Monday, June 16, 2014

Friends from Haskovo

Fun pictures from February

Traveling on the subway

                                                   A modeling picture that Susan sent
                                                          Elder Stratton with Alex

More March letters

March 17th 2014
 A training cycle is usually 3 months (2 transfers) & Elder Munson & I just finished our first transfer together but I guess they really liked me in Sofia because they are transfering me to Sofia to be a zone leader. My new companion is Elder Maxwell & he has 3 months left on his mission so I will meet up with him in Sofia tomorrow. I am already packed & everything is ready to go.
So in light of all of this it has been an interesting week. I said good-bye to everyone especially Sister Teodora. It is hard to leave her because I have been with her since the beginning. She is so young in the gospel, but at the same time she is so strong so it's hard leaving her. But the Lord has a plan!
We also had zone training this week which was very good & uplifting. I learned a lot. 
Thank you for sending the package I am waiting for it patiently haha.
We have been doing a lot of good this week. The weather is amazingly warm & pleasant & I have felt really good helping people & preaching the gospel.
I am excited & grateful for the new opportunities I will have this next transfer. We had interviews with President Wilstead this week also which was very nice. Every time I meet with him or hear him I learn something.

I have the great opportunity to see Elder Stratton before he goes home in 3 months because he is still a zone leader;) he is also super excited haha.
YOU MUST GO TO ELDER STRATTON'S HOMECOMING WHEN HE RETURNS. You must get acquainted with his family they are amazing.
I love you:) there are a lot of new things going on & as we follow Preach My Gospel & the guidelines humbly we will have success.

I love you & the family:) have a great week! Remember to do the small & simple things: Daily prayer, scripture study, serving others & loving them & repenting.
Love you son, Elder Gustafsson
ps. Again everything is fine with my health if anything comes up you will be the first to know.

March 24th 2014

So here I am in Sofia haha it has been an interested week. I don't really have time for anything! haha We are always calling at lunch, dinner, & in the evenings but it is nice & it is not too crazy. My companion's named is Elder Maxwell he is from New York. He has only two transfers left; this one & the next one. Sofia is hugeeeeeeee! There are 4 companionships here in Sofia so the city is divided into 4 parts. Our part is the size of probably 10 Pazardjiks or Hackovos put together so it is quite a difference. We have about 100 members or so, maybe even 120 at church weekly but there are over 200 who are inactive so there is a lot of member work. I really like the work here in Sofia. We have been meeting with this woman named Yulia who is a part member family. She will be getting baptized this saturday. 
Our apartment is really nice haha:) it's a huge upgrade from my last two apartments. Zone leader duties aren't that complicated or special, we just make a lot of calls. But I am doing my best to get to know everyone in the zone & make sure they feel loved & cared for. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve not only the people of Bulgaria but also the missionaries. 
I am happy &healthy:) I can send you photos now so I hope you are happy about that:)

I love you so much Mom:) I get to see you & the family in a month (mother's day) so that is very exciting:)

Love, Elder Gustafsson

March 3rd and 10th

March 3rd 2014
Today is a really big holiday for Bulgaria. It is the day the Russians freed the Bulgarians from the 500 year "Turkish Yoke"
Everything is going well haha there is no need to worry. I have just had this thing on my arm & they are removing it so don't worry haha:)
This week has been interesting. The downer was that Lybka's husband doesn't want her to associate with us so we can't meet with her anymore. But she believes the Book of Mormon is true & everything else so we are keeping in contact with her  as well as doing our best to work with her through members. Hopefully one day her husband's heart will soften.
Yes I have spoken with Sister Teodora:) she is very happy & grateful for the help & she is really excited. No we have not had a relief society here. We are literally laying the foundation here in Bulgaria.
I looked at Familysearch& I was so impressed! But I realized that on Grandpa Gustafsson's side with his father the info isn't there on the site & I don't know why.
The work is still going:) haha& the companionship is going very well. It's exhausting being a trainer haha so hopefully I don't have to do it more than once.
So I will explain the arm in a little more detail because I know you like details but DON'T WORRY. haha Focus on the things there! So when I was with Elder Vassau this thing was growing on my arm & it is small but it looked like a blood blister & it just hasn't gone away. So I called the doctor & sent a picture & he said he simply needs to be removed. So tomorrow I am going to Sofia it will be removed then I will return &work:)
There is a lot of great potential here, we are doing our best & we are striving to improve. We are still building the church here.

