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!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Letter # 24 - It Can't Get Any Worse, Can It? July 20, 2015

Dear Family and Friends-

This week I got on a bus to go out to this little fshat (village). It was about noon, so the hottest part of the day and there were way too many people on the bus to be legal. It was like an Indiana Jones ride, mixed with a whole lot of sweaty people. As we were standing there waiting, some guy jumps on the bus with this bag and something inside the bag starts crying. At first I thought it was a small child, but then a goat's head pops out. He comes and stands next to me, with his little goat and it is just crying and crying. And everyone is just sweating and sweating and holding on for their lives in this sketchy bus, and I am just laughing that this has become normal life for me.  It was just a moment where I appreciated the fact that I am really in a foreign country called Albania. 

We were super busy this week, there is always work in to be done in the kingdom of God. We are doing a lot of less active finding. Elbasan has about 300 members! But only 50 people actually show up in church, so we kind of go on mystery hunts each day tracking down people. Because addresses don't really work here, all we usually have is a photo of the person's house or just their name. So we end up just talking to everyone on the way trying to find them. And we have met a lot of other people that way. We met the coolest family this week who loves Jesus Christ and now we are teaching them! God plants people along the way.

So yes, we were working hard then Friday hit. It was just one of those days, where everything falls through. We went to our lesson in the morning, they didn't come. We went to our lesson in the afternoon, they didn't show up. We walked about 3 miles in 104 degrees to another lesson that fell through. We went to find a less active, who was quite rude and told us that she didn't want anything to do with the gospel. We went to another less active who professed she had never been baptized or seen the missionaries. So after about walking about 10 miles at least, and with 0 lessons, Sister Ranta and I were a little worn thin. 

So we go get in an elevator and suddenly it just stops. The door opens not to one of the floors, but just a concrete wall and my heart just dropped. I thought, "Oh man, Heavenly Father is really testing my patience today because now I am going to be stuck in an elevator." Sister Ranta and I just started laughing, because the day couldn't have gotten any worse. And here we were stuck in stuffy little elevator, with no way to get out. A few quick heartfelt prayers later, the elevator decides to move and we got out. Hallelujah! 

So we walk a little more and we met this lady, we ended up talking to her for only about 3 minutes or so. It was a Muslim holiday on Friday but she was talking about how she is Christian so she wasn't celebrating it. We were able to introduce the church and give her a quick pass along card. As we were walking away, I felt the Spirit confirm to me that we were supposed to meet that lady. That God is the ultimate planner. 

I can't say that she is going to get baptized or anything like that, but God knows. And we are only instruments in His grand plan. Who knows? Down the road, some other missionaries might find her and she will remember talking to those sweaty,very tired, sister missionaries who hadn't had any lessons that day.

It was a bad day, but it was also one of the better days of my mission. I went home and read in 2 Nephi 2:13

"And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away."

There are bad days so we can remember and appreciate those really good days. To realize that God is planning something for us that is more amazing than we can imagine. 

"No matter how bleak the chapter of our lives may look today, because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we may hope and be assured that the ending of the book of our lives will exceed our grandest expectations. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  

"The things we hope in sustain us during our daily walk. They uphold us through trials, temptations, and sorrow. Everyone has experienced discouragement and difficulty. Indeed, there are times when the darkness may seem unbearable. It is in these times that the divine principles of the restored gospel we hope in can uphold us and carry us until, once again, we walk in the light."    

(From one of my favorite talks by President Uchtdorf. The Infinite Power of Hope)

The Savior lives! I've seen Him there, especially on the bad days when the elevator stops and you wonder where to go next. (And He was merciful enough that we were able to have one lesson that day) 

Love you all! 

Motra J 

P.S. For the last 3 days, we have taken the stairs. No more elevators for us! 

I love the Albanian Children!
We walk daily...the road of Elbasan.  It looks like Far Far Away from Shrek.

This is Bugace. Only found in Elbasan. Doesn't it look heartstopping?
I think they use 5 pounds of butter.

