March 28, 2016

The baptism for Bojan and Frosina (it turns out we had her name wrong this whole time...that was all my bad) went great!! Elder Dibble and Halverson did the baptizing, and it all turned out great. They gave very strong testimonies afterwards. Prosina had been very nervous for baptism, and she bore a strong testimony about how baptism is the beginning of the path. Bojan talked about how he's really had to follow the spirit. Bojan didn't want to get baptized for a long time, but he said that after he tried to focus on the spirit more, it really made the difference for him. The next day, I had the privilege to confirm them both into the church, and to give them the Holy Ghost. That was the first Macedonian family to be baptized in Macedonia! It was a long 7 month journey, but it was well worth it. They are such good people.

On Monday we had a St. Patrick's Day party. The people here don't really know who that is, but it was mainly thrown for the Nelsons, since it was their last day in Macedonia. There was a really good showing, with some really good food!

With it being transfer week, Sister Hassell will finish her mission, and Elder Cani is leaving to go to Tirana. An elder from Russia will be coming to take his place, and he'll be with Elder Dibble. Elder Bischoff and Elder halverson will be together, and Elder Chingas and I will stay together as the zone leaders, which will make 8 months total of us being together, in 4 different transfers.
Hope you all enjoyed your Easter! We went to the Watermans for it, and they have a trampoline!! It felt so good to jump on one again. The orthodox Easter is May 1st, so we'll be getting to celebrate again.
Elder Rigby

March 21, 2016

There's going to be some baptisms! So the most exciting news of the week is after 48 weeks of no baptisms in Macedonia, that drought is finally going to end! Bojan and Prosina will be getting baptized next Saturday. So many efforts have gone into helping them to get to the font by so many people here in Skopje. I'm so glad to see that they finally made that great and eternal decision. A huge miracle was that with the Watermans here, there are now some other kids coming to church every week. One of their main concerns was church attendance, which is largely solved now. They had a traditional dance class for their kids at the same time as church, and every week they were choosing the traditional dance over church. Elder Dibble and Halverson quickly got friendships going with the two families. After Bojan and Prosina saw that there were other kids for their kids to associate with, they were completely fine with going to church every week! Also, there will be another baptism this Saturday in Gjakova, Kosovo which is the first one to happen there in about a year. Miracles are happening.

On Tuesday, we skyped Sister Dow's dad for 3 hours for Woogie English, the English program we're going to start hosting at the church. The program is an app, so he also furnished us with 5 tablets to start off for the Macedonian kids that will come. We're going to hold sessions of it every day, with missionaries running each session. For half an hour, they'll be doing the English program, and for the next 30 minutes, they'll be playing the equivalent of Minecraft. We're all supposed to play the game so we know how to help the kids, so Elder Chingas and I did that on Saturday. I got to say, you do a lot of things that you'd never think you'd do on the mission.

We had some exchanges in Kosovo again this week. We started it off at Gjakova. On the exchange, Elder Griffiths and I went down to Peja, a city about 45 minutes out. There were missionaries here for a few years, but because of a decrease of missionaries in the past year, it got closed about a year ago. In fact, Elder Gierisch, one of my old companions, was there when it got closed! The Gjakova elders have some investigators that live out there. We taught a couple lessons out there, one being a man in a cafe, whose name I can't remember. The man grew up a devout catholic. He had curiosity about the Book of Mormon, and after prayerfully reading the whole thing, he knew it was true. In the lesson, Elder Griffiths slammed it down pretty hard that if the Book of Mormon is true, then that means the Catholic Church is not true. He told us that he was talking to his church leaders about the book, and they told him that it was from the devil. The most amazing thing to me is the faith this man is showing, to truly seek the truth despite what his leaders that he's had since childhood are telling him. I'm so grateful for the power of faith. Mountains can be moved, and rivers can be changed through it. 

After our stay there, we headed Prishtina. I was with Elder Mero, and on that day we taught a lesson to a recent convert there, Becir. After being member for about 6 months, the gospel has completely changed his life. He testified so strongly of the happiness of the gospel. In the lesson, we talked about the tree of life. I made the point about how at both the great and spacious building and at the tree of life, both peoples thought they were happy, although one is an empty happiness, and one is a real, deep happiness. As Becir told about his new found happiness, it reminded me of the reason I wanted to come on my mission. I've gained so much from living the gospel of Jesus Christ, and one of the greatest gifts being the happiness I've enjoyed. I know that God is a god of love, and that we are his children. He wants us to enjoy our life here, and a large part of the way we can do that is through our obedience to the commandments that he has given us.

We didn’t give many lessons this week. One of those lessons was with a man named Goce. He's an older guy. We went over the Restoration, asking a lot of questions to make sure he was understanding, because it goes right over the heads of a lot of the people here. He was getting pretty excited about it, and really seemed to grasp it. Unfortunately, when we finished the lesson, he said he had one question "What's the difference between your church and our Orthodox church?" So either he doesn't know any Orthodox Church doctrine, or he didn't understand anything we told him. Knowing the people here, it very well could have been the first one, but I'm guessing it was that he didn't understand. That's one of the most frustrating things. The people here just don't seem to have the capability of grasping the significance of a restoration of the gospel. And they don't want to disappoint you, so they just go along with you the best they can. 

