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!
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).