June 29, 2015

NOTE:  new snail mail address is given above!

This week we had our mission conference, my first one, even though I've almost been a missionary for a whole year! We went down to Elbasan in Albania, passing by Lake Ohrid, which is so beautiful! We heard the testimonies of many missionaries, focusing on how the Gospel has changed so many people they have worked with. Then we had training on conversion since apparently, we've had over 200 baptisms in the mission each year, the past 2 years, but church attendance hasn't gone up at all. It was all about teaching daily things new members should do to keep strong in the faith. We got some lunch after, and it was pretty cool to see other missionaries in the mission instead of just Macedonia and Kosovo. Something way cool was that they have an actual church building in Elbasan, which made me feel like I was back in America!

I don't know what it is, but I've been enjoying the holidays and birthday a lot more than usual being on my mission! My birthday was great, Sister Riddle left on that day with the Nelsons and her companions to fly out of Albania, so we just had a little party with the 4 of us elders. Elder Prince made me a super beast cake that was very delicious. I got some new ties and some candy from the family, and a basketball from Elder Chingas and Gierisch. The sisters got Elder Gierisch and I shirts that say, "1 Baptized, 0 Confirmed" – since Sasho got called into work the day after his baptism so he could not go to church, and when he got confirmed, it was the next month. It was pretty clever.

The financial account for the church finally got some things cleared, thanks to the Nelsons, so we can make some more purchases for the branch, including a PING PONG TABLE! We played with it today, and it was super sweet. I'm going to have to try hard to not abuse using that opportunity.

I'm getting transferred out of Macedonia? This week is transfers, which usually consists of us just switching companions, but I'm getting moved to Durres, Albania for four weeks! They all speak Albanian over there, so I'm not going to be extremely useful. I studied Albanian a tiny bit, and that language is CRAZY. My companion is going to be a guy called Elder Simons, who from what a hear is a great guy! They have got a real building over there too, and that's where the stake president lives for Albania and Kosovo! Elder Lessi will be coming in here to replace me. I'm going to miss being with Elder Gierisch, he's been a great companion! Farewell for now Macedonia
Elder Rigby
Note from Elder Rigby’s dad: see map above, Durres is on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, right across from Italy. Both Macedonia and Greece share a border with Greece, currently having all the economic problems. Elder Rigby has a living Albanian relative, Ella Rigby. Elder Richard’s grandfather, Bert Rigby, has a brother Sterling who married an Albanian. Eleni (Ella) Chacho Rigby was born (1934) in the southern mountainous region of Albania in Ogren, Permet (see map below). She was blessed and baptized in the Eastern Orthodox Church, but came to the U.S. and was baptized LDS in 1961. The first LDS meetinghouse in an eastern European country was the one in Durres, Albania where Richard will now serve. Most people in Albania are Muslims.

June 22, 2015

The center of Skopje is finally open!!! It actually happened last week, and this is huge! It has been closed long before I got here, for like a year total. They took out all the tile that was there and now put in blindingly white tile. It's impossible to keep your eyes open while you walk across it. They also installed a ground level fountain that is pretty sweet. Now they are always blasting classical music that the fountains move in sync with, like a small version of the dancing Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas.
The Zone Leaders came down this week, I was with Elder Rasband. We went to the Albanian side of town, since he can't speak Macedonian, and walked through some neighborhoods, talking to the families on the streets. It was fairly unsuccessful until we were almost back, and we saw some kids doing flips and stuff in a small park. We stopped and started talking to them, and apparently, they are the Skopje parkour group of Skopje called “Urban Monsters.” They were pretty cool guys, and we talked for a while, and they ended up giving us their numbers! Pretty cool find.

The next day, the exchange was still going on, and we were contacting on the boulevard. A guy comes up to us saying "That book is not a testament of Jesus Christ" referring to the Book of Mormon. I recognized him pretty quick as a guy who gave the other guy some trouble, so I just told him this was pointless and for him to please go away. After a few minutes, he finally started walking away. Suddenly, he turned around and started flicking his fingers like he was flicking dust at us and yelled "IN THE NAME OF JESUS, I REBUKE YOU." The guy did that like 5 times, giving Elder Rasband and I a good laugh. I can officially say I've been rebuked by JC on my mission!
We had a branch activity this week. We were going to go hiking, but we changed it last minute to card games because it was raining hard. All the members took the rain as it being cancelled I guess, because only Prend showed up. We played UNO first with him, and then he taught us an Albanian card game that was pretty fun. Usually Prend is a lot like a nice grandfather, very gentle to everybody, but during that game, he talked so much trash to me. Every time I would play a card, he would say "Фала!" which means thanks!, and then destroy me on whatever I just played. It was definitely the hardest I laughed all that week.

