January 25, 2016

ПРЕЛАДНО (TOO COLD)  Elder Chingas and I were driving in Kosovo to do exchanges with the missionaries there. When we left Skopje, it was a pretty comfortable -9C(16F). We had been driving for about an hour when we looked at the temperature again, and it was -21C(-6F)! We rolled down the windows and the wind felt more like a knife cutting me than anything, it was so cold. Despite the cold, we had really good exchanges! I would send some pictures, but we're at a new weird internet place in Aerodrom that Elder Chingas got a virus at a couple weeks ago, so I'm going to play it safe.

In Gjakova, I was with a new missionary that's only been in the field for about 4 weeks named Elder Riepel. In Kosovo, the Albanian gets altered quite a bit, which makes the language harder, especially for the new missionaries. Despite that, Elder Riepel taught 3 lessons in complete Albanian, even though I can't speak too much Albanian, it was clear it taught them well. One of the long time investigators, Valentin, really wants to get baptized, but doesn't follow with the commitments. Elder Riepel taught him about the sabbath day, and he came to church this week for the first time! It's strange conducting exchanges where you can't really teach or do any more than stop a person while contacting. It's always interesting to me to see the different ways that people do the work, and seeing what works and what doesn't. Especially when we've got such a small rotation here in Macedonia! We also went to Pristina for an exchange, where I was with Elder Watson, who goes home in 3 weeks. He was the Gjakova Branch President for about 6 months.

After returning to Skopje on Friday night, we heading back up to Pristina to watch the Missionary Broadcast entitled "Teach Repentance and Baptize Converts". Something really clicked in my head that hasn't previously about the difference between being baptized and converted. When it comes down to it, we're just inviting people to repent, and those that do accept that invitation to change their lives should be baptized. They said in the beginning of it that it was the first broadcast like that in 10 years, so that message must have been needed. Elder Anderson, Bednar, Oaks, and a few others I don't remember. Something I got a kick out of is that I saw Elder Pereira in the audience, a missionary from Brazil who I went on a few exchanges with while I was in Provo. News: Metija had a baby

The Vodici celebration was this week where Orthodox Christians celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ. This meant they held the traditional ceremony of throwing the blessed Holy Cross in the local river where people then jump in the icy water to try to retrieve it. One of our new investigators, Igor, actually participated in it. He told us that he believes it rigged, and they already know who will get it beforehand. He says he refuses to participate in arranging the result, and he said that he actually has seen people get their feet pulled from under the water when it's a person close to the cross when they're not the chosen person. He then went off in a lesson about how Pagan the Orthodox and Catholic Church are, so we think he's going to like our message. 

Sunday, we walked out of our apartment after getting some lunch at home. Usually, there's not a soul outside on Sundays. But when we walked out, there were lines of buses totaling over 100. Floods of people were passing us. We were extremely confused what all the commotion was about since Aerodrom is usually a very peaceful and calm place. Somebody finally told us there was a Woman's Convention for VMRO, the political party in power right now. Then we noticed that all the people were only women. There were buses from pretty much every city in Macedonia. I still have no idea what the purpose of the meeting was, but it for sure left a mark on the week.

President Kearon of the European Area is here for a mission conference tomorrow, so right after this we're going to drive all the way to Tirana, and then stay there until Wednesday night because we have Mission Leadership Conference after since we're ZLs. I gotta say, we haven't been able to work in our area too much lately with everything going on. Luckily Elder Chingas loves driving so that's keeping my stress levels lower.
Elder Rigby