Monday, December 16, 2013

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland...



Hey Family!!

There may be no falling snow here but the blessing have been pouring down to make up for the lack of snow. As the year is coming to a close, it is amazing to me to reflect back on this year and think about all of the miracles happening around the mission and district. It is hard for me to believe that a year has almost gone past. It seems it was just yesterday that I got out of the car at the MTC and said good-bye to Mom and Dad. Now I am here in Durres inviting everyone to be baptized!! I realize that my time as a missionary is slowly slipping away and my time is waning, but I am so excited to see what the next couple of months will hold! As the Lord is hastening His work here in the Adriatic South Mission, I am so grateful that I have the chance to participate in this marvelous work. Every week has it's ups and downs and some weeks are a lot harder than others but there are always miracles and the work presses on. I can hardly wait for March (if all goes as planned) when there will be a Stake established here. And that is when the work will really begin to blast forward!! It is going to take a lot of work and a lot of willing hands and I pray that I may always be on the front-line fighting the battle!
This past week was amazing because Ndue Pjetri was able to be baptized! It was an amazing baptismal service and it was great to see him with his cute little family. It has always been a goal of mine to complete a family with a father baptism and how wonderful it was to see that goal come to life! As Motra Smith and I were thinking about it, we realized that every baptism that we have had this transfer has been a bit of a surprise. We have found many investigators and all have been progressing towards baptism but something has come up and all are now gone for one reason or another. It is really hard for me to see so many people prepare for baptism and then other distractions or problems have gotten in the way ( I can think of at least seven people off the top of my mind).
But the miracle is that those who are prepared have been put in our path and this is where the true miracles lie. My first transfer here, I was able to be in the home of a member who received her mission call. She is now serving in the Leads, England Mission and we have been teaching her mother. Many times we have invited her to be baptized, but every time she has said no because she was already baptized in the Evangelical church. But, this week the atmosphere in their home was different. They have started to read their scriptures together, they pray as a family, they have family home evening and best of all, the Lord has softened her heart and she has finally accepted the invitation to follow the Savior's example and be baptized! We will not be here (most likely) but I know it will be a wonderful day for her. She already knows everything and for the first time came to church yesterday!! It was such a great miracle in juxtaposition with the not so good week that we experienced. The moral of the story is that you must have patience with those who do not know how to use their agency and encourage those who do not know how to use it.
Love you all and I can hardly wait to see you all soon!!
Talk to you next week!! 

Motra Hawkins


Monday, December 9, 2013

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...



Hey Everyone!
   This past week was exceedingly great! Again we were able to exceed the Mission Standards of Excellence as well as have a baptismal interview. We were still not able to find our missing investigators but we were blessed to find eight new investigators instead. Since we have been weak in this area for a couple of weeks, we decided we were going to try really hard to find some new investigators and we did. We met with all of the families of the children who come for English course. One family seems really promising considering they are Christian. They were not able to come to church this past week but we are praying that they can come this next week! And for the first time in my entire mission, we had success with a potential investigator contacting us through a pass along card. We were in a different city (my old area Lushnje!!) for Zone Training, and on the way home a woman got in and sat by me. I started talking with her and before she got out, I gave her a pass along card about Christ. I have given out hundreds and never have I had had someone give me a call, but she did!! The reason why this is so amazing is because she is from this little city named Kavaje and there is only one member (Dorina Dauti) who lives there. She is so amazing (I call her my sister) and has been praying for so long for someone from her city who wants to learn about the Gospel. We are really excited to start teaching her and invite her to be baptized this week! We were also blessed to be able to watch our investigator Ndue (he is the one who is the father of a recent convert family who has had a smoking problem for sixteen years!) receive a blessing for his smoking problem, stop smoking and prepare for his baptism. We are really excited for his baptism on Saturday. If you didn't catch that...HE'S GETTING BAPTIZED ON SATURDAY!! The most important lesson I learned this week is that if you plan and have faith in something and then you act as if it will happen, that is when the Lord steps in and makes it happen. This is how he accomplishes miracles in our lives and in the lives of others.If you think you can't do it, follow the counsel of Paul and "...never weary in well doing." (2 Thes. 3:13).
 With Love,
 Motra Hawkins
 P.S. Here is a picture of all of the missionaries in my zone. :)


Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy December!!

