Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Letter # 12 - April 27, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-
Another week in the beautiful city of Elbasan! And we had a baptism this week! Grace was baptized on Friday! We had a ton of people show up and it was really a sweet moment. She was so excited to get baptized and right after she came out of the water, her dad clapped and everyone starting clapping and cheering. Defintitely different then America but I loved it. It was just a simple reminder to me of why I am really here. I have realized we aren't just here to help people get baptized but to help them come unto Christ. And Grace was shining with that light! have seen some of the most amazing changes happen in people here. When people come unto Christ, they change so drastically it is almost hard to believe. 
As far as the language goes this week, I am starting to see a little progress. This week, some of the younger Albanians who are members asked if we were going to walk with them. I told them that we had to "get cleaned" hahah and they laughed for forever. I meant to say we needed to clean the church, but it came out wrong. So now, they always ask me if I need to get cleaned.
 Okay, I do have to mention one thing about food. I have gotten pretty lucky with the food here. Albania is considered the "poor man's Italy" so we eat lots of pasta, bread, and fresh fruits and veggies which make me really happy. But this week I finally had to confront my fears of eating a strange food. We were over just for a house visit and this lady brings out this plate of food. It looked like someone had taken hand sanitizer and cooked it and it had some mystery chunks in there. For the first time, I was glad I couldn't understand Albanian as she explained what was in it. I stared at it for a couple of seconds, all my fears had finally been realized in this colorless Jello substance- then I said a quick prayer "Heavenly Father, please help me eat this." And then I ate it. Yup, I actually ate the entire thing without gagging or managing to offend their whole family. A small miracle right there. That was last Monday. And since then, I have eaten a lot of strange stuff. I have learned not to ask what is it or what it is made of. It is just better if I don't know. Whenever we eat meat here I am not even sure what animal it is hahaha. But Heavenly Father has defefintely blessed me with a stronger stomach then I used to have.
We also ran into some Americans this week. It was the strangest thing. We were street contacting and I said hello to them in Albanian and they answered in English. They were teaching English for service and we talked to them for a little bit. They said they had heard everything about the Mormons and that it wasn't for them. And for the first time in since I got my call,  I was so grateful I was called to speak Albanian! I know that sounds crazy, but the Albanian people are so much more open to the Gospel here. 
Although they are so open to the Gospel here, they have a really hard time keeping the commitments we ask them to keep. We have really come to understand that we are just here to invite, and we cannot do anymore. We have a couple invesitgators who are still on the fence with baptism and other things and I have seen some pretty amazing things this week as we bear our testimonies. 
Albanians love their excuses here, we have heard some pretty good ones. Like "I can't come to church because my aunt who has been missing for 10 years just walked in the door," or "I can't come to the activity because I am afraid someone will steal my house while I am gone" or "I can't come because I had to go to the hosptial for...." We hear those all the time. But this week, on mutiple occassions we been able to bear our testimonies of things. It is amazing, when a powerful testimony is borne, it seems to literally hit them. There is a wave of the Spirit that just quiets them and for a small moment there is a undeniable witness that we are representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ and what we are saying are true. 
Most of the time, this testimony doesn't get them to start coming to church or keep the Word of Wisdom, but it is a moment that I think I will always remember and they will always remember. And someday they will change. I really believe they will.
I have really come to recongize and see the Lord's hand in every aspect of my life. I think His hand is in everything, we just have to be look close enough. And I have seen it more than ever before since being on a mission.
Te dua shume (love you all)
Motra Jackson 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Letter # 11 - April 20, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-
I think that each week here in Albania just gets better and better! (Maybe it is because I am actually starting to figure out what the people are saying). This week an old woman told Motra Coleman and me, that we had "cookie faces!" I love the Albanian people. 
We are just busy teaching lessons this week! We have a baptism on Friday. She was taught by the last sisters who were here, we just have helped her get to her baptism date. But I am really excited because she comes from a rough home life, and I know how much the Gospel means to her. I am just excited for her to have that constant gift of the Holy Ghost in her life, because it is will really help her with everything. 
We also got our cute little family to come to church this week! The dad couldn't come, but the mom's name is Esmerlda and she has two little daughters, ages 10 and 9. We walked to church with them. The little girl, Regina, held my hand all the way to church. She is adorable. She can speak some English and I can speak some Albanian haha, so we just talk and try to figure out what we are saying. I think I have always had a testimony of going to church, but taking the that family to church changed my whole perspective. When the Sacrament got passed around, Esmerlda told all of her daughters that this was the time when you thought of the Savior and prayed to God. I was so impressed! It really made me realize how lucky we are, to get to do that each week and remember what the Savior did for  us.
Our other favorite family is Gurie and her little daughter Alexia. If her husband is there, we teach him too but he is usually in a fshat (a village) because that is the only place he can get work. Motra Coleman and I always prepare things to teach when we go over there, but she ends up teaching us. I have never meet someone with so much faith! We were going to teach her about fasting this week, but she said "Oh, I know fasting works, I believe it with all my heart." Then she told us that when her daughter Alexia was born, it was just her in the hospital. She gave birth all alone, her husband and mom both couldn't be there. Then after she was born, she had that facial deformity and the doctor told her that she wouldn't live. The doctors just said "I will put her under a sedative and she will pass away" but Gurie said "No, I know she can live!". So they took her daughter away, but after a while Gurie overheard the doctor say they were still going to give her the sedative, so Gurie gets out of bed, just after having a C-section, steals into the nursery and grabs her daughter and gets in a taxi and goes home all by herself. Then she fasted that her daughter would live and Alexia lived! It was the most amazing story. That is how it basically is every time, we have something to teach her but she ends up teaching us. But she is getting baptized on May 2nd and I am just so excited for her. I never met someone who puts so much trust in God.
Although I have only been in Albania for 3 weeks, I have really felt my testimony of faith increase. There are certatinly moments out here when you wonder what you are doing. I think that every missionary has that. There are moments when you wonder if you will ever get this langauge, because it all sounds like gibbersh. Or walk for miles in the rain to a cancled appointment, or people throw pamphlets of the Restoration on the ground, or tell you that everything you believe is a lie. And I know I haven't even experienced half of it (I haven't even been here for a full month!) But there are certainly moments like that in every missionaries life when you just wonder but I can tell you that I believe it is really is best thing I have ever done. Because then you see people like Gurie and Esmerlda and I am reminded why I am here. My favorite scripture has become, Matthew 14:31 "And immediately, Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" I have seen Jesus stretched forth his hand IMMEDIATELY for me in my life since I have been here, and I know that He does that for everyone, and waits with His arms forever outstretched. 
I love you all and thank you for your prayers and support! 