Sara Shkalla drew us a picture of Joseph Smith.  For those of you who didn't know he has a mustache.
Just a reminder that Albania used to be Communist.
The Catholic Church in Korce
Inside the Church.
The art was amazing.
This is a WWII Monument for all those who died in the War.
Me and my comp.
Eating my usual pasta they make for us at the Shkallas house.
The coolest Catholic Church on a hill.
We ran through a forest to this church...for some reason I felt like singing, "The Hills are Alive" from the Sound of Music.
Korce.  It looks a lot like Italy to me. ( Not that I have been to Italy)
This is our awesomely nice church building.

This Elder caught a baby bird... then we watched a cat eat it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Letter # 23 - Hitch Hiking, Catholic Priests, and a Baptism - July 13, 2015

Dear Family and Friends!

We have had quite an adventurous week this last week. Getting settled into Elbasan with my new companion has been an adjustment. We have seen miracles this week though! 

As for the title of my email, today for P-Day we went to Korce and we went to this amazing Catholic church! We ended up talking to the Catholic priest about everything. It was so interesting because he told us basically the whole Restoration story from the beginning but then when he got to our current time (the part when we start talking about Joseph Smith) he said, "Yes, and now God doesn't speak through prophets." It didn't really make any sense to me. The church was beautiful but it was missing that Spirit! I am personally so grateful to know we have some guidance in our life and I know that President Monson talks to God. 

Also, a fun thing I thought I would mention. No one here in Albania has cars, so everyone hitch hikes. I remember the first time, being with my companion and she just jumps in this big van with all these random strangers and I was terrified. But that is how we got to Korce and pretty much how we get everywhere. We just ride with random strangers! But it is the best way to meet new people as well.

As for the baptism, this girl is a miracle. She came to church last week and since church is pretty tiny you can recognize someone new. We got her number and we had our first lesson with her on Tuesday. Her friend is a member and she told us that in a couple weeks she is going to be baptized in her Catholic Church she grew up. We taught her the Restoration and she was hesitant. Then we taught her the Plan of Salvation, she still didn't know. Then we taught her The Gospel of Jesus Christ, and she still didn't know. That lesson was on Saturday and I told her, "We know our message is true, but the best thing about our message is you can ask God yourself and get an answer." So the next morning, she was at church just beaming and said "I got my answer! God told me this is His church." It was incredible! We've only known her for a week! She is getting baptized next week though. 

My companion and I have been praying to see miracles together, and God just gave us one in the first week! Sometimes, I am so overwhelmed at how kind He is to each one of His children. That as such unprofitable servants, as King Benjamin said, he is still so ready to bless us and love us unconditionally. It makes me want to strive even harder to be obedient to Him and follow Him with everything I have. I testify that He is merciful, that He hears us, and that through Him we can do anything. (Because I certainty didn't teach that girl anything with language skills, it was all Him)

I love you all! 

Motra J 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Letter # 22 - July 6, 2015

Dear Family and Friends!

I am a trainer now! My new companion is Motra Ranta and she is from Arizona. Which is good because she knows how to deal with the heat here because it is pretty crazy. I think it was 95 degrees today with 50% humidity! But she seems really awesome and has that awesome new missionary desire to share the gospel with everyone.

This week we were walking down the road and she waved at us and we waved and kept walking, but then we decided we needed to go back and talk to her. After getting to know her for a little bit she pulled out a picture with a missionary about 8 years ago! It was amazing to see how the Spirit knew her and prompted us to go and talk to her.

I know that the Spirit is the ultimate teacher. I've especially seen this in the last couple of days because I have only been here 3 months and my language skills are still developing. But the Spirit testifies that what we said is true. 

The Spirit is something I am also grateful for personally. That same investigator, we went to visit her last night and she told her husband won't let us meet with her anymore because he is jealous and is really controlling. I think now as the senior companion, I took the rejection a little harder than I took rejection in my first transfer. 

But as we were walking, I felt the Spirit testify to me that Savior of the World was too rejected. And he was perfect. He was the perfect teacher and still people refused to listen to him. And walking along that little dusty road here in Albania, I felt comforted knowing that if anyone understood rejection it was the Savior.

I found this quote by Elder Bednar, "There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, ‘No one knows what it is like. No one understands.’ But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens."

I testify that is true and I testify that the Spirit is real. I have never felt the Spirit as strongly as I have felt it on my mission, telling me that Christ lives and that He loves us.

I love all of you!
Motra J