlet and knew every single detail of the Joseph Smith story. It was way sweet! We've met with him a few more times, and he continues to amaze me with how much he understands. We were talking about the importance of baptism, and he cut us off, saying "It's important that's it's done with the Aaronic Priesthood, which was restored to Joseph Smith by John the Baptist so he could baptize." Elder Gierisch and I looked at each other with stunned eyes. We invited him for a baptismal date, to which he replied that this was something of God, so God will tell us when he needs to get baptized. The next lesson, we went over the Word of Wisdom, which we were a bit worried about since he's a heavy smoker. President Arif (Elmaz) was there with us, and he jumped right into the lesson. When we asked him if he had any problems with it, he said he smokes, but that "I'll just go home and repent now." It was pretty funny how simply he took it – no one is ever like that! But I gotta say, I wish I was as willing to repent as Mirche is.

We said our goodbyes to the Swinefords this week, which was very sad. Elder Krajnc leaves in a little over a week. He got his flight plans and it only takes him an hour to get back to Slovenia. May 1st was Macedonian Labor Day, so pretty much there were only tourists to talk to that day. Many businesses are closed and the roads are pretty empty because so many people go out of town on holidays. Had a good week all in all!
Elder Rigby

Dad info: Another view below. According to the sculptor Tome Adzievski, the memorial complex is based on three parts, (1) the first representing the sacrifice in the world of the living, (2) the second forming a symbolic passage, and (3) the third symbolizing eternity with the gods.

The first represents a central meeting place with benches dominated by a fountain and a 4-meter tall bronze statue of Prometheus. Just as the hero Prometheus sacrificed himself for humans (he brought fire to people, but suffered eternal punishment from Zeus as a result), symbolizing the idea of heroic sacrifice for good principles. Here, people can sit around and freely debate what is important to them with others.

The second part is a symbolic doorway to heavenly eternity. On top, four bronze horses stand upright, saluting the heroes. This four-horse quadriga is an emblem of triumph. The Latin words for immortality, freedom and justice are inscribed in the structure.

The third part of the complex is a colonnade of marble pillars surrounding a central pedestal that is over 20 meters high. The winged goddess Nike (or Latin Victoria) symbolizes victory and holds out a wreath of Laurel leaves to bestow glory and fame upon Macedonian heroes. Yes, Nike shoes are named after this same goddess of Victory. Nike also commonly appeared on coins of Alexander the Great.

The quadriga of horses with Nike driving is a common symbol of victory used anciently and also adorns many European buildings today (London, Berlin, Austrian Parliament, and Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre).