Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Letter # 44 - Baby It's Cold Outside - December 14, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

It is freezing here. I am surprised sometimes when people stop to talk to me on the street, because I am wearing a hat, with my coat with my hood, with my gloves and scarf and at least 4 pairs of tights, wool socks and boots. I imagine I look like Ralphie's brother from "A Christmas Story." But the work keeps going. 

This last week we were in Macedonia for exchanges. We had a little Family Home Evening there and even though I couldn't understand a word they were sharing there was such special spirit there. We watched a video called "What Shall We Give?" I was super touched by it's short and simple message of service around the Christmas season. 

I know sometimes as a missionary I feel like success equals baptisms or lessons you had that week, but the video reminded me of something important- the small things we do are what count, like talking to someone on the street or sharing a scripture with someone in need. Sometimes, I preach so much of Christ I forget to live like Him. He was born to be the light of world, and His invitation to all us is to follow that light and become like Him.

And telling people that He lives is the best thing that has happened to me. I love being a missionary! 

I love you all! 

Motra J 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Letter # 43 - Those Christmas Lights...Keep Shining On...- December 7, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

Could I be any happier that it is Christmas right now? No, I don't think it is possible. This month has already been the best month of my life! 

This last week was quite an exciting one. We got to go to Bondsteel. It is the American military base here in Kosovo. It was like a movie! A ton of soldiers, Black Hawk helicopters, and everyone was speaking English. We got to go to the American store, who knew you could spend so much money on Oreo and marshmallows? My companion and I were so happy to buy some American food. We even got to eat in the was crappy cafeteria food but we were just happy it was American! Fox News was even on the TV. Definitely an out of body experience.

But we have definitely eaten way too much American food..our diets could be described in the words of my favorite Christmas movie, "We elves have four main food groups...candy corn, candy, candy canes and syrup." 

We got to share a neat Christmas message with the one Mormon soldier on base. It was really neat. We mostly talked about families, because he of course is missing his family around this Christmas season. 

I don't really know what has happened in the last 7 days here in Kosovo, but ever since that video  (A Savior is Born) has come out, something has changed in the air. My companion and I have already seen so many miracles. We have been able to start teaching a new girl named Sally, who is amazing. People are coming back to church, lessons are going better, and we are just so happy. I don't think there is a better time then right now to be a missionary. 

Also, although our little miracle family was quite a disappointment, we have been teaching a new girl named Sally who is the best. Whenever we plan a lesson with her, she says, "Yes I will come tomorrow if I am still alive." Oh I love her. I feel like God gave us her, because he realized it was rough to lose that family. God really is the giver of a tender mercies. 

I love you all!! 

Motra J 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Letter # 42 - November 30, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

I hope that you all had a great Thanksgiving. We had a great little Thanksgiving with our whole mission and ate some good turkey. I love my mission and especially my mission president. And now only 25 days until Christmas!

This week was a lot better then the last one. Although our little family has decided to be Catholic, I have really felt over the last couple of days that no effort is wasted. Who knows if down the road they will remember the two sister missionaries who talked about the Book of Mormon? You never know.

Anyways, I don't have too much to say this week but I hope that you can all watch this video, A Savior is Born. It is so amazing and we will be using it for the whole Christmas season! 

I love how happy everyone is in the video, because it is true, we have good tidings of great joy! A Savior is born, we have a hope that no one else haves. I hope that we can all share the gospel a little more this Christmas season and be a little better.

I love you all! 

Motra J 

This is my district.

The basement of our church flooded this week.  

Our little "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Letter # 41 - November 23, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-
Normally, I start off every email, "This past week was good..." But I am not going to lie this last week was pretty darn rough. I won't go through and name all the bad things that happened, but just know it was a wrong turn after wrong turn. Just when you things couldn't get any worse....
Our miracle family that we were teaching decided that the Catholic church is the right church. We have been meeting them with everyday for a month now, so you can imagine what a shock it was. I even asked them if they were pulling a joke. Nope.
It is probably the worst kind of heartbreak when something like that happens. You aren't really sad for yourself, but more sad for the people because you have come to love them so much and you are giving them the one thing that matters the most to you. 

But, to quote Batman "Why do we fall? So we can pick ourselves back up." 

That is the best part of the gospel, that we don't have to be perfect but as long as we keep picking ourselves back up when we fall. That is what really matters. 

So even though this email sounds depressing, and we don't have any investigators now, I want you all to know the church is still true. And we are fighting on the winning team. Nothing can ever stop us even though it looks like it sometimes-we are going to win. 

I love you all.

Motra J 

Also one my favorite (returned) missionaries sent me this photo this morning. It is rather fitting and I really liked it. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Letter # 40 - Let the Good Times Roll - November 16, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

Sorry, we didn't get a chance to email last week because we were in Macedonia. But we stayed in good ole' Gjakova today and enjoyed the sunshine. 

These past couple of weeks have kind of been a whirlwind of things. Some fun things that have happened the last couple of weeks...

-Did an exchange in Macedonia and understood absolutely nothing
-Got locked out of our house and tried to break in using credit cards with the Elders
-Preparing our little family for baptism and having them finally understanding we are not Catholic
-Talking to a girl for one hour about aliens....
-Starting playing Christmas music in our apartment

Anyways, the work keeps going forward. But the last couple of weeks have been filled with a lot of contemplation for me. The thing that I love most about a mission is the fact that for a year and a half I get to think about only the gospel. Heaven knows how distracted I get at home with my music, books, and movies and everything in-between but I've been thinking a lot about change and how to become a better person.

There have been plenty of times on my mission where I have felt discouraged, that I am maybe too weak for the task that has been placed a head of me. And I've always heard that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, those burdens can be lightened. I use to think that meant He would take the burdens away, but now I understand that He just makes us stronger so that we can face them with His help. 

Of all the places that my mind wanders on my mission, one that I find myself continually drawn back to is the path that Christ walked on the way to Golgotha. When He carried His cross alone. I think when I was there, I didn't understand how much that path would later mean to me. Because now I realize, He walked that path alone so that we never have to.

Mosiah 3 

8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

 9 And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.

 10 And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.

I read this yesterday actually with the Smith Family. We talked about the Atonement and as I was testifying of it to them, the Spirit settled in the room and testified to me (perhaps more to me than them) that Jesus Christ lives and His grace and power are available to everyone. There was a moment with them last night, where we were all still because the Spirit was testifying so strongly that it was true. I don't think you can ever forget moments like that.  

Wow, I love being a missionary more than anything else in the world. I love sharing that message with the people. 

I love you! 

Motra J 

This giant cross stands on top of a hill in Macedonia.

At night on the bridge.


Last night with some of the Elders.

Ahh!  Beautiful Sunsets!

Our gift of oranges to our neighbors because we burned our brownies!

Letter #39 - November 2, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

I hope that you all had a great Halloween this past week. 

This last week was a great one! We had an amazing lesson about the Word of Wisdom with our little family. The dad who usually is smoking and drinking coffee was just staring at us and then at the end of the lesson he stood up and threw his cigars across the room and hasn't been smoking or drinking! It was so awesome to see. Seeing people change for the gospel is one of my favorite things of being a missionary. 

I was reading this morning about changing and changing our hearts. I realize that for people just joining the church, they really have to change so much, but after baptism we still have to change gradually so that we become like Heavenly Father. I've seen that the happiness comes into their lives when they start to change. 

I loved what President Uchtdorf said, "Exaltation is our goal discipleship is our journey." There is nothing more awesome then helping people find that road to exaltation and teaching them about the gospel! I love you all! 

Love, Motra J 

The Elders with the street dogs that follow us when we street contact.

Letter # 38 - October 26, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

As far as great stories go this week, it all began at 6 am on an exchange with Sister Chesire. We decided to try our luck at running the streets of Kosovo. There we were strolling along, when 5 giant dogs start barking at us. Accustomed to this, I keep running until I realize that they aren't just barking at us but chasing us down the street. I grab Sister Chesire's arm and do the only logical thing to do in that situation, run! We ran and ran and finally turned down an ally. When we were finally in the clear, we stopped to catch our breath (nothing like 5 angry dogs to make you run super fast) and I just about fell over laughing. You can either laugh or cry your way through life, but crying makes my face all puffy so laughing it was. We very cautiously ran home and were very wary of dogs the whole rest of the day. Good times. 

But besides the angry dogs, this week was great. It is getting cold outside which means we drink hot chocolate every night. 

We love our little miracle family and go over there every night! They always feed us chestnuts, and two nights ago we had pasta with spicy ketchup on it. So yummy. 

Life as a missionary is the best. We get to testify of the Savior every day and feel the Spirit in every moment. There is nothing better than watching a family read the Book of Mormon for the first time or seeing them decide to keep the Word of Wisdom.

Those changes, whether for big or for small are the most amazing things. And I know that they are not changing for us, but changing for their love of the Savior. 

I love you! 

Motra J 
We visited a monastery.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Letter # 37 - The Most Awkward Word of Wisdom Lesson - October 19, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

Are you getting old? Are you tired? Are you cold? Are you upset? Are you cold? Are you upset? How are you? 

Basically that is the beginning of every SINGLE conversation I have here in Kosovo. They just ask, are you getting old all the time. Then you say, "nga pak" which means just a little. 

Anyways, this week was amazing! I also have a great story. So we have been teaching this mom and daughter. We are on the Word of Wisdom lesson with them so we go over and we actually were able to get a member to go with us. So the member starts telling them what and what they cannot drink and the woman stops, "Wait you said rrushe tea is bad? But the sisters drink it every time they come over." HAHAHHA. So awkward. That is what happens when there is a language barrier and you don't understand what they give you. So yeah...we have been breaking the Word of Wisdom, but we committed our investigators and us to live it. Moral of the story: keep learning Albanian. 

But besides that small hiccup, this week has been amazing. We found an amazing family who loves Jesus Christ! Yesterday, we got to teach the Plan of Salvation to them in their candle lit home (the power was off). The Spirit was so strong.

It was funny, the two days before we met the family were a couple rough. We literally tracted for two days straight, we were either on the road or knocking on doors. But those two days were all worth getting that one phone number that lead to us traveling out to that little village and finding them. All the work for just the one-it was so worth it.

It just reminds me the hard days are always there, but you keep working and you keep going and the Lord blesses you. How merciful He is! 

I love you all.

Motra J 

P.S. Second marriage proposal of the mission happened this week. Now I can choose between a vineyard or a house with a cow. I think I am going to deny them both and try my luck in America but it was a nice offer. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Letter #36 - October 12, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

Hello from rainy Kosovo! It is has been raining for the last 3 days straight. I am finally getting use of rainboots! 

This past week, I have been thinking a lot about light. I guess maybe because I haven't seen a lot of it for the past three days. (And yes, my beautiful tan is finally fading away.) I was really impressed by President Monson's invitation to become lights for the world. 

This week we have had a lot of Restoration lessons and then we can never meet with the people again. They decide that they don't want to meet with us any more, or just never answer the phone again. 

At first, I was thinking that it was just a waste of time to teach these single lessons about Joseph Smith to have the people drop us later, but I heard a example about light in my first transfer that really changed my opinion about that.

They compared the gospel to a light bulb and they drew people who were super close, members of the church, the prophet, everyone who has accepted the gospel. Then they drew people who were on the outskirts who couldn't really see the light. Then we talked about how whenever someone comes in contact with us, they get a little closer to the light which represents Jesus Christ. 

So I have realized, that every street contact, every smile, every lesson that seems like it did nothing-really it helps that person just come a little closer unto Christ. No effort really is every wasted. 

True, not everyone I talk to gets baptized but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve to hear about the gospel. If I talk to everyone, God can figure out the technical stuff. He is the Master Planner and I know that His plan for his individual children is a whole lot better than mine. 

"To each of you, I say that you are a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father. You have come from His presence to live on this earth for a season, to reflect the Savior’s love and teachings, and to bravely let your light shine for all to see. When that season on earth has ended, if you have done your part, yours will be the glorious blessing of returning to live with Him forever." 

- President Monson

I love you all! 

Motra J 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Letter # 35 - Welcome to Kosovo - October 5, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

One week down in the beautiful land of Kosovo. It has been quite the week of readjustment. The language has been a bit hard, everyone kind of speaks like a hick and every time I talk to a woman on the phone, I think it is a man.

But we have already seen a ton of miracles this week. Everyone is Muslim here and so I find myself over and over again, testifying of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is funny, I think this week I have gained even a better testimony of the importance of a living prophet. And no coincidence, it being conference weekend. 

A lot of people like our message and like us, but don't understand that we are different because we have a living prophet. I met a girl this week who investigated the church for 13 years, but she said she knew it was true because we were the only church that had a living prophet. How neat is that? 

I don't really have much else for this week, besides the fact that I am grateful for a living prophet and I know that he really talks with God. 

I love you all.

Motra J 
One of my favorite families in Elbasan!

Our cute apartment!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Letter # 34 - TRANSFERS! - September 28, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

DRUMROLL.......I AM GOING TO GJAKOVA KOSOVO. Yes. My transfer call is to another country. President called us on Saturday night and I was shaking when I hung up the phone....from excitement! I am going to be a Sister Training Leader with my new companion, Sister Kelly, and that means we get to go to Macedonia for exchanges! I am so pumped.

On the other hand though, I will be learning Albanian all over again. Those of you who pray for me to have the gift of tongues...please don't stop. I feel like I just barely got the hang of Albanian here, but in Kosovo they speak Gheg, which is a really hilly-billy version of Albanian. Apparently the women sound like men, and the men sound like the Huns from Mulan. I am super excited though to learn Gheg.

But yes, it is going to be freezing and snowy and so different from serving here in Albania. But I have felt an overwhelming sense of peace that I am supposed to be there in Kosovo. 

Saying goodbye to everyone in Elbasan has broken my heart a little bit. I thought saying goodbye to my family was hard-but I know that after a year and half I will see them again. Saying goodbye here is so uncertain-sometimes I feel like I won't see these people until we meet again in heaven.

Another Elder is leaving from his mission to go home, so we sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" yesterday in Sacrament. I was afraid my eyes would be so teary I wouldn't be able to play the piano because I've really come to feel a small portion of that love that God has for his children here in the vineyard.

A lot of people who have heard that I am going to Gjakova have expressed apologies because I am going to a harder area of the mission. I have thought a lot about that. I thought before my mission, going on a mission was like paying tithing for your life. 2 years=tithing for living 20 years. Just to repay the Lord back. But, now I realized I could never really do that. No matter how hard I worked.

Instead I realized, it is like the song, "I Will Go Where You Want Me to Go"-there is a line in the song that says, "Where I may labor for life's short day for Jesus the Crucified." I love that-that I can just waste and wear out my life, for these 18 months for Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter that people slam the door in our face, that people make fun of us on the streets, that somedays no one wants to listen to us. It is just a small thing I can do for Christ because He lives and I love Him. 

Well, I love you all and thank you for all your prayers. I really feel the support on both sides of the veil here in the mission field. 

Love, Motra J 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Letter # 33 - September 21, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

As we were on way to email today I asked my companion what happened this week because I usually can't remember. We were going through the days and my companion said, "Well, on Tuesday we finally found microwave popcorn. That was good." But good news, I finally remembered what happened besides stumbling upon microwave popcorn. 

We had one my favorite lessons ever this week. It was my favorite because we just talked about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I still do not understand it completely but I do know that it is a real power we can use in our lives because we have a loving Father in Heaven.

We read this scripture with a girl who is facing a lot in her life right now-stuff I can't even imagine, but the Spirit impressed upon me that nothing can help her more than Jesus Christ and His Atonement.   

 11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

 12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

In the Albanian set of scriptures is says, "how to succor his people according to their weaknesses." And I think I liked that a little better than infirmities-because on those days we fall short, those days when we just don't measure up, we just have remember the Lord has paid the price for us. Not just for a couple of people who were really close to being perfect, but for every single person. How amazing is that. 

I love you all!

Motra J  

And this is my favorite video ever. I wish I could watch it every day. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Letter #32 - A Marriage Proposition, Cow Milking, and A Whole Lot of Randomness - September 14, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

I loved this week with all my heart. It was amazing. We met so many amazing people and so amazing things happened, I can't include it all in an email. On Saturday night, I came home and listened to "Joy to the World" because it was basically like Christmas for me, I was so happy! 

I will just include some of the little miracles of this week

1) Bora! She was supposed to get baptized at the beginning of the transfer, but her Muslim husband said no. Last week, her husband actually came to church with her and has given her permission to get baptized! I am so pumped.

2) We were street contacting and this woman stops me-which is significant because most of the time we have to stop the Albanian people and convince them to talk to us. She said, "Are you true believers of Christ?" I told her yes, then she explained, "I knew I needed to walk home this way today because Christ told me that you would be waiting for me!" We walked home with her and got introduced to her whole crazy family who all believe in Christ and love the Bible. It was so awesome! 

3) Okay-funniest story I have to share. It wasn't really a miracle but we got invited by our ward mission leader, Brother Metushi to come over to his house. To describe him, he is basically a little hobbit and dances like one as well. Anyways, we go over there and his wife and son are not members. Anyways, we are thinking-hey we can help get his wife baptized. 

But he had other motives in mind.....we taught a short lesson about Plan of Salvation. Trying to emphasize the fact that of course, we want all our family to be with us in heaven again. The lesson went okay, but then after his family fed us the typical Albanian dinner which is rice in sauce with bread. Then Greek Salad with sour yogurt called kos. Soggy bread that they call dessert and of course, Fanta Exotic to top it all of.

It was the typical Albanian dinner. They ate nothing and had more fun just getting us to eat everything. They always tell us, "EAT EAT YOU ARE YOUNG AND SKINNY." Then at the end of the meal, he literally gives us an 8 pound bag of grapes I could barely carry home.

Anyways, didn't think much about the lesson anymore but then he came to FHE on Friday. We were playing games and having a great time, and he pulls me aside and says, "Can we talk in the kitchen?" And I was like, "Sure, come on Motra Ranta." He said, "No, no, just you." Now I am werided out, "Well, I am always supposed to be with my companion." He just grumbles and pulls us into the kitchen.

He just looks super uncomfortable and awkward and starts, "Listen....that family really likes you so my son wants you to come back after your mission...can you do that? Think you can have all the grapes in our vineyard....okay? Just think about it." 

I didn't really say anything..I think that got of my mouth was "Okay.......". Then Sister Ranta and I had a laughing fit in the kitchen after he left. Our ward mission leader wasn't really interested in getting his wife baptized...just in getting a wife for his son. Anyways, whenever I see him now, he brings me more grapes. In fact, on Sunday he opened our car and stuffed grapes into our bags.

I guess I just didn't expect that from the ward mission leader. I think it pretty hilarious and no-I do not plan on coming back here and marrying anyone from Albania-even for all the grapes in world.

4) Another miracle! We have been searching for less actives and we were able to find the sweetest lady this last week. We were truly lead by the Spirit to her house. 

She fed us probably the grossest thing I've had on my mission so far. It was milk with yogurt, butter, and cheese, all left out in the sun to rot. Gulping that down was a toughie. It doesn't sound that bad-but trust me. (Oh another note, she let me milk the cow). But that drink is called Dhale.

Anyways, she talked about how she felt she had been in darkness the last couple of days and suddenly we appeared and she said, "Today the sunshine has come back into my life." And I knew it wasn't us, but the message and the Spirit that we carried.

5) We went to Tirana this week for our Stake Conference. My favorite part is when the Albanians sang "Come, Come Ye Saints." Although it was off-key because no one knows how to sing, I felt such a Spirit that they really are the pioneers of this work. 

Anyways, this week was quite an adventure. I can't include everything that happened but I just want to testify for those little miracles along the way. The Lord is preparing people-this is His work. We are just lucky enough to be his disciples, to be His instruments here. 

I know that if we rely on the Lord-WE CAN DO ANYTHING. I love that. The Lord is the miracle worker, not us. He is just waiting to show us what we can do with Him, if we put our trust in Him and let him.

I love this work with all my heart. I love these people. There is nothing better then serving a mission, I am so glad I am here because I am coming to know my Savior.

I love you all! 

Motra J
The infamous koran fish that I ate today.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Letter # 31 - September 7, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

This week we were just talking to people on the street (this is how all great stories begin...) but we stopped this little old lady and she just was like "Oh I love you girls" and gives us big kisses and pats our heads and says "Te keqa nena" which translates to "Give all your bad things to me because I am your grandma." 

It just makes us laugh because this happens all the time to us and they are always random strangers...mostly old people who just kiss us and give us big hugs then run away. Two weeks ago, an old little grandpa said, "Are you American?" And before I could stop him he just pulls me for a hug and tried to kiss my cheek (I avoided that one), then he just left on his way. Whenever we need extra lovin' here we just talk to the old people. 

Twas a good week this week. The weather is finally cooling down and we got a car in our area which means no more riding on the bus with the goats. 

This last week we were cruising along and then we hit a little bump in the road. The 5 people that we were teaching decided that they didn't have time to hear our lessons anymore. It was a little rough, but we still had one girl we hadn't heard from for 3 days so I just started praying super hard that she still wanted to get baptized and meet with us. 

We didn't hear for her for two days but finally we were able to talk to her and she said, "Sorry, I have just been sick but we can still meet!" I was so happy and it just reminded me of those little tender mercies of the Lord. Although we may have lost 4 other people, there is joy in just that one soul. That one child of God.

We had a Zone Conference this week and we talked about just finding joy in the little things, and I have started to try to do that. To see the Lord's hand in the little things, because he really does so much for us. 

Sometimes we expect those big miracles, we want things to go our way! I will admit, I wanted those 4 other people to get baptized. But God has an ultimate plan and you just hope and have faith and be of good cheer while He makes that plan happen.

I love you all.