The Nelsons arrived back here yesterday and will be heading out tomorrow. It's good to see them again, and they seemed to enjoy their cruise, although they're very excited to head back to America. This week is also the last week of the transfer, so get ready for that next week! Sister Hassell goes home, so there will probably only be one companionship of sisters here. There's two more called coming here in July I believe.
Elder Rigby

March 14, 2016

The Pulleys are here! The highlight of this was for sure the new senior couple coming, the Pulleys. President and Sister Weidmann picked them up from the airport on Thursday, and we had a big get to know you with all the missionaries at the church. This is the Pulleys 3rd or 4th mission, so they're pretty veteran. Before, Elder Pulley served in France and Switzerland as a young missionary, then as a couple they've served in China (75 miles west of Hong Kong!) and in Taipei Taiwan. They seem like such good people. A few days before they came in, we got their flight plans, which had their full names on there. And as it turns out, Elder Pulley’s middle name is RIGBY. I was freaking out when I saw that. We'll for sure have to do some family history for that. We had our normal Sunday dinner all together, and Elder Pulley was telling some stories about his mission in France. Apparently a few years before he got there, some of the elders in France entered into polygamist marriages with the sisters, so there was a pretty mass excommunication of the mission. The general authority that set him apart told Elder Pulley that he'll be furious if he were to try anything with any female members or sisters. I've heard a lot of crazy mission stories, but I think that one takes the cake.

We had some pretty significant holidays this week! On the 8th of March was National Women's Day, so that whole day we saw women walking around with flowers. Then yesterday on the 13th was Procka, which means Forgiveness. So we got phone calls from random people asking us for forgiveness for anything they might have done wrong, including our landlord's son and a bakery lady. Our elderly female neighbor gave us some feta cheese and spinach pie, asking for forgiveness, so I'd call it a good day!

Gift giving is a really big deal here. So we got the idea from Brother Waterman to present the Book of Mormon as more of a gift to people, so we've been leading in with that this whole week, instead of telling people how we're Mormons, and having them freak out because that's not Orthodox, and anything that's not Orthodox is evil. And focusing on the Book of Mormon had a lot of success! People really do respect the gift giving, and we were able to give away quite a few.

One highlight of contacting, and not exactly a good one, was a guy who proceeded to tell me he wasn't interested because he's an atheist. We kept talking a little bit more, and later in the conversation he mentioned he was Christian. I stopped him, asked if he was Atheist or Christian. He said he was both. I told him that wasn't possible, but he was not having it. He carefully explained to me that he was born in the Orthodox Church and he was baptized, so he's Christian. But he doesn't believe in God or Jesus Christ, so he's Atheist. After that, I bid him farewell. For a lot of the people here, religion is a thing you're born with that they think can't be changed.

For culture, gambling is also really huge here, especially in Aerodrom. There are not a lot of casinos, but there are about 10 sports betting places in the range of about 1/2 mile. Those and cafes make up about half of the total businesses in all of Skopje; it's crazy.

Elder Rigby

March 7, 2016

It feels like its like Thursday right now, this week went by so quick. We traveled yet again west over to Tirana, Albania for Mission Leadership Council, where we talked about asking for more referrals and having less pride, more charity. We're finishing up reading the Book of Mormon for the 2nd time in 2 months, and we were all worried that President would drop it on us to ready it again in a month. He did, but this time he's giving us 6 months, and also all of Preach My Gospel. President Weidmann is easily one of the best people I've ever met in my life. I think you've got to be a special person to supervise the work of so many 19-20 year old kids for 3-years straight, being forced to work with them. And President Weidmann does it with so much love and inspiration for us.

We came back to Skopje and led the Zone Training, which turned out pretty decent. There is an elder in the zone that only speaks Albanian, so someone was live translating in the audience, and it was way distracting.

We all went over to the Waterman’s house, the embassy family here. They're such good people, holy cow. And they've got the sweetest little kids.

That's about it for the week! I hope all of you enjoy yours. I just checked our phone, it turns out it was off, and the APs called 4 hours ago probably asking for numbers. So gotta go!
Elder Rigby

March 1, 2016

The Nelsons are gone! They took off on their month cruise, but they'll be returning in late March for a day. Still no word on when the Pulleys will be arriving.

Apparently there are some pretty big protests going on in Prishtina right now. Last week the missionaries had to get moved out to Gjakova for a few days, and this week they almost got moved to Tirana for a few weeks. It's been nice and peaceful here in Skopje. Elections will be coming up in April I think, so we'll get our fair share then.

We had a lesson with Prend this week. After we left when he had all the missionaries over last week, his family was asking questions about the church. Prend said he told them out of all the good things to come from America (his family is from Kosovo, who loves America), the best thing is this church. I love Prend, he's such a good guy.

Our English course ended. We've been teaching the advanced class, so we've just been printing off pretty difficult grammar worksheets. On one that Elder Chingas and I did together, we got a 13% on it. This last class, we watched a lot of Meet the Mormons, which they absolutely loved.

We got a microphone and earpieces we're using as a translator for all of our non-Macedonian speakers we have at church! The Davis' had us over for dinner, and they made us really tasty lasagna. Ah man, it was so good.

Something funny that's happening today is that Sister Dow will be having a dinner with her dad today. He came to Macedonia on a business trip, and President Weidmann cleared it. 

The APs came down this week for exchanges. They parked their car and found us in Aerodrom, impressively enough. Then, when we went to go park their car closer to our house, we found a boot on it. They didn't know it was paid parking. Literally a few seconds later, a spider that takes the cars pulled up. They still made us pay the fees though. I was calling them out for ripping us off, and then the guy kept saying "Ne se sekiraj!" over and over and over again, which means "don't worry". That just made me really angry. But in any case, 50 Euros later, we got the car and had a good exchange.

Love you all, Elder Rigby