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!