Hey Family! 
I am very short on time this week so I have to make it quick. 
This past week was a bit crazy but still good nevertheless. It was not my favorite but there was a lot of learning. Our biggest disappointment is that two of our serious investigators have quick answering their phones and we are no longer in contact. It breaks my heart because one was ready for her baptism and the other was eagerly preparing. We are hoping that the problem was a matter of school or work but either way we pray that everything will happen for them in the Lord's timing. We are comforted with the thought that this simply is not their time yet. We still are trying our hardest to contact them again but we have had no success yet. Now that it is close to Christmas we hope they turn up again. 
The good news (I always like to end on a good note) is that we were able to go to Tirana and celebrate Thanksgiving with all of the other missionaries. We had a talent show and our act was one of the best- a bit silly but really fun! 
The weather here is getting really cold and so we have to really bundle up now. I go out with thermals, a shirt, a sweater, and my big coat as well as a hat and gloves plus stockings and boots..and it is still cold. I thought the winter would be pretty mild but I guess the humidity plays a part. It is as if the cold seeps into your bones. My favorite thing is seeing my breathe while teaching...it makes me chuckle.  
Other than that, things have been pretty normal here. We are trying our hardest to help all of our investigators prepare for baptism but problems keep coming up. Please pray for them! 
Love you all! 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hey Everyone!!

Hola family...oh wait...C'kemi!! 
So to start off, I just wanted to comment about something my mission president said to me in my weekly email. He told me that our key indicators from last week would be just about perfect for any missionary. I laughed in response and when I told Motra Smith she did the same thing. This entire time we have never considered how our success might compare to others and we have never thought that our success is anywhere near perfect. I guess my idea of perfect would be a baptism every week and all of my investigators attending church so it'll take a bit of time for that to start happening. And then the next step is baptizing entire congregations..but that is going to take some time. We have been very blessed this past week and we have seen many miracles, much like every other week I guess. There have been some problems with investigators coming to church because they have been sick or visiting sick family members, but I believe that once the weather becomes a bit more regular things should start looking up.  
With the arrival of the new sisters, Motra Smith and I have enjoyed the search for lost members to go and teach since we gave most of the known members to them. It was hard to give them up but we are excited to work and support new people. It has been nice to sit down and visit with them and encourage them to return to activity! It is a hard job and sometimes I don't know what to say but the Lord always provides. 
It's great to see the progress of this branch and I know it won't be long until they will be ready to be a steam-engine ward!! Now we need to start finding and teaching those who will make up the new branch they will have to establish to compensate for all of the new members. :)
One interesting thing that happened yesterday was that I had the opportunity to give a talk in sacrament meeting. Now remember that this is a nerve racking thing to do in English, but imagine doing it in another language with 10 minutes notice. The branch president came up to me right after we arrived and said that the supposed-to-be speaker did not show and asked me if I would do it in her place. The old me would have said "No way Jose, find someone else because I need time to prepare." but this is something I have been working on lately- to never back down to hard challenges and so the challenge was accepted. I have to admit that it was probably the best sacrament meeting talk I have ever given in my entire life. When the Spirit teaches and you are simply the tool, that is when the greatest amount of people learn (and that was me included!).
Some fun things that we did this past week includes: we found a pumpkin (which is basically like finding a rare pokemon) and made a sweet jack-o-lantern and then some pumpkin bread and pumpkin pancakes as well, we made a sweet apple pie! (see picture below), we had a surprise leadership training which was phenomenal, I was kissed in the ear, we almost drown from all of the water that has been coming down, and basically just had a great week. This next week is exciting because we are celebrating Thanksgiving together as a mission and will be having a talent show and a dessert contest. It's going to be great!! 
I love you all. Have a great week!!  
Motra Hawkins






Monday, November 18, 2013

Pictures!

Here are some other fotos of Durres. Enjoy.







Families are Eternal

Hello Again Family!
It's hard to believe that another week has come and gone! It seems that just yesterday I was here writing to you all. I guess that is a good sign because the days aren't going to slow but it makes me sad because I know this is all going to be over in the blink of an eye.
This past week was very special because we had a baptism. If you remember our investigator Flutra is the mother of our branches most recent missionary. Elder Hallulli has been serving as a mini missionary for the past month. We started teaching his mother just after he left and just a couple days ago he received his visa and is now on his way to the Provo MTC. We was here just in time to baptize his mother. It was such a special moment to see him baptize her. For three years he has been waiting for his mother and this was the perfect timing. How can someone look at this situation and not see the hand of the Lord? She was really nervous but at the same time very excited. I am so grateful that we were able to take part in it. Below is a picture of us with their family. Our focus is now the father!!
This past week was full of miracles like the last, but the most exciting is that we have found a returning member who was baptized back in 1996 and went inactive after we denied the opportunity to serve a mission and because he was offended by some old members. Last night we were able to meet with his son and daughter and invited them to be baptized and they accepted! I have never met any children who knew the Bible so well! The best part of the story is that he wants them to both serve a mission (though they are only ages 14 and 10) and accepts everything we say. We are praying that he will return to activity alongside his wife. As you can tell, lately we have really been focusing on teaching families, completing families, and inviting them to come to church as a family. This is how we come the the earth and it is how we live through the eternities.Why not work on helping them come together sooner than later?
Other than that, things are going great like usual. I am continuing to learn so many things every day and am so excited to see what each new day has to teach me. One principle that I really impressed me from my personal study today is found in Moses 6:59. Here is clearly teaches the symbolism in birth-baptism-and our needed re-birth. The connection between the Spirit, blood and Spirit is beautiful!! I encourage you to stop and read and study the scripture right now and seek to understand the connection to baptism.
Well, that is all I have for this week. I hope you are all doing well and enjoying yourselves. Qofte nje dite e bukur! May you have a beautiful day!
Love,
Motra Hawkins


Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Day 300!! November 11, 2013

Hello Everyone!


So the good news is that this week was absolutely packed with blessings and people to teach. We one lesson away from 30 total lessons which equates to a lot of people, a lot of changing and a set of two very tired missionaries. Things are starting to get a little tense between the two of us because Motra Smith gets ornery when she doesn't get enough to eat so we are working on fixing that problem. Things have been quite outstanding for us and I feel that things are going well with the work but that we still need to find a better balance physically with the work. It seems that lately investigators like to not answer their phones at night when we call and then the next day they call and ask if we can meet right then, which leads to a bit of running around to try and make everything work out. I am hoping for my companion's sake that this next week is better, but other than that I cannot complain about anything.
There have been so many miracles this week that I may just have to make a list starting from the beginning. Let's see if I can describe the waterfall of blessings that have fallen upon us this week.

First of all we had a great zone training at the beginning of the week and made a goal of talking to at least 10+ daily outside of street contacting. We put this into play and have seen immediate blessings. It is easier for me to stay focused on my purpose, we are finding more people to teach and it is a great way to spread the gospel. We also were able to find more investigator who want to be baptized (so now we have a grand total of 9 for the next month!!) and all of them came to church yesterday (a total of 12 investigators came!!). In regards to the branch, there is finally more communication between us and the branch presidency and our branch mission leader after I helped him understand how frustrating it is for us to give them a list of our concerns, announcements and problems, and then we never hear anything back or receive any help week after week. Things are a bit better now and they can only get better. I think we all understand now that their should be no difference between the branch's work and the missionaries work, to a certain degree. We also have been blessed to be asked by the District President to help with a missionary work themed activity for the YSA. It's going to be great!! We also are working more with the RS to find lost members and members are now inviting us into their homes, instead of the other way around. I don't think I have ever been so busy in my entire life, but it is amazing!! Also, we discovered the secret to getting people to commit to baptism! We have an investigator from English we invited to church, met with her after the meetings, and then she asked us if she could be baptized. It was magical!! We also have a baptism for this Saturday which we are really excited about- it is the Elder's mother who is going to come and he is going to baptize her. It is going to be beautiful!! Also, we are going to be receiving an additional set of sister missionaries in our district so we will have more sisters than elders (like I secretly prayed)! It's going to be great!! There were other great things that happened but I will stop now so this email doesn't get too long.
 The moral of the story is there are truly miracles everywhere, you just have to stop and find them!

Love you all!

Motra Hawkins

Monday, November 4, 2013

All in a Day's Work -- November 4, 2013

Hey Family! 
The bad news is that this week has not been nearly as effective as the last. We led the mission last week with 17 investigator lessons in the presence of a member but this week was not as efficient as the last.  But we are continuing to work hard and teach as many as we can find! Our motto is teach as we find and find as we teach. It doesn't matter if we are with investigators, members, or less-active members, we are looking and finding referrals. Last week we even received one without even asking for it! It was awesome! Now the hard part is trying to meet with everyone. We are going to try and do member splits again once this week if we can find YW that have the time.  
The most important principle that I have learned this week is that you just have to love. When investigators or members break your trust, you have to continue to love them. When your companion is starting to annoy you, you must look past the annoyance and continue to love them. When you don't meet your expectations for yourself, you move on and love you for who you are. Charity may be a more appropriate word for the love that we must have. The more I strive to have it, the more I understand that I must seek for it more. It is not always easiest to have but it is essential for eternal progress and growth. The lack thereof can be a great stumbling block, at least I know that it has been for me. 
The good news of the week is that Danjela was baptized, but she came late yesterday to sacrament meeting so she was not confirmed. Right now she is kind of in a limbo stage. It was a hard but good lesson for her to learn, that we must be punctual in this church. I guess it is good to make her wait just a bit longer. Other good news is that we have seven other investigators all preparing to be baptized within the next month so we are really excited for all of them!! It's been a lot of hard work lately and we come home exhausted almost every day but I am grateful for it. One of the greetings in Albanian is, "A jeni lodhur, a jeni merzitur?" which translates to "Are you tired?" and truthfully I have to tell people yes most of the time. As hard as it is, I wouldn't have it any other way. I am doing my best to teach my companion important principles like learning to recognize and teach by the Spirit (she told me she truthfully did not know how to recognize the Spirit so I am loving teaching her) and how to apply scriptures when teaching. Things like this have always come naturally to me while teaching so I have had to step back and understand what I do, and then help her to be able to replicate it. It is a slow process but after fourth months she will be an expert (or something like that...). 
It's crazy for me to think that I have been here almost ten months, and that all too soon it will all end.  
Thank you for all of your prayers and fasting. I feel them and recognize the hand of the Lord in my behalf. May you all be blessed you as you work and pray toward your goals. 
Love, 
Motra Hawkins  