Love, Motra J

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Letter # 10 - Where the Streets Have No Name - April 13, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-
So I learned that there are no addresses here in Albania, hence the name of my email! Our area book is literally little hand drawn maps to show where the people live because no one really has an address. Plus I heard that song this week by U2 so I thought it would be a good title. 
It was another amazing week in Elbasan. It is pretty magical here. There is this big bouvelard in the middle of the city with cobblestone streets, right next to the castle and at night they stop the cars from coming down and it lights all up. Everyone comes out from their houses and walks around, and we always go street contacting there at night. With the castle and this giant pink clock tower, it almost feels like Disneyworld! But it really is though, because we are sharing the message of happiness.
I learned something really important in the MTC and it is when people reject you, they aren't rejecting you but they are rejecting the message of the gospel. It is supposed to make you feel less rejected when people say they don't have time etc. Being rejected as a person is one thing though, but rejecting the message of the gospel is harder for me I feel because people don't realize how the message we carry really can change  their lives. It is such a precious truth and I feel this constant need to share it with everyone I see-to give them the oppertunity now to hear something that has changed my life. 
Anyways, it was another good week here! We taught a lot of lessons and also had a lot of "fiks" which means they just don't show up. We got to watch Conference and we tried to get a lot of people to come, but by the last Sunday session only one person showed up hahah. It was really draining for me to watch it because it was all in Albanian and I had to concentrate sooooo hard to get about 20% of the context. I spent a while trying to read the people's lips as well hahha. But I think it strengthened my testimony even more because you could feel the Spirit even though I couldn't understand half of what they are saying. 
We have 3 little families we are teaching. And they are all so amazing. We love teaching anyone the gospel, but teaching families is so much more powerful. I think my favorite part this week was just watching how the gospel changes these families lives. Every time we meet, we ask them to do a kneeling prayer and the Spirit that comes when we kneel with those families is incredible! 
My companion taught me this little saying that she says is really her mission motto and I love it: Pray for miracles, work hard for miracles, then expect MIRACLES. And that has already happened in my 2 weeks here. I know that the Lord is part of this work and this is the greatest work I could ever be a part of. 
My favorite scripture this week is Mosiah 4:10 where King Benjamin says *and now if you believe all these things see that you do them*. It is really simple, but I think it is the essence of the gospel. I know what I need to do, and now I just need to do them. And in missionary work that just means going out and talking to everyone, and despite my very limited Albanian skills, I still just need to go and DO THEM because I know they are true. 
I think my other favorite thing about being here is the sacrifice of the memebers. One girl my age, who lives with her grandparents said they wouldn't talk to her for 2 whole months for joining the church. And another woman has been a member for the last 10 years! She was one of the very first members in Elbasan. They give up so much because they know the Church is true. It is really quite amazing. 
I wouldn't want to be anywhere else then here in Elbasan right now, telling people that Christ lives and that through Him they can be saved. Missionary work is so amazing!
Thank you for all your love and support! 
Love, Motra Xhaksen
Cheese in Albania