I love you Mom:) again Don't worry haha everything will be fine. Keep keeping the commandments, doing excellently at work, exercising every day, loving & supporting the family, & growing spiritually:)

March 10th 2014
I am doing very well:) today at 6.00 pm our time I am getting this thing removed. I don't really know what that will entail so that's all I have to tell you concerning that haha. It should be pretty simple. We'll send you another email to update you.
I received grandma's package. Will you please thank her personally for me? Thanks
This week has been great:) We have had a lot of great experiences. I would like to share two which happened:
So in the last few district meetings I have received a lot of inspiration. They are things I have heard before but I have been trying to apply them. One example was in following the spirit. The promptings of the spirit will usually come first. If you dismiss it or start thinking of anything else or disregard it in some way those are all from Satan. So always act on the first prompting even if you don't understand it.
So yesterday we left the apartment after lunch & our language study to find people to teach. We decided we were going to head to an area with blocks to tract near Sister Teodora's house. As we went we passed a little street & I had just the smallest little thought which said to go down there. In about 3 seconds I thought: well I've never been down that street, it's small, there's not a lot of people there, & we are heading towards this place so no. I then immediately recalled the lesson learned in district meaning (actually the spirit reminded me) & I thought again & said let's go down that street. So we turned around & went down the street & nobody was there. In reality though it was heading towards the same blocks which we planned to visit so we continued. We turned to a new street which lead back to the main street. On my right a saw a block with a door & I had the prompting to go try it. As we walked towards the door I saw a man very close to it & decided no let's not go there because it could be weird trying the door while he watches. So I look at the other side at another block which is directly across from where we are standing & we see a block with an unlocked door wide open. So we go to tract it:)
We enter in & we knock on the first door that has people in it & a woman opens the door. We say to her the same things we normally do: Do you believe in God? According to you who is God etc. She said she believed something was there but doesn't really know exactly what it is. We asked if possible how could we find out who this God is. She said I don't know but I am reading something right now I will go grab it.
She returns & she had been reading Our church's Plan of Salvation pamphlet. With a huge grin on my face I pulled out the same pamphlet & said "Oh you mean this pamphlet? This is us:) haha. We got her info, she has a 1 year old son & she is married. We are hopefully meeting tomorrow. It was such a huge blessing because it was all possible because we followed the spirit & it really strengthened my testimony.
The spirit is with us, & it truly does speak soo softly & gently. We have to act on those first promptings. When we were baptized we were promised the companionship of the Holy Ghost if we are worthy. I know we have it & we need to follow it.
The week has been great & I have a dozen other experiences. But another time:)
I am happy &healthy:) The companionship is going very well. I am so happy to be here working. I love the work.

I love you all dearly:) I will write to you soon & don't worry, everything will be fine.

Love your son, Elder Gustafsson

New Greenie Companion

More February

February 17th 2014
I am so glad to hear you went to Brother Vassau's farewell! That is just super! Like I said he is an incredible missionary, I learned so much from him & hope you get the opportunity to really get to know his family. I look up to him a lot.
Brother Leonhardt& Brother Bryce are great missionaries too & were great leaders in the mission:) I am so happy you got to see them all:) I love them all dearly!!
If you see Brother Vassau again soon you could say.. There is a gripfull of work, it's in my wheel house & things are going very well. Tell him I am expecting an email from him when things cool down &Dimitur (the older man who is an english student) came to church & he is now investigating the church. We had a lesson with him & Sister Gergana but had to turn him over to the other missionaries because he lives in their area but we will continue to call him:)
So please deliver that whole message to him:)
We are eating plenty! I eat a banana, apple, eggs, cereal, & whole wheat toast along with a muti vitamin every morning. We eat chicken & rice for dinner. I love rice. & we buy out occasionally sandwiches. We eat a lot, enough.
You can send this out to Bishop Gray, or the emails if you still do it. I have his email, I just forgot to bring it today for emailing. You can let him know, or I will, that I got the envelope of letters from the ward & that I appreciate it:)
This week we had a leadership training for just leaders in the mission from all over the country. It was truly a rewarding experience. I got to see Elder Stratton for probably the last time as a missionary. He only has about 4 months
 As a side note Sister TeodoraDydova, our convert here in Pazardjik loves family history. She is really seeking help. This week we had a lesson on family history & I recommended you! My mother because you are an expert:) find her on Facebook & Family search/tree & help her if you could:)
I love you Mom, I love the whole family:) I look forward to hearing from Shawn sometime. I understand if he is busy though. Keep choosing the right, be anxiously engaged, & go & do!
Love your son:), Elder Gustafsson

