February 22, 2016

We got to check out Strumica this week! It's right eastern border of Macedonia, so we got to hear some pretty mangled Bulgarian/Macedonian. We went out there to teach a guy named Vane, who Elder Chingas and Prince used to teach. The 3 hour bus ride was nice and relaxing, and we got to stop through Veles, Stip, and Radovic along the way. We were greeted by Vane and his friend when we arrived, and then proceeded to walk through Strumica to go to a pizza place to have a lesson. Strumica is a beautiful, beautiful small city. It's so nice to get out of the capital cities of Skopje, Prishtina, and Tirana that we spend almost all of our time in. We got some pastrmajlija, which is like an oval pizza; because Vane was telling us it's a specialty in Strumica. We focused the lesson on Vane's friend and we went over the Restoration. It kinda felt like a member present lesson, because Vane was backing us up in every way, particularly when his friend was asking us about the church's history of polygamy. Vase (Va-se), his friend, seemed pretty interested about it! Vane's only problem right now is he's a 3 hour bus ride from his nearest church. He said he gave up hope of a true church until he met the missionaries. Seriously, such a prepared guy. He's very versed in the Bible, and he said that he's never come across a church that follows more closely with the Bible, particularly "all the small things" he kept saying. After the lesson, he was going off to Vase about that for a while, which was awesome.
We got fed twice in one day this week, and we were in 4 Macedonians' homes. It was so crazy, I felt like I was back in Provo! We had a lesson with the sister's with one of the Suzana's, a member, friends, and he prepared us a meal. Then we taught the evangelist family. They asked us for money this week, so we're feeling like that's their overarching motive in meeting with us, so they're probably going to get dropped, unfortunately. Although they did come to church! After that, we went to Prend's house for a late birthday celebration for him, where he fed us some fish. I've always thought fish and dirt taste exactly the same, but that fish was pretty dang good! The mission changes you. We went in for language study at the end of the day, and our landlord invited us over, so we chatted with him for awhile, and ended up talking about the church for most of that time. God was definitely blessing us that day! It felt really good to feel the appreciation of so many people in one day.

Farewell Nelsons! The Nelson's last week is this week. Their replacements, the Pulleys, are supposed to be here already, but they had visa problems, like pretty much every single one of us. So we're going to be helping them out a lot when they get here! It's really weird to see the Nelsons take off. Now Elder Chingas, Sister Hassell, and I have officially been here the longest.

In reading the Book of Mormon this time around, it's really been sticking out to me how much God is really in control. God's plan is so perfectly woven, and so intricate, a lot of the time the situation looks pretty dreary if we're not keeping an eternal perspective.. But God always fulfills his promises, and always ultimately delivers those that believe in him, whether that be in this life, or the life to come. One of the best parts of being a missionary is we get to see that practically every day. Even though there's not a whole lot of success here in terms of baptisms, I know that God is guiding this work, and that he is working through me to help his other children.
Elder Rigby

February 15, 2016

I hit 18 months this last week. It is CRAZY. I know I've said this a lot already, but the mission is flying. It's so weird to me that it's all just going to be over in an instant.

More General Authority (GA) visits. We had a really cool thing happen this week. Elder Hallstrom of the presidency of the 70 and President Johnson of the European Presidency met with the Crisis Relief Center of Skopje this week, and they had a few hours before their next flight, so we got to have a meeting with all of them and with the members! I was so excited for them. I don't think hardly any of them have met a GA before, especially someone in the presidency of the 70. They all talked about the power of their voices, and the positive energy you could feel from them (all the people here are obsessed with the word energy. I think that's how they describe just about every feeling). They talked about how the Lord trusts us as missionaries since our mission president lives in a different country, and to the members, about how they're the pioneers, and they need to plant a strong foundation. We had a good showing there too, even though it was a Thursday morning.

We picked up some new investigators this week that are members of an Evangelical church. And that church takes place in their house. I feel like they are just honest people searching for the Gospel in their lives. They started their own church because they feel like all the other ones mess up somewhere or another. But after giving the father (who's the pastor) a Book of Mormon, he read 40 pages in one day. He said the only reason he didn't read more because he had to prepare his sermon! We got to attend; it was a classic Evangelical church, with a guitar and a lot of singing, and then a small Sunday School kind of meeting focused on James 2. I really enjoyed it; you can tell they're very God loving people. After the meeting, the older brother who wasn't in the first lesson starting asking what we were about, and when we starting explaining, the other 10 people there stopped talking and listened. It was a big crowd! The Lord really blessed us to give us that opportunity.