 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lets Get Down to the Nitty-Grittys! October 28, 2013

Hey Family,
This past week was fantastic again like the previous- filled with many miracles. There were some ups and downs but luckily there were more ups. I am truly enjoying my time here and the opportunity I have to train Motra Smith. Even though I have already been here before, this place seems a completely new area especially since we have started working with the members. I have loved hearing their conversion stories and getting to know them, gaining their trust and then utilizing their help in the work. We are now receiving referrals from members without even asking for them, getting members to almost all of our investigator lessons and will start working with the Relief Society to find the lost members. Gratefully there is always something more to do. The greatest lesson I learned this week is that there will always be people who need to be taught, we just have to be patient enough to find them or wait for them to come to us.  
Danjela (the one who came to church last week) is on track to be baptized this Saturday if she passes her interview. We also met with the mother of one the branch's newest missionaries who just left for his mini-mission in Tirana. This last Sunday we asked if she was interested in becoming a member, Tuesday we went for a visit, committed her to a baptismal date, and now she will be baptized the weekend before her son leaves for his mission. The blessings of missionary work is always two-fold! On Tuesday we had three of our investigators who disappeared for a couple weeks come and tell us that they can be baptized so they are preparing for the end of November! Suela (the student) in our lesson bore her testimony to us about the Gospel. She told us how her whole life she has felt like a truth hunter (awesome I know!!) and how at first she was just interested in English but now loves to read and learn. We make her list of scriptures to read and study, as in a whole page, and she'll come back two days later having read and studied it all!! She is also preparing to enter the waters of baptism at the end of the month. As for the rest of our investigators, things are going well and there is always something that needs done. We are working with the RS now to find lost members and all of our branch is so excited to help with missionary work. We went on splits for the first time this week and it was wonderful! We also are helping a girl fill out her mission paperwork- we should finish them up and send them out tomorrow. She has been a great help and is an example to all of the Young Women!  
In all and all I can hardly wait to see what miracles this week will hold. Thank you for all of your prayers. Qoftshi nje dite shume e bukur. Ju puthe shume forte!! 
Love you all! 
Motra Hawkins

P.S. Here are some fotos of me with a giant lemon and with Klaudia (our missionary who will be set apart tonight and head for the MTC)