February 24th 2014
I am so glad you were able to see Brother Vassau, I hope he is adjusting well. I am also very glad you are talking with Sister TeodoraDydova& that you are helping her it makes me very happy:)

That is so exciting about those mission calls! They will do great!
Let me tell you about this last week: We had zone training which was very nice & I learned a lot like always. But I wanted to tell you a bit about Lybka. Lybka has a date for March 15th & she is progressing very well. She is an incredible woman & she is reading a lot from the Book of Mormon & she has come to church twice. So we are very excited for her. Continue to pray for her Daily! 

I have so many special experiences as I am out here. The mission is just an incredible experience. 

I will share others stories with the family. I love You Mom:) keep going! I am so grateful that you are my mother, there is no one like you. Not only are you my mother but you are my friend:) Always remember that. 

Love your son:), Elder Gustafsson

Love your son:), Elder Gustafsson

Some February Letters

February Letters
February 3rd 2014
It is so incredible to see Shawn. He looks completely full of light! Tell him to send me an email, I would love to talk to him!
Well I have some news. It definitely was transfers this week. I will be training a new missionary here in Pazardjik. This means I will stay here for 3 more months, which lands me right at my year mark which is just mind boggling. I am grateful for the opportunity & privilege to train a new missionary, it's a special responsibility.
I saw Elder Vassau off today. It truly was a pleasure to serve with him, he is one of the best missionaries this mission has seen. Again I am just blown away by the photos of Shawn. He looks so bright. I am so proud of him. He served a faithful mission & it's not an easy thing.
I am doing very well. I have learned many things this transfer.So in my district here we will have Elder Watson (my companion in Hackovo! haha) he is the district leader & he will be with Elder Johnson who is in my mtc group & I will be training the new missionary, we don't know who he is yet, they are not in country yet. My trainer, Elder Stratton, , just went Zone Leader & he has only 4 months left it is crazy! Anton (the man Elder Stratton & I baptized in Hackovo) will be getting the Melchizedek Priesthood soon, he will be having his interview this week. I am so happy for him & that he is progressing.
The mission is improving, & I am improving & changing & progressing.
I love you & the family so much:) be good! work hard! Have faith!
Love your son, Elder Gustafsson:)

February 10 2014
I am doing very well. I have my new companion, his name is Elder Munson. He is from San Diego California:) We got Elder Vassau off very well. When we were in Sofia Elder Vassau's dad emailed President Wilstead& he said this "My son is not the same person I sent two years ago. I love the new one & I don't want the old one." I thought it was very powerful. Elder Vassau in his final testimony to President & the others was "I am a changed man" & again I thought that was so powerful & it led me to reflection. I hope that I become/am becoming a much better person & completely change for the better.
The weather here is really starting to pick up already. Today is very sunny &beautfiul there isn't even a need for a coat.
It has been an interesting experience this week. There was a lot of traveling at first & such because my companion & the other new missionaries don't get picked up by us until Wednesday. The mission is changing: we are striving to become better teachers & teach all the time especially on the street & I have seen a huge difference in the work already. We found this wayyy awesome woman named Lypka who is about 40ish. I think she has great potential. Toshko&Vulyo have fallen off but the work is really picking up because we found new investigators & taught a lot this week even with the crazy schedule & all the traveling! We also tracted into this awesome family of three. They are young & way nice. Their names are Borislava, Bogi, & their daughter Vasi. We will pray for them & continue to work with them.
As I have been training I have truly realized how much Bulgarian I know haha. It's incredible how much I understand & how much I can speak! Your prayers really helped me:) I am so grateful for the help. It has just been an interesting process training & leading. I don't really like being called a leader or being a leader. I like minding my own & just working hard & not having any attention. I also feel a bit inadequate but the Lord called me so I will do my best even though I have many flaws. The Lord has given me this rare opportunity to love, help, & serve others & to learn new things for my own progression.I love you Mom, I love you & the family. I know God is taking care of you, keep enduring, keep choosing the right actively.