We went to a fruit market!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Letter # 9 - Hello from Elbasan! April 6, 2015

Dear Family and Friends!
I have finally made it to Albania!!! I can't believe that I am here. It is still a little shocking to be walking around in a different country but I am learning to adapt and love it. I am currently in the city of Elbasan. It is about an hour south of the captial, Tirana. My companion/trainer is Motra Coleman. She is from Provo, Utah and her parents own a chocolate factory and she likes rock climbing. She is really awesome and understands what is like to be a missionary. I mostly just watch her in awe trying to remember how to do everything that she does!
The trip here was pretty long. We travled for about 24 hours straight. I remember when we stepped off the plane, we stepped out into the sunlight and I looked around and thought "Oh my goodness, I am really in Albania!" We met our mission president and his wife. I almost didn't recongize them because they look so young. They are what a typical person from Switerzland would be like, super classy and dress quite modern and hip. They both have cool accents because they speak German. But they are so nice and I am looking foward to getting to know them more. 
We spent the night at their house and the next day we got assinged our trainers. I was so nervous! Two of the girls from my group went to Kosovo, which I was so grateful I didn't called to because they speak an entirely different dialect. Sister Coleman and I are the only sisters in Elbasan and we are actually white-washing the area so we are both really new here. Sister Coleman has servered in Tirana for the last 9 months so she has never been anywhere different. 
Albania is so different from America. There are so many little different cultural things. The driving here is frankly terrifying. The one rule is that there is no rules. Motra Coleman has a car though because she is a sister training leader. We use it every once and a while, but driving here isn't as bad as driving in Tirana. 
The food here is sooo amazing. We stopped at a fruit stand and got so much fresh fruit for only six dollars. I would bet it would cost 30 or more dollars to get what we got in America. I have also fallen in love with Greek salads. They are green leafy salads, with this white cheese, tomatoes, and you pour vinegar and olive oil on them. I know what you are thinking...is this really the same Motra Jackson that we dropped off at the MTC 2 months ago? Yes, it is. I am actually learning to like different food hahaha. I also tried my first suflacha *I don't know how to spell that. It is this pita bread sandwhich with this white sauce, mystery meat hahha, lettuce, and french fries. AH. They say the best ones in the mission are here in Elbasan, and we had some the other night. It is basically the Albania version of fast food. Also gelato! Basically everything is just so cheap here. We get ice cream for under a dollar. Oh and the bread.....I love the bread!! And again it so cheap. The only gross thing I have had so far is their version of cookies. It is like a giant cornbread and it has this after taste of throw-up hahah. Not very good.  
Some other cultural things. The kissing thing. It took me a second to get used to it, but every woman we meet, we kiss on both cheeks. At first it was strange to me, I mean all of these women are strangers to me and I don't even know them, but we do it every time. It is pretty strange, but I am getting used to it. Everyone is so touchy here too. Everyone touches my face and pinches my cheeks and ask if I am really 19. 
There is one funny story about that. We were street contacting the other day and some little 12 year old boy came up and started talking to us and I thought "Wow, he actually wants to hear about the chuch!" HAHA no. He got a little card from me, and then I shook his hand but he went in for a kiss with his lips all puckered! I just laughed and shook my head and he ran off all disappointed. But it was really funny. 
We do stand out here as Americans. Eveyrone asks us, "Why would you leave America and come here?". I thought that maybe with dark hair we wouldn't stand out, but Albanians all look sorta of similar and we don't really fit the mold. People love Americans here though so it isn't a bad thing.  
Albanians are really just a different brand of people and I am still getting used to them. We had church this week and Relief Society was literally 5 old women just yelling over top of each other in Albanian hahahha. It is just a different culture! 
There is also a really cool castle here in Elbasan in the middle of city. We ate at the resturant inside with our new district one day. It was crazy because the power just turns off randomly all the time here, so we just ate in the darkness inside the castle because they had no power! 
As far as missionary work goes, we ARE SO BUSY. We have had 13 new investigators just this week! *And it hasn't even been a full week. Sister Coleman says she has never seen this many people ready to hear the gospel. So for everyone who said people in Albania don't want to listen-that is far from the truth. They are a lot kinder than most Americans and will actually stop and listen to our message even if they don't want to hear it. 
We have been street contacting this week. We used the 'Ai Jeton" video for Easter and we ask people if they would like to watch it. And we pass out little pass along cards. Anyways, we met this family on the street and this dad just has THE light in his eyes! We taught him the Restoration and he said, "I want my whole family to be baptized" and he came to church yesterday with his whole family! He is the golden invesitgator everyone talks about. His wife is still a little unsure. But they have a little son and he is also going to get batpized. But just an amazing thing that came from street contacting!
We also are teaching this other family who has been going on and off for about 7 years. So they are the eternal investigators. But they are probably the nicest and most humble people I have ever met. They are so so poor and their house is literally the size of most American garages. They have the cutest little daughter who is partially deformed on one side of her face. One day she calls us and says, "We didn't have any money for food today and we didn't have anything to eat so I prayed to God and ten minutes later a neighbor came by and gave me 5 dollars!" She has a lot of faith, it is just hard for them because her husband cannot read and they really don't have any money. But we have been going over the lessons again and we taught the Plan of Salvation and she got all teary when we told  her in heaven, everyone's bodies will be perfect again because she was thinking that her daughter will be perfect again! It was really neat. 
Other than that, we are just teaching lessons right and left. Motra Coleman of course, mostly teaches them because I can't really underestand or speak Albanian, but you know it will come! I think there are so many people here who are just so ready to hear the Gospel and it is amazing!
And it was just really cool this week to show the "Ai Jeton" video because whenever we sit down to watch it with people the Spirit is just undeniable. We feel it, they feel it, everyone feels it. They can't deny that the video makes them feel something. It is just awesome and we get to share that with the people in Elbasan!
Well, sorry for the longer letter this week but Albania is just so exciting! Thanks for all your love and support! 
Love, Motra Jackson 