Monday, October 21, 2013

This is the best kind of problem in the world! October 21, 2013

Hey Y'all! 
So I just have to start by saying this past week went by in such a blur and we are exhausted, but it was by far the best I have ever had in regards to the work and blessings. It seems this past month, every week I feel we are more and more blessed by the hand of the Lord. Sometimes I wonder how things could get any better? 
This week was especially great because we were able to reach almost all of our previous weeks goals and even obtained the Standard of Excellence! This means we had more than twenty investigator lessons with more than half with a member present (we had a 18/5 ratio) and seven new investigators (we were blessed with 16 this week!!) This has been such a great blessing because I remember many weeks here before where we were praying and searching frutilessly for weeks just to try and find one person! We are planning on working just as hard this week to see if we can make it happen again. Though the help of  the members and doing splits (this is my first time doing this), we are going to try and attain both our goals and the standards of excellence- we are really excited!! This week we were blessed with a plethora of new investigators so we are excited to continue to meet with them and help them to work towards the waters of baptism.
I guess I will take a minute to tell you what some of them are like. Our youngest are ages 8 to 12 and all are from English course. They are siblings and love to stay for our spiritual thouhgt at the end. They all came to church yesterday, but alone so we are hoping they will come with their parents next time. Our oldest investigator is 85 and her name is Arregjiro (it's Greek!). We were at a missionary correlation meeting and right after we finished, we came up to the Elders, asked where the church was. They gave her a map and then she walked away. The Elders said we should have just taken her to the church. I agreed and then realized we still could. I grabbed my companion, flew down the stairs, found her and then got on the bus and took her to the church. She is a little forgetful so teaching might be hard but we are excited. 
We also have an investigator named Eldiana who has an exciting story. She is 26, Muslim (I guess I shouldn't need to explain that because everyone her is Muslim) and has been engaged for almost a year. She was found through English course and has been wonderful from the beginning! We are hoping that we can have the Elders in Tiranan start teaching her financee so that they can come here for a couple baptism and eventually go be sealed in the temple together. 
And now for our craziest investigator story. Sunday we got up early, went out to try and take our investigators to church but unfortunetly all of them were busy or said no. Sadly, we walked to the church alone and got ready for the meeting to begin. At the very last minute, eight of our investigators show up so we were really excited. Just to inform you, President Ford was there for the meeting and we set a record for the Durres branch with having more than 110 people at church...usually we only have about 80. At the end of the meeting, one of the Elders less-active members came up to us and introtduced us to his neighbor and said that she was an investigator. We were really excited by this and completely surprized when she asked us if she could be baptized right then. We tried to explain to her that she must first learn and then could be baptized but she just couldn't except that. So, we took her to the mission president and branch president speaking and translating from the two different languages. Long story short, she started begging and crying to be baptized right then and there. We were all baffled and quite frankly I didn't know how to respond. Pres. Ford's commented that this is best kind of problem in the entire world and I agree. I have been praying to find people who are ready to be baptized, but this is not what I expected to find. After some negociating, we were able to convince her to wait a couple of a weeks to enter the covenant of baptism. We are going to visit her today for the first time to see how prepared she is. It's going to be great. This is a testimony to me that if you pray for miracles, the Lord will answer them-not always in the way you expect but He will answer them!! 
Love you,

Motra Hawkins

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wow!! What a Week!! October 7, 2013

Hey Family!! 
I just have to start by saying that this past week was one of my favorites yet here in Durres. There were still the occasional disappointments and lessons with vital investigators that fell through, but for the most part I have no complaints. We were so blessed this week and like the prophet Moroni teaches, you truly do not receive a witness until after the trial of your faith. I thought I knew what this scripture meant and how it applies to me but I guess I have not been applying it if you know what I mean. 
This is a very important principle that I am learning about more and more every week, especially this last one. The principle of relying on the Lord through both the hard and the easy times to receive a stronger testimony. It seems that most of the time I think of testimony building moments as things I can learn through "trials" but I am slowly learning that this is not always true. There are times while spending moments with members here that I gain a strong testimony for a specific principle without even realizing it until the moment is gone. But I am always grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord and immediate answers to prayers. 
One example was on Tuesday when we were waiting at our Institute Center for an investigator to show up for her first lesson. Half an hour had passed and she wasn't answering her phone so we were worried that she was not going to come (just like 5+ lessons we had fall through the previous week). I remember saying a very quick but sincere prayer that she would show up and surely enough ten seconds later she walked through the door. She probably would have come even if I had not offered the prayer but it was an answer just like the Lord promises He will give us if we have faith. Through out the week there were many experiences like the previous and we continued to have an amazing week- our best yet despite the many lessons that did fall through and we were blessed to find many new investigators! I am so excited to continue to exercise this principle daily and begin to truly rely on the Lord especially when I feel I do not need to. This past week has been one of extreme growth (we were blessed with eight new investigators!!) and I am excited to finally be working effectively with my companion and working in such a way that we strengthen and help each other.  
Something amazing I learned about her German grandfather is that he carved the podium in the conference center and the prophet's desk (he told his grand kids that underneath he left a secret message for the prophet if he ever got down on his knees and took a look underneath!! Sweet right?) 
Another random fact is that yesterday as I was making breakfast I burned my arm so now I am going to have another wicked sweet scar on my right hand on the reverse side of where I already have a nice big scar. Maybe I should just tell people I was a pirate before my mission and used to do a lot of sword fighting... 
Unneeded to mention, I absolutely loved conference and learned so much for myself, for my investigators (okay so really they are the Lord's but you know...) and for my current companionship. It seemed to me that the biggest message was that we need to do as King Benjamin advises and yield to the enticing of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man by becoming a saint through the Atonement of Christ. Such things we can do to achieve this is by realizing our full spiritual potential and looking ahead not behind, becoming meek, forgiving others and ourselves, making important daily decisions, repenting and serving others. I really like the battle plan that you have made as a family. What we do as missionaries is something called Weekly Planning and here we evaluate the goals we set and then raise the bar higher or change our goals to make them more effective. Maybe you could do this every Sunday to make sure all six things happen. I am so happy that you are all study together- this is something that I wished we had done more of while I was home but I know it is exactly what you all need now as you are preparing for the mission field. Something helpful to do is to take one of the Christ-like attributes and study it weekly. 
Well I love you all and hope that things keep going well for you with work, with school and with your testimonies. Like President Monson taught, it is always better to look up! 
Love you all!! 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, September 30, 2013

Rain, Miracles and Fasting -- September 30, 2013


Hey Family!!

