Sunday, January 17, 2010
On My Way Now!
Riley left the Missionary Training Center at 3am on Jan. 6, 2010. He flew from Salt Lake City, UT to Los Angeles, CA. He then flew to Washington, DC where he was able to call home. We were able to talk to him for just about an hour. He then flew from Washington, DC to Vienna, Austria and from there to Tirana, Albania. Arriving in Albania at 12:25p on Jan. 7, 2010 after 36 hours of travel time!!! It is amazing that he has been there for 10 days already.
7 January, 2010
Dear Brother and Sister Smith,
As you can see from the attached photograph, Elder Smith arrived safely here in Tirana. He's shown here with Sister Neil and me in our living room following dinner in the mission home in Tirana. He is a bit tired, wrinkled and overwhelmed by the cultural shock of landing here. Everyone's luggage arrived at the same time they did!! (which is highly uncommon). He seems excited to get to work and to be assigned to his new companion. He has already been out to do his first street contacting (with great success!). We will assign him tomorrow afternoon to his trainer, a special dedicated missionary called to that important position. But rather than wait until then to let you know he arrived safely, we thought you might be anxious to know that he didn’t get lost in transit and that he did arrive and that all is well. Earlier today, I had a wonderful interview with him, we got him registered with the American Embassy. We just had dinner, and he and his companions are off to get some rest. We will send you another short note tomorrow with all of his addresses, the name of his companion and any other information that will hopefully make you comfortable about his status.
Please also know that we already love your son and are concerned for his well being. We will do all in our power to make sure that he is safe and that he has a wonderful experience serving as a missionary. We can say without question that he has come to one of the finest missions in the world. The people are kind, the members are so loving of the missionaries, and the other missionaries are the finest young men and women in the church.
Thank you for sharing your son with the people of this country. We know that your family will be blessed as you share in his experiences.
President and Sister J. Martin Neil
Albania Tirana Mission
8 January, 2010
Dear Brother and Sister Smith,
We have had the wonderful opportunity of spending more time with your son and getting to know him a little better. Your son is still functioning in another time zone, but jet lag will pass quickly for him. Elder Smith is doing well with the language and is talking to people in the street already. This morning, we took our new missionaries to the Mother Albania Statue and Park, a memorial to the heroes of Albania during the second world war, overlooking the city of Tirana. This is where Albania was dedicated for the preaching of the Gospel in April of 1993 by Elder Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve. The attached photo shows the entire MTC group up at the park, overlooking the city of Tirana, as well as a shot with the Monument in the background.
We had a short service there where we read together the dedicatory prayer, which is beautiful and becoming fulfilled in amazing ways. After prayer and thoughtful consideration, we have assigned him to work with Elder Hixson, in the city of Elbasan. Your son’s companion is a great missionary who has earned the opportunity to be a trainer by his dedicated service here in Albania. I am sure that your son will be able to learn much from him. He will also learn to rely on the Spirit to guide him daily. He will grow in ways that you can’t imagine.
The church requests that we use only the myldsmail.net email service and that your son communicate only with family members via email. He has an account and will be able to write once a week (on P-days, which are on Monday) and to receive e-mail from his immediate family.
All other addresses shown on the letterhead of this email are descriptions rather than an actual address. There is no mail delivery in Albania other than post office boxes, so our Office Secretary goes to the post office twice a week to pick up the mail and packages. We have found that US Priority mail is the least expensive and fairly rapid option (2 weeks), and US Express mail is the quickest (4-5 days) and the packages are actually delivered to our doorstep. The following address covers post office delivery, as well as delivery to the doorstep for US Express mail and other courier services:
PO BOX 2984
Rr Qemal Stafa Vila 1
Përballë Postës 22
We find that many items are sent that can also be purchased here and the costs are very high to ship, so discuss with your missionary what they really need to receive. We have had parents send expensive items and medications that could be bought here. Anything over $300 in value will trigger the payment of customs duties and a complicated procedure for retrieving the package. It might be helpful to check with us if you are considering sending important items.
Once a month your missionary will be given their financial allotment from the church via a debit card. If they should want any additional funds, each town does have a bank that will honor Visa/MasterCard ATM debit cards. They should have a card with minimum available funds of at least $100.00 in the case of emergencies.
If you need to write to us for any reason, just use the same address in care of President and Sister John M. Neil. Our office e-mail address is also shown in the letterhead. Otherwise you will begin hearing from your missionary every Monday (P-day) on a regular basis soon. I am sure that you are looking forward to that.
Again, thank you for raising such a fine son. Sister Neil and I love the Lord, we love His church, and we love His missionaries, and will do everything we can to support and sustain your son so that he can accomplish what he came here to do. We know he will have a wonderful mission, and will accomplish much good in this developing land of generous and kind people.
President John M. Neil
Sister Elizabeth Neil