This is the spot where they dedicated the mission.

Our view from our apartment.

My companion and I in the coolest castle.

These are amazing. They are little cake-bite doughnut balls.

This flaky bread has a white sauce inside and it is so, so good.

The sweetest Albanian member and me.

The castle in Elbasan

Albania is bukor, *beautiful!

My first sufachla (sorry don't know how to spell it yet)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Arrival in Albania - April 1, 2015

Dear Jackson family,

Sister Jackson gave me all you email address and asked that I include all of you in the email.

Today has been a very busy day for the newly arrived missionaries, starting with breakfast at the mission home.  Then they were taken to the place where the dedicatory prayer was offered.  They read the prayer together as a group.  They discussed the prayer and was instructed to read it again on their own, meditate about it, then pray about it and their mission.  This is a very spiritual experience for them.  The spirit is so strong that they come to love Albania and the people and are excited about their missions and the work that they will be able to do here.  They feel the Savior’s love for this country and for its people.

Afterwards it is back to the mission office for training, lunch, and to see who their new companion/trainer will be.  Sister Jackson’s companion is Sister Coleman and they will be serving in Elbasan, Albania.

Pictures were taken throughout the day we would like to share some of them with you.  Enjoy!  Too many pictures for 1 email.  More coming.

Thank you for sharing her with us.  She is absolutely delightful.  President Weidmann cares deeply for his missionaries and takes very good care of them.  Every morning he sends them an uplifting text.  They know they can call him anytime they want or need to; even if it is just to talk.  Sister Weidmann is there by his side and making sure they have what they need and are happy.  There is a senior couple there, the Orton’s who also look after the missionaries in Elbasan.


Sister White

My first companion, Sister Coleman, from Provo, Utah

My Mission President, President Weidmann, and his wife.

More Pictures - March 30, 2015

Our District with our Branch Presidency.

Me with Motra Johansen

Me with Motra Henderson

My branch president and I. He is probably one of the most amazing people I have ever met.

Me and Motra Dunn

Here are our zone leaders.

A picture with Elder Clemens.

All the girls in our zone

Us with the new sister training leaders. They are going to Finland!

Another picture with our amazing teachers!

Our awesome teachers, Brother Knight, Motra Hoopes, and Brother Carver

We are off to Albania!