I just have to start by letting you all know that I am loving it here in Durres. The first couple weeks were hard, especially trying to work things out with my companion but now things are smooth sailing. I am learning how to communicate with these people more and more and I am falling in love with Albanian. Where I am at there are two main dialects- Tosk and Gheg. The first is the kind that you learn from textbooks and is very "clean" as we say. Basically it is the kind that everyone can understand. The second is a very "thick" accent and much more fun to speak and so I am teaching myself/having members help me understand and speak it. Pretty much you can just cut off the end of a lot of words and get really lazy with your grammar so it's a lot of fun and it sounds really cool. I am hoping that at the end of my 4 months here that I will be able to be taken as a Kosovar but who knows??? My companion on the other hand is really struggling with the language and no one really understands her when she speaks Albanian so I am helping her as much as I can every day. It is helping me know more as I teach her what I know. Pretty much the best way to learn eh?

Now I want to talk about this past week. Like I had hoped a couple of weeks ago, this past week was amazing and full of many mini miracles! Lately we have been struggling (okay desperate might be a better word) with meeting with our investigators and also with finding new investigators. It seemed for a while that everything was stagnant or digressing and we were feeling very saddened by our lack of teaching. My companion has a great testimony and I was very excited to let her have the opportuntiy to let her share that with others but more often than not our lessons would fall through. But the great news is that this week everything has changed around, especially since we fasted on Saturday. I bear a firm testimony to you all that the Lord does and hear our prayers if we are sincere. In just a few days we were able to find five new investigators and able to meet with most of them. People suddenly became available and investigators have been finding us. The most miraculous were two sisters, one of which was an extremely inactive teenager who brought her sister to church and just showed up on Sunday. Another one called us and set up a time to meet without us even trying and she has so many good questions. She has a lot of potential!! This past week we were also able to find a couple of inactive members and invite to come to church again. The best part is that we were able to get two of them to come through the help of a member. There were also a lot of little miracles that added up to a wonderful week and we are planning for a great week to come as well!

Love you all! Hope to hear from you all next week!

Love,

Motra Hawkins

P.S. Here is me with a pomegranite our investigator gave us. Fun huh?




Monday, September 23, 2013

Lushnje, Police Station and Trios!! September 23, 2013

Hey Y'all, 
I don't have much time to write this week in cause of an unexpected trip to the police station (no we didn't get put in jail we only had to pick up a car crash report for our sister trainer leaders) so I will have to make it short. The first part of this week was crazy because we were in a three-some in Lushnje and then back here in Durres as a three-some again unexpectedly. It was great to see all of my favorite members in Lushnje again but it was even harder to say good-bye once again! I was able to show Motra Curtis (the one who is staying there for the next four months) the area and help her understand the circumstances and needs of the members and current investigators. It was hard to get my mind back in the area and thinking about those people again but it was great. We finished our stay there with a wonderful Zone Training where we set some awesome goals for our area. By the end of the year we have set a goal to baptize 26 new members and get our church attendance to 100+. Right now we have had two baptisms this transfer and we have 17 dates set with 10 on the the same day! It's going to be a great service!! The work has been really hard for us this week, even harder than last week because almost every lesson we set up falls through, but I know this next week will be amazing!! It's like that saying, the night is always the darkest before the sun rises, right? Well, other than the fact that my companion is bad luck (just to name a couple of things she has done the past week include breaking the handle on our dryer and faucet as well as dying all of her garments a beautiful sky-blue) so we are going to experiment a couple of Albanian based ways of gaining luck by handing stuffed animals in rooms, throwing salt around, as well as using rabbit's feet and an eagle eye. I'll have to let you know next week if anything comes from it! 
Love you all!! 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, September 9, 2013