Motra J 

P.S. Albania is playing Portgual tonight in my home town of Elbasan. I've never seen people so excited about soccer! I hope we win and I attached a picture of the giant TV screen in the center of the city. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Letter # 30 - And the Days Go By - August 31, 2015

To my favorite people-

Helloooo is it really already September? One year ago I opened my mission call.....that just blows my mind. I remember thinking that I would have to learn Albanian-well let me just tell you it is possible! Oh, man how I love Albania! 

This week has been full of miracles. We met a couple of people who are just so ready for the gospel and our recent convert, Jueda, has finished the Book of Mormon. She read it in one whole month! She said, "I think I like the book too much." I told her that it wasn't possible. 

A neat experience this last week, we have been searching for a lot of less actives. We were able to find an old woman who hasn't been visited by the missionaries for the last two years. She could barely walk to her front door to invite us in, but we have been visiting her. 

This last week she told us that she feels like she needs to come to church. I was thinking, "Really? You can barely walk." But I told her that we would pick her up at 9 am. When we came by, she was all showered and in a nice dress and ready to go. With a single crutch we walked the mile to church. It took us 45 whole minutes.

I remember thinking at the beginning that we would never get there. That this lady would quit halfway through and we would never make it because we were walking soooooooooooooooo slow. But she hobbled all the way to church. 

She was able to take the sacrament for the first time in 2 years. And although she was in obvious pain the whole Sacrament meeting, she sat there in the very front row listening to all the talks.

I was so impressed and reminded of the sacrifices people make for the gospel. For Jesus Christ. 

I've met some of the most amazing people here. They are the literal pioneers for the gospel here in Albania and it is just so amazing! 

Well, I don't have much else. Except that I love my mission and being a missionary.

I love you all, 

Motra J 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Letter # 29 - August 24, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

This week we were walking with the Elders to a less active appointment and this little man seemingly pops out of nowhere, and starts asking us if we are the Mormons in fairly good English. It was a little strange-not many people know us by the name 'Mormons' or speak English that well. It continued to get stranger as he told that he had met the 3 immortals-yes the 3 Nephites. And that wasn't even the best part, he had met them in the White House. I was trying hard so hard not laugh, well the Elders did better at listening to his story. Crazy people here in Albania always make for the best weeks. 

This week we had an exchange in Durres and we were standing outside street contacting when the cutest little kid comes up and asked me for a pass-along card. He didn't have any shoes, looked like he hadn't showered in a couple days, and his clothes looked too small and a little worn down. I gave him one. Then he asked for another. And another. I ended up giving him 10 cards! Then he walked around and proceeded to hand them out, just like we did as missionaries. It was so cute.

I talked to him for a little bit, he was only about 5 years old and he told me that he didn't have a home and that his family lived on the street. He couldn't even really remember how old he really was. 

We got lunch shortly after contacting and I was just overwhelmed a little bit of how blessed I am in my life. I couldn't stop thinking about that little kid on the street, and when was the last time he got to eat any food. 

Sometimes as we street contact, it gets hard because people are rude and they reject you, but after talking to that little boy, I realized I had nothing in my life I could ever complain about. 

I can't even explain or express how much my Heavenly Father has blessed me. The simple fact that I was born into the gospel is the greatest blessing of all, but the fact that I live in America, that I don't have to have an arranged marriage (happens all the time here), the fact that I can go to school, that I have a family who loves me, that I have an opportunity to get a job, that my life is pretty wonderful. 

I've spent 19 wonderful years, struggling here and there but I don't think I ever can comprehend what is like to live here and to struggle here. Wondering everyday what to eat, wondering how to pay for the medical bills, where to find the next job. Sure, missionary work is really hard but for us everything is paid for- we live in a nice house, and we have the occasional extra change to get an ice cream. Those stresses never cross our mind. 

After contacting that one boy, I wondered for long time why God would bless me so much,  because sometimes I felt like I had been so ungrateful. Why some amazing people that I met here have to struggle, and I get to go back home to America to my wonderful family. 

I am still not sure the answer to that question but I know God has a plan for everyone and that I can try to my small part to help relieve some of those burdens here. I read this a talk by Holland this week (and it's especially good because Mother Teresa is Albanian!) 

"A journalist once questioned Mother Teresa of Calcutta about her hopeless task of rescuing the destitute in that city. He said that, statistically speaking, she was accomplishing absolutely nothing. This remarkable little woman shot back that her work was about love, not statistics. Notwithstanding the staggering number beyond her reach, she said she could keep the commandment to love God and her neighbor by serving those within her reach with whatever resources she had. “What we do is nothing but a drop in the ocean,” she would say on another occasion. “But if we didn’t do it, the ocean would be one drop less [than it is].” 

God has blessed me so much and I am little overwhelmed by it, especially living here in Albania. I know that I will never to be able to repay him, that I am 'indebted' to him always as King Benjamin said. But I know at least I can do my very best in the vineyard here, to help people have the one blessing that is the greatest in my life and that is the gospel. 

I love you and don't forget how much the Lord blesses us.

Motra J 

P.S. For everyone who was wondering, Jueda got confirmed! (Big sigh of relief) 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Letter # 28 - 1 Baptism, 0 Confirmations - August 17, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

This week when we were reporting our numbers to the district leader, I said "Well, we had one baptism and zero confirmations....." Yup. It only happens in Albania that your investigator is in Tirana the morning they are supposed to get confirmed. But don't worry, she showed up two (nerve-racking, nail biting, anxious) hours later. But the president of the branch said it would be better if we confirm her next week in sacrament meeting. So Jueda is in this weird limbo stage right now. 

While I sat at the piano bench all sacrament, anxiously awaiting her arrival, all I could think of was Joseph Smith saying,  "You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost." And I was determined not to have a sand-bag baptism haha. But she will get the confirmation this week! 

Anyways funny story aside, this week was a good one. Every single night a summer thunderstorm sweeps in and tries to stop the work of the gospel but it will have to try a lot harder than that. On a random note, it was raining really hard one day and we had forgotten our umbrellas yet again. A random car stopped and it was a cute little old nun with the costume and everything, and she offered to drive us home. It was fun talking to her, and realizing that we both had the same conviction and love to serve Jesus Christ, and that we believed, like her, in the joy of serving other people. 

My favorite memory from this week though was talking with our (ahem, almost member) Jueda. She wanted to know everything and anything about serving a mission. I talked a little about the process of how people assigned a mission call-how it is divinely appointed from God. It is not a whimsical guess or fleeting thought, it is directed by the Spirit.

As I was talking to her, the Spirit just swept in and a bore such a powerful witness to me. Almost a year ago, I opened my mission call. I can't believe time has come that fast, but on September 3rd, I opened and read the words, "Dear Sister Jackson, you are assigned to labor in Albania." 

I remember the feelings of complete inadequacy, but those feelings were quickly reassured by the Spirit confirming to me that I WAS supposed to serve in Albania.

And yesterday, talking to Jueda the Spirit just confirmed to me so powerfully, that this is where I am supposed to be. I can't possibly ever imagine not knowing Jueda, not loving her the way I do, not seeing the happiness that has changed her life. And now she is going to do the same thing. Words cannot express how happy I am! 

And it is not just Jueda, but all the people here that I have met and loved. I know for a fact that the Lord sends you where he needs to go.

I listened to this talk this week, and I can say it has changed my life. I've realized that this mission is just the beginning of a life time of being a missionary-of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. I like, Peter can't ever go back, knowing what I know now. Seeing what I have seen. Feeling what I have felt. 

"Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world."

I testify that the gospel is changing people's lives here in Albania. And I am loving every minute of it.

I love you all.

Motra Xh (J) 
Jueda all ready for baptism!

My Albanian Companion for one day. I love her!

With Megi, Dennis, and the Missionaries

Monday, August 10, 2015

Letter # 27 - August 10, 2015

Dear Family and Friends! 

My mind is blanking this week what to email about. I will just share a quick little miracle that we have seen this week with our recent convert Bajame. She was the girl who was baptized this last week.

Whenever someone gets baptized, they get a nice copy of the Book of Mormon with D&C and Pearl of Great Price. We printed off her baptism photos and gave her the book. The next time we saw her, she had already read to 2 Nephi and had started reading in the Doctrine and Covenants. She brings her copy to every lesson and brought it to church.

She lives at a center for children because of family problems, she is in essence a "social orphan."  She doesn't have a lot in her life, but she told me, 

"Sister Jackson, this book is one of the few things I actually own in my life and I know it is true with all my heart. Whenever I read it, I cry because God answers all my prayers. It is amazing."

I just add my short little testimony to Bajame's. This past week, I've been reflecting how lucky I am-how much the Lord has blessed me. It makes me wish I could run faster, speak better, and do more to proclaim the gospel to people because I am one of the few who has that amazing message. 

I've decided I will be a missionary the rest of my life. There is no time to waste or no person who doesn't need to hear this message. Who doesn't need to know why we are here. That through Jesus Christ, we can all make it back to live with him.

I love you all!! 

Motra J 

This lady is really funny.  She gave me these giant earrings that I am wearing in the picture.

From our hike today - a mosque in a crazy color.

Pretty sure this is a bear!

Letter # 26 - The Holy Ghost Cake - August 3, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

I loved this week. It is boiling here like always, and yesterday we only had 2 hours of church because the AC broke and branch president said everyone was going to pass out if we didn't go home.

But Bajame got baptized! She was what people would call the "golden" investigator. She was already so prepared by the Lord, we didn't really have to do anything. Her friend who introduced her to the church, Ersild, got to baptize her. Sister Ranta and I have a secret wish that they will get married, but that is a whole other story.

As for the title of this email, after the baptism we always make a little cake for our investigators. So we starting dishing out this little vanilla cake and everyone is eating it, then people around us start saying, "My mouth is burning...." "Why does this cake burn my mouth?" Panicking, I tasted it and sure enough it tasted like we had made the cake with a little flour, eggs, and a whole lot of Windex. 

Pretty soon, the whole ward is laughing at the idea that the sisters are trying to kill everyone. Ersild, always the joker said, "Sisters, is this the burning you talk about when you feel the Holy Ghost?"  

But, (big sigh of relief) the burning was from some really, really OLD vanilla we used that we found in our house. I don't know why it burned our mouths, but it is Albanian vanilla not the normal American vanilla. And I am pretty sure old vanilla has never killed anyone.

As for our cooking skills, I guess I should have listened to my mother and learned how to cook before I left. We promised the ward that the next baptism wouldn't have the "Holy Ghost Cake" and it would be burnt free.

Besides that little mishap this week, we have just been loving the work. We have another investigator Jueda who is going to be baptized soon. We had a lesson with her at the park and she said, "Sisters, why I am so happy? Ever since I came to church, and starting reading Mormon's book (that is what she called it), I am just so happy!" 

It just reminds me of why I am here. Why I am here to preach the gospel. To find the one little sheep. If I went my whole mission and only saw one person enter the water of baptism, that would be okay because I have learned the value of that one soul. I have seen the love that God has for each of His individual children. 

It is so easy to get discouraged, at least for me, thinking I am hardly making a difference. But there is so much I can do! I've realized, I don't have to radically change things, just to serve everyone with love. One person at a time.

I love you all! 

Motra J 
It was Violeta's birthday this week!

Bajame got baptized!

One of my favorite girls we teach.

Where we went for Pday today!

Oh missionary life!

There is a storm coming!

Everything to study!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Letter # 25 - Celebrating Pioneer Day, Albanian Style! July 27, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

Weeks here in Albania are always good. This week we had a random referral for a little village out from Elbasan. We took our random bus of strangers out to this little, tiny, place in the middle of no where. The lady was pretty happy we were there and made us the best stuffed peppers and rice! 

We were asking what her husband does for work, and she said he drives a horse carriage. I told her I thought that was really cool, and she said, "Do you want a ride back into town?" So.....we got to ride in a sketchy Albania horse buggy back into town! It was awesome. (Pictures to follow) I thought it was a fitting thing to do in honor of Pioneer Day this week.

As far as miracles we have seen this week-we always see them. God is in every aspect of this work and this morning I read this quote:

"No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."

Missionary work is going forth and I love being a part of it. I think my favorite thing has been seeing people reading the Book of Mormon and seeing it change them! We always ask at the beginning of the lessons, what have you read? And I love seeing people open up their books and start talking about Nephi. 

We found two new amazing girls this week, who both are so good at reading the Book of Mormon and as I finished the Book of Mormon this week, I have really been thinking about what the Book of Mormon means to me.

One of the girls said, "You really read the book over and over again for the rest of your life?" YES! 

I also listened to "Safety for the Soul" this week by Elder Holland. And it just confirmed all my feelings of the power that lies in the Book of Mormon. How simple it is to read each day and to know the Savior. 

"I testify that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies."

I love being a missionary! I love these people of Albania who have changed my life. I love sharing the Book of Mormon with people because it something that I can't imagine my life without. It is true! (And all you have to do is read it)

Like Joseph Smith said, this work is just rolling forth until the Lord comes again. I am just trying to keep up. 

 I love you all! 

Motra J
They sell grilled corn on the street.

One of my favorite Albania meals!

Riding in the horse buggy!

Riding in the horse buggy selfie!

You know how there is a Mormon church on every block in Utah? There is a Mosque on every block here in Albania!
The flea market...basically the DI. I actually bought a two dollar skirt here.

My Albania best friend..Paula! I love this girl!

Little park here in Elbasan.

Our whole mission!