We've been going to a lot more villages lately, like Dolno Lisice and Dracevo. The people in Dolno Lisice were so nice since it was such a tiny village. We had a lesson with a guy there. There was one lady, Rosa who wanted to invite all of her family and her sister's family to hear a message, so she took us over to her sister's house to pick a time. We used the words Mormons with her sisters, and then Rosa's whole demeanor changed. She told us not to call her or anything. The people here in general don't like Novovernici, which means new believers. That's anyone that's not Orthodox or Catholic.
Elder Rigby

February 9, 2016

We had a pretty interesting lesson/hanging out/debate with a devout Muslim guy this week who is appropriately named Muhammad. He's from Turkey, but he's studying in Skopje because it's cheaper. When we'd be contacting, he would always come over and talk to us for about 10 minutes or so. We would chat about God or basketball, so I could get updates about the Rockets. He's a Magic fan, and his favorite player on the team is Aaron Gordon! He's easily one of the best and nicest guys I've ever met in my life. So he called us saying he wanted to meet up. We asked if he liked playing ping pong since we have a ping pong table at the church, he said no. But we went with it anyways, and we got to give him a church tour! We talked about religion quite a bit, he already knew quite a bit about our church. It was interesting just having more of a light conversation with a devout Muslim guy though.

We had our Zone Training this week, and it was in Skopje! The first one ever to be in Macedonia! When the Kosovo missionaries were driving down, they all got stopped at the border, and some guy there made them buy insurance, costing them 50 Euros each. So that wasn't a good start! President Weidmann and his wife were also able to be in attendance, probably judging us. This last month was really good for the zone though, total lessons went up 30% although there still weren't any baptisms. We got Domino's for everyone, which they were all really happy about because no one besides the Macedonian missionaries can have it!

Reading the Book of Mormon in a month...again! We got the commitment to read the BoM again, this time focusing on the blessings from the Atonement. I'm going to know the BoM so good when I get back home! It was really nice reading it fast, and being able to see the constant themes of pride in the people. Pride got them every time. Also, it just provided a better spiritual start to each morning.

After the training that night, I went on an exchange with Elder Cani, the Albanian missionary who's here with us for a few months. He's such a stud, like Elder Lesi he didn't know any English when he started his mission, but now he speaks very well. I can't imagine being in a similar situation; being surrounded by Macedonians, only being able to speak Macedonian all day, and learning French at the same time, through Macedonian. That's pretty much the difficulty of what he's doing. Elder Cani is a guy who made a lot of changes in his life before he was able to come on a mission. He related it to Alma 36, where Alma is talking about how great the pains were before repenting, and how great the joys are after the repentance. 

We took a little break on the exchange for interviews. President Weidmann is such a good guy. He talked to me for like half an hour at the end, asking about my interests, family, plans for after the mission. I really learned a lot from his personal ministering and sacrifice of time for me. President Weidmann also attended church this week, where we had 42 people when sacrament meeting ended!! It was packed. President Weidmann proposed to sustain Brother Waterman, the embassy worker here, to be first counselor of the branch. I guess I wasn't paying attention, and I accidently raised my hand during the opposing vote. Everyone got a good laugh seeing my face as I realized what I was doing. The Asan family, who had a baby a few weeks ago, came and gave their baby a blessing, which was awesome to see.

It's warming up more, so life is good! Love you all! Elder Rigby

February 1, 2016

We embarked to Albania to go to Mission Conference on Monday afternoon. We were a little bummed; we had to give up a part of P day. But it was so worth it. That was easily my favorite conference/meeting/training I've had on my mission so far. We were pleasured with President Kearon, President of the European Mission. As zone leaders and sister training leaders, we waited in a separate room and got to have a small training by him when he arrived in the building with Pres and Sister Weidmann. Honestly, if I had two words to describe him, it would be relaxed and entertaining. He just told us that we shouldn't worry as much, just work harder. When we went back to the big conference room, he shared the same message. The main thing I got from the meeting is how important listening to the people here is. I haven't been too good at that, partly because of the Macedonian people's love of talking your ear off.

Mission Leadership Conference was also fantastic as usual, and President Kearon was there as well. We present and talk about each zone in each one, about 5 minutes per zone. When we were talking about our zone, something that really impressed me was that Pres Kearon knew the number in sacrament for Skopje off the top of his head. That guy is such a smart person. And I gotta say, it was pretty cool being able to present numbers for two countries in front of the president of Europe.

We were driving back with the sister training leaders, and we realized we needed to call President about something. We decided to wait until we got to Kosovo, so that we weren't roaming. We used the STL's phone, and after the number rang a couple times, an old man answered, and no matter what I said, he just replied "Ku" (Where in Albanian). It was super weird, so then I hung up and tried again. President Weidmann answered, but then it cut off before he could finish saying hello. I tried a third time, and it was the same Ku guy that answered! Literally no matter what I said to him in my super broken Albanian, he replied "Kuuuuuuu". It gave us all a pretty good laugh.

Well, I've got less than 6 months left of my mission now. With how fast these last 6 months have gone, I feel like I'm really going to be home before I know it. TIME IS FLYING. I'm excited yet not excited for it at the same time. 
Elder Rigby