DURRËS!!! September 9, 2013

Hey Family!! 
Gratefully I am glad to say that I am back in Durres. When I got the call last week, I was really sad that I had to leave Lushnje and cried quite a bit. Okay, I was extremely sad to have to leave Lushnje but I am glad to be back here with all of my old friends/members/investigators in Durres. There are so many people here that I forgot about and am so grateful to be part of the work here again. It is so strange having a "ward" of about 90 members with a giant beautiful church building and the relief of not having to worry about everything  in regards to sacrament meeting. For instance before I would have to constantly remind all of the young men to wear white shirts and ties with pants instead of a t-shirt with shorts and flip-flops. I can hardly believe how different it is here- all of the youth were Sunday appropriate clothing and there are sooo many members that come. We also didn't have to worry about an inadequite number of priesthood holders attending. It was so great!  I am excited to get to really know all of the members again now that I can actually communicate with them. In comparison to last time, I think I did not understand as much as I did understand my first week here (which translates to that I almost understood everything when at first I understood nothing that was said).  
Oh and yes I am training again!! It is a bit difficult and I feel bad for the poor girl because she can't understand a lick of Albanian but she is really sweet. Her name is Motra Smith and is from Sandy. She is basically a much more shy version of me- loves to quote the Emperor's New Groove, is obsessed with rock climbing and loves Nutella. It's going to be a great transfer if I can just help her be able to speak Albanian. She is having a bit of a rough time adjusting with the time and especially the language, but I know once she gets over that she will be a great tool in the hands of the Lord. The best part is that she is not afraid to make mistakes and never gets embarrassed when she doesn't understand. She just tells them truthfully that she does not understand and then I translate for her. Also, she is not afraid to try new things so I things will go very well this transfer with the two of us-I feel like there are a lot more things I can do with her that I could not with Motra Wait. We spent some time making some great goals for the transfer in addition to our weekly goals so that we can have a vision for this transfer and mini-transfer. I am really excited to see how everything will go for the next four months.  
Well that is all for now. Love you all!! 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, September 2, 2013

It's the End as I Know it... September 2, 2013

Hey There Family, 
Well to say it how it is, right now my heart is broken. I just found out last night that I will be transferred to Durres (pronounced Dew-Rus) to train again. 
Today was a bit hard (okay really really hard!!!) saying goodbye to everyone here in Lushnje, but I know that I am needed in Durres. Maybe that is why it was so hard to say goodbye to everyone. Our last visit was with Rista and Pirro Cauli and that was probably the hardest thing I have done in a long time...almost as hard as saying goodbye to Mom and Dad at the MTC. They truly are like my Albanian parents! The greatest miracle is that they were both baptized on Saturday (see picture below) and confirmed yesterday. My heart is broken and my eyes won't quick leaking...my heart hurts so bad but I know that I am needed in Durres. I have truly loved serving in Lushnje as hard as all of the struggles were both big and small. When President Ford called me last night he told me the reason that I am going back to Durres is because I am needed as a key trainer because Durres will become a ward shortly (when we get a stake here!!!) and I am needed to secure the fort up there. I hope that this next training adventure will be equally rewarding and full of growth as this last one has been. I can hardly believe how much this area has changed since we first got here and all of the wonderful people with whom we were able to meet and teach. I will definitely be leaving a piece of my heart here when I go.  
Well, that is all I have for this week. I hope this email finds you all well and happy! 
Love, 
Motra Hawkins

 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Just another crazy day in Lushje!! August 26, 2013

Hey Family! 
Another crazy week has come and gone in the life of Motra Hawkins and her rad companion Motra Wait. To sum things up simply, she is still pretty sick so yet again we have been cooped up in our apartment like a bunch of chickens!! It has been hard but I am happy and we have had some awesome conversations. As you probably know now from the pictures, we were able to go to our investigators home (Rista and Pirro Cauli) and milk their cows after our lesson with them. They are truly the nicest Albanians I have ever met and I don't know how I will be able to say goodbye to them. Also they joked that once I get home they are coming to America to me you (mostly Mom and Dad) and to see our farm. It is so nice, but also slightly difficult, to talk about farm stuff to someone who understands the farm life and culture. Our teaching has been going great with them and the two of them are going to be baptized this weekend!! I am so excited!!  
Some other fun things are that the interviews for temple recommends happened this week and the five people we have been teaching will be going in October!! There is this couple that is going to be sealed- the mom has been a member for ten years and the father for just over one. Just about a year ago their son passed away, and a while after his death he came to his father in a dream and told him he needed to become a member so that they could go to temple, have his work done, and be sealed together as a family. Last night I had the blessed opportunity of reserving the work for them via internet. I have always loved family history but to see the look on their faces and hear the pain in their voices over the loss of their only son, it brings me joy beyond description to be able to tell them that they can now be sealed. This is the kind of missionary work I love the most- the eternal kind!! The feeling I had last night as I submitted the information was beyond amazing- I know that he is so grateful!!  
Other good news is that all of the youth from Lushnje left for EFY today so that will be really good for them. Also, Majlinda- a member who just received her temple recommend- called us the other day and told us her husband will stop smoking because he wants to get baptized and eventually go to the temple with his family. It was an incredible surprise!! I can hardly wait to see what miracles will happen this week. Oh yeah and we found out that we are getting an expansion to our current meeting center because so many members are coming now. Just a year ago there were only five members attending. When we came there were about 25 and now we have an average of over fifty and more are getting baptized every week (almost..). It's awesome!! 
Welp that is all for this week. I'll let you know next week where I will be headed and what I will be doing. Love you all! 
Motra Hawkins 
P.S. Oh and we finally bought a microwave- it was an exciting day for us!!