For things coming up this week, Sister Riddle leaves for home on Wednesday, we have mission conference the same day, and it's my birthday tomorrow! Sister Riddle is going to be missed a lot, she's the master of the language here. She's got the accent down hard so everybody here always thinks she's native.
Have a great week! Elder Rigby

June 15, 2015

One of the things with having Elmaz as the branch president is he isn't the best at telling the members and missionaries ahead of time when they need give a talk. His first week, he straight up didn't tell anybody, so Elder Prince had to give a talk that he luckily had already prepared. We met with him on Thursday this week, where he informed me I would be giving a talk in 3 days. This one was a lot harder to prepare for, because the last one I just did in English, and this time I was doing in Macedonian. We used to speak in both languages every week, but now with most of our non-Macedonian speakers gone, we've switched to only Macedonian in church now, which means that my talk had to be twice as long. So between those two things, it reminded me of my high school procrastinating days, which I've missed a lot.

My talk went alright, one of the people said that he couldn't understand me, which was a big confidence booster, but I'm going to attribute that to the fact that he's an old man. At the end of church, Elder Gierisch gave Sasho the Aaronic Priesthood, and he ordained him to the office of Deacon instead of Priest. We picked up on that pretty quick, so we took him to another room and Elder Gierisch did it again, this time ordained him to be a priest, but conferred the priesthood again...but whatever, you can't get it perfect every time. The bottom line is that Sash is a priesthood holder now! A miracle was our 34 people attending church, which would be a good number for when we were in town. Since the new building is far out, we weren't getting as many people, but it's picking right back up again!

Acid Rain. One day this week, it started raining hard, so we headed out to a part of the city called Aerodrome, where there was an outdoor mall with a roof we could contact at. We got on the bus to head over there, trying not to get soaked. We sat down under where there was an open window, sitting across from each other. The bus started going, and some rain landed on Elder Gierisch's shirt through the window. Instead of being the normal wet marks, they were brown, and left 6 big stains on his shirt. We always joke about there being acid rain here since Skopje is so polluted, but that was taking it to a new level.

The two protests that are going on here, the protest against the gov't and the protest the gov't is putting encouraging against the original protest, are still going on in front the of the two big gov't buildings. They're very peaceful though, playing some music, with Foosball and ping pong tables. Not at all what I thought a protest would look like.
Elder Rigby

June 8, 2015

Macedonia: The Focal Point of Christian missionaries. This week we were grabbing some lunch in Skopje City Mall. We were going up in the elevator, and the door was about to shut, when we saw a woman start rushing to try to make it in. We opened the door for her, she got in, and door closed, and we started going up. The situation felt awkward, so we started talking to her since it couldn't get any less. She started speaking English pretty quick, and she said that she was a Jehovah Witness from Germany, fulfilling her mission here! She asked us how it was going for us, and then she told us how it was for her. It turns out she is serving for her whole life with her husband, going from place to place. It kinda made me realize how little I'm really giving up, with it only being the short span of 2 years. 

We had our zone training this week, and one of the topics was the divine potential of people. We are all children of God, so we should be treated and treat others as such. One of my greatest regrets is not doing more to uplift people before my mission. Often times, there's somebody close to us struggling with something, and almost just as often, there's something we can do about it. So think about what kind of effect you are having on other people, and if there is the one person right now who needs your help.

Time has definitely been picking up the last few months. The transfer is over in a few weeks, and it feels like it has only begun.

Ве сакам. Продолжете да бидете одлични. Знам дека оваа работа е Божја работа, и дека преку Исус Христос, сите нас можеме да бидеме совршени. Не знам што друго да напишам. Живот е добро. Бидете примери за светот. Со најмногу на мојата љубов, 
Старешина Ригби

I love you. Continue to be excellent. I know this work is God's work, and that through Jesus Christ, all of us can be perfect. I do not know what else to write. Life is good. Be examples to the world. With most of my love, [by Google Translate]
Elder Rigby
Here are some recent "at home" celebrations we have had: