The Church is true. I think I've said those four words over and over in my head this week to save me from apostasy. Okay, maybe it's not that extreme. But the oppression I receive as a missionary is unprecedented. From a half credible statistic that I've heard quite often a time, the population of Kosovo is upwards of 97% Muslim. I don't doubt that figure one bit. But certainly don't cite me on it.
This has been the biggest concern weighing on my work this past week. The work in Kosovo is probably some of the hardest in the world. People here are rooted with their gaze toward Mecca. They deny any possibility that Jesus was the Christ, the Begotten Son of God. Any alleged interest people exert towards our faith or role as missionaries is feigned with the intent of contention. On the boulevard, the kind minority calmly walks away with a polite, "I'm not interested" while the rest yell and argue for Muhammed, Allah, and their beloved Quran. I try to reflect love notwithstanding their traditions or beliefs. And I sincerely try to express my acceptance for Muslims. But their assumptions tell them otherwise.
Please excuse the drama with which I amplified my description. The people really are quite considerate. There exist only those few who you fear for your life. But ultimately I'm on Christ's team, and the trending disbelief of his nature has no power to change that. I couldn't feel more proud to wear the name of Christ than after a one sided hate fest that ends in greater love and concern on my side and furthered fire on the reverse.
In less intense, less disappointing news, I am in an active war zone. That was quite the oxymoron, wasn't it? Fear not, the war is raging between the Kosovars and the Serbs far in the north. I am in worriless safety, especially considering the love that Kosovars have for Americans. Mom, I am fine. If you are worried, you can contact President Ford, and he will reaffirm this.
Work as a missionary is always exhausting, always rewarding, always eternal. That's why I do it. I wouldn't have it anyother way.
By way of word to those who plan to serve missions, I have a piece of counsel. Before you leave you had better figure out why you are going and what to expect. I say this because every day thus far I've been tempted to quit. Surrender. Give up. Go home. But that doesn't go without saying that the spirit has an unimaginable presence that pierces my heart and convinces me that I am a member of the greatest service that can be rendered.
I wish you could see the unstoppable smile on my face. In the face of doubt, discouragement, and endless disbelief, I am happier than most would think possible. I'm proud to be a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For that I will not apologize.
I love you all so very much. And I mean it. Though you are far, you are ever in my heart. I pray for you by name. It's only a short eternity until we meet again.
Your Brother, Son, Cousin, Nephew, Granchild, Friend, and otherwise Comrade in Christ, Elder Benson Ryan Gunther.
PS: As a side note, excuse the assumptious and otherwise pessimistic tone I adopted in this week's letter. It's really much safer, happier, and more relaxed than I played it as being.
|Prishtina Elders lunching. That's how we do.|
|Prishtina Boulevard on a typical night.|
|Elder Gunther and one of very few members in Kosovo. His name is Besim. In the Church building.|
|P-day today we did some spelunking. All within mission standards, of course.|
|My trainer, Elder Tanner, and Myself in the caves.|
|We had a light snack after our trip to the caves.And you thought Costco Pizza was big?|