Kati getting ready to milk the Albanian cow





Kati milking Milka, the Albanian cow




Monday, August 12, 2013

Another Week Comes and Goes -- August 12, 2013

Hey Family!! 
Sadly, this week was not the best- if not our worst in regards to the work. Like I may have mentioned last week, my companion is very sick and quite downhearted with her silly stomach. She is always laying in her bad nauseated and runs to the bathroom quite often. Many days this past week were spent inside the apartment, with her sleeping (or at least trying to sleep) and with me outside reading from the Gospel library and watching church related things. To sum up my week I watched the Work of Salvation broadcast twice, all of the past conference talks twice, watched all of the Mormon messages I have downloaded, listened to about five CES firesides, watched the Restoration video, and a couple other church productions. I also read a lot in the Book of Mormon, Jesus the Christ, started and finished Our Heritage and Our Search for Happiness. Basically I have done a lot of sitting, pondering, and knowledge gaining. It has been a nice physical break but I want to get out and teach!!! You know that saying, "You never know what you truly love until is gone." definitely applies this week. I can hardly believe how itchy I am to get  back out and teach our investigators, help members learn about the temple and do something other than sitting on a couch. I am hoping and praying that the medicine Motra Wait received today will make things a bit better because it is really hard for me to see her so upset over something she cannot really control. I think the biggest thing that I learned this week is that I truly do love teaching and that was manifest by the lack of it throughout the week. It's hard for me, but I know that it is so much harder for Motra Wait. Even though we were not with our investigators much this week we will still be having two baptisms this next week which we are really excited for and then a three more the week after that. Even though this past week was not the best, in the big scheme of things, the work is progressing and expanding faster than I ever thought it could or would. Haha I even had an investigator ask us if it was okay for him to talk to his friends about the gospel and invite them to come to church with him. I told her to talk to as many as he wanted and that the Elders could meet with the ones that we cannot. And then he asked if we could build a church out in his village..obviously he doesn't understand the need for Priesthood leaders (though he will be a great one here in a couple of weeks!!) Hopefully we are able to get some new investigators through that and help them begin to make sacred covenants. 
Well, other than that our week was pretty pale. Nothing crazy happened here. I hope you are all having a nice end to your summer and a special shout out to Casey and Collin ---> Happy Birthday bros!! And like the Albanians say, "Edhe nje qind!" which basically means may you live another 100 years. 
Well, that's all I have for this week. Pafshim! 
Love, 
Motra Hawkins

Haircut Gone Bad... August 12, 2013

oh yeah so I made the mistake of getting a haircut this week and coloring my hair. Pretty much I hate it. Any suggestions on what I can do to take the curls??

Monday, July 29, 2013

For the Fam -- July 29, 2013

Well Family, 
Not too many new things have happened this week.We are still working like crazy with all of our investigators (about 15 right now) and helping members prepare for the temple. We have these two investigators named Rista and Pirro that we just recently started teaching. The woman is a sister of a member so she was a referral more or less through that connection. Long story short they are wonderful!! You hear about people saying that "They were just prepared..." and I never knew what that meant until now. All of the investigators that we have been meeting with, we have been teaching them everything from the very basic level of the gospel because they did not know anything but have the desire to learn. With this family (yes family- that never happens here in Albania!!) they have a Christian background and read everything we suggest and then more! It is so wonderful. It's so nice from a teaching point of view because they already have that foundation and then we can easily build upon it. Other than them, only a couple of other things worth mentioning happened. We saw a guy wearing a BYU-I tshirt while riding past on a bike, I was stuck in bed all day wednesday because I had a really bad sore neck and shoulder from sleeping funny- I couldn't really move my neck at all, and while making a member visit the father was taken away by the police as a witness of some hazing. Pretty much it was an amazing week full of lessons! I really love Lushnje and am sad that here in a month or so I will probably have to say goodbye. 
Welp, again I don't have any questions so that's all for this week. Love you all!! 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, July 22, 2013

Hey Fam!! July 22, 2013

Okay this week I have to start by saying, "Happy Birthday Drewby-Doo!!" before I forget. I hope that you had a great birthday yesterday! Go on some dates or something...yep that's all I have to say about that.:) Oh and when it's Colli's b-day you should go on a double date. Today for our activity we went to the beach and I made a picture in the sand that said Happy Birthday Drew but I can't get the picture to attach. Maybe I can send it next week. I know, I'm lame- get used to it...
This