Love me, your son, Elder Gustafsson

Another January Letter

Jan 27, 2014
I am well! This is the last week of the transfer haha. It doesn't feel like it, especially knowing that this is the last week with Elder Vassau. I still feel like we have a lot of work to do! We have people to find, investigators to teach, build the church, & strengthen the members.
But I really have learned a lot this transfer. I am ready for the next step in my mission/life/progression whatever that may be. I feel it coming. The main thing I have learned from Elder Vassau this transfer is Dignity.Every transfer there has been a major theme. Last transfer it was patience & compromise. My first two transfers were patience again haha. But an overriding theme has always been love; charity. It has been quite the process.Every so often I write down goals & desires but I am always striving to focus on the work. Consecration of course has been a key theme as well.
The first snow fall has come finally here in Pazardjikhaha. Winter has finally come! It is colder but it should only last February & then it will warm up:) Winters are shorter here haha.
In terms of work this week we have done street contacting &tracting. It's an interesting process haha:) But that is basically all we have done! We are finding people & there is good potential but we will see how it goes.
We are still working with Toshko but it will take a little longer than planned. So keep praying for him!:)
The chances of me staying in Pazardjik are extremely high. Anything could happen. If I train I will stay here until my year mark which is just crazy. So we will find out next week:)I have been referring to the "Where's Mom Now that I need her?" for food & stuff which has been great. But eating next transfer will be better:)Just keep praying for me, pray for the work here. Pray individually, as a couple, as a family:) Keep the commandments exactly! There are so many promised blessings I promise! Read scriptures individually & as a couple & a family. STRIVE TO DO THESE THINGS.
As you do those things you will help me:)I love you, keep it up! Be healthy & watch out for pain & stuff. Just be careful.

Love me, your son, Elder Gustafsson

Update January letters

Hello everyone, I  am working on an update of Alex’s letters over the past few months, he is doing really well and seems very happy and enjoying what he is doing!!  I did get to see his lovely face on Mother’s Day and that was just a fabulous treat for the family.
January letters
January 20, 2014
Hi Mom, I am very glad to hear that you are doing well. Every month or so I listen to my setting apart by President Chugg& I know & remember everything will be all right back home.
I am great:) in terms of just me I am healthy, I am happy, I am working hard & great things are happening.
So the work is really coming along here! Vulyo is back from the Czech Republic & we met with him yesterday & he is still committed to progress in the gospel, follow Christ, & be baptized. We will be handing him off to the other Elders in our district because he lives in their area. But we will have daily contact & continue to support him. The other Elders have an investigator named Toshko who also has a date & he has been handed to us because he lives in our area haha so we switched investigators with baptismal dateshaha. He is a cool man & I am excited to see them repent & be baptized. Sister Teodora is AMAZING she is THE BEST member here in Pazardjik& she is the youngest! She helps with many lessons & she is so willing & she is progressing so much. She is even finding people for us to teach! Such a blessing.This next coming week the whole group will be getting callings & we will be one step closer to becoming a branch. We are continually looking for people to teach.

This last week we had Zone Conference & it was AMAZING. We were trained for 8 hours straight by President Bennett who is in the area Presidency for the East Europe Area. Sooo many notes.Tooo many notes haha.
The weather is very warm here. It is in between winter & spring. But it is really warming up.
The other Elders live pretty close to each other.
I have had so many rich experiences. I have felt the spirit so much & I am learning so much.I love you & the family so much. You are so dear & close to my heart. Continue to work hard, have balance in your life, & stay close to the Lord & family.

Pray for Toshko&Vulyo. I love you! Love your son:) Elder Gustafsson

This picture was sent from one of the couple missionaries

Sorry this isn't a better picture but we were at zone conference and I couldn't help but take his picture because this is how intently he listened, the whole 9 hours!  The longest zone meeting we've had but Elder Bennett from the 70's & The Eastern Europe Area Presidency, was our speaker.  Along with Pres. Wilstead, it was an amazing conference.

Elder Gustafsson asked some great questions and when his companion Elder V. shared his testimony he told about how he was happy to end his mission with Elder Gustafsson, because he has been the most caring companion that he's had.  How he listens to how Elder V. Feels and that they have had a great many talks that he will always cherish.  He really is a great kid and missionary (I can say kid, they are all so young or I'm just getting old).