Happy New Year from Macedonia!

January 1, 2016

Yes, it is past 8 here, and yes, Pday usually ends at 6. But President Weidmann gave us a full Pday today, and let us watch movies from a selected list! I never thought I'd watch Chronicles of Narnia, Madagascar, Ice Age, Frozen, Tangled, and Remember the Titans on my mission.

These past two Christmas holidays on the mission have been the best of life, with the greatest gift being having the chance to talk to my family. Earlier in the day the Nelsons prepared a Christmas dinner for us that was really tasty. The sisters brought salads and bread; we brought desserts. After we had our secret Santa gift exchange which was a blast! Then we got the chance to Skype with our families.

The mission has made Christmas a lot more meaningful for me being able to help spread the reason for it. The people's hearts have been softened this Christmas season, resulting in one of the most successful months of my mission. Our Branch Christmas Party had about 40 people attend, almost doubling our weekly Church attendance numbers. One day, while contacting, in 30 minutes, we talked to 2 people, and had lessons with both of them. Nothing even close to that has ever happened to me on my mission before. For the orthodox, Jesus Christ is pretty separated from Christmas, and the Muslim don't recognize it at all. It's been just exciting being able to share with the people here why we celebrate Christmas, and I'm excited to keep doing it until the 7th, when it's Orthodox Christmas.

Jesus Christ entered the world for every one of us, and served as our master, servant, and most importantly, savior. He's always there for me, especially in my times in need. Especially, when I don't deserve it. He showed the greatest act of love mankind has ever known in giving us the chance to live in happiness forever. Now that the Christmas season has passed, continue to carry the spirit of Christ and let others get to know him through you. 

In the past week, we got transfer calls. My son (trainee) that just finished training, Elder Dibble, will be training another missionary, so I'm going to be a grandpa :') We are also getting another Elder from Albania, Elder Cani, here in Macedonia, who will be paired with Elder Bischoff. 13 new missionaries came in this transfer, so a majority of the missionaries in Albania and Kosovo will be training. I'm pretty sure that Elder Chingas and I are the first Macedonian Zone Leaders. That means we'll have to travel to Tirana once a month for a leadership meeting, do nightly call-ins with district leaders, conduct zone trainings, and do exchanges. We'll be covering Macedonia and Kosovo. It came as a huge surprise that I wasn't too happy with at first, but now I've come to terms with it. It'll be Elder Chingas and I's 4th time being together as companions, so I'm pretty sure we're going to set a world record for that. We will also be opening a new area in Skopje, in a part of the city called Aerodrom. If it were a city on its own, it would be the 7th biggest in Macedonia, so there's a ton of people! It will definitely be a transfer of learning!

Elder Bischoff and Cani were returning to Macedonia on Wednesday. They were bringing back some supplies from the mission office for Elder Chingas and me since we'll be in a new apartment. When the customs guy checked their car, he saw the water filters they were carrying, which apparently is a commercial good, and started accusing them of smuggling. They detained them from 9 that morning to 8 at night, because since the filters weren't declared at the Kosovo Albania border, they were illegal in both Kosovo and Macedonia, so neither country would let them enter. Luckily, they finally let Elder Chingas and I pick Elder Bischoff and Cani up so they would have somewhere to sleep. I've never seen anyone look more tired, plus they hadn't eaten anything that entire day. Elder Bischoff and I headed back the next day because Elder Cani had to register his entrance in Macedonia. They had taken care of most everything the day previous, so we just had to do some paperwork for about 6 hours. One of the guys working there chose not to slam us with a 2000 euro fine, because we were volunteers for a church, but we still had to pay 400 to legally import them into Kosovo. Macedonia won't let us take them until we get them inspected by some medical officer, so we had to ditch them in Prishtina with those missionaries, and then just go back to Macedonia without them. A lot of things worked out just right in that process though. We had 7 extra filters than what it said on the invoice, the church got legally chartered in Kosovo only a couple months ago so we could import the filters under their name, nobody got thrown in jail. 

Enjoy the new year! Make it a good one  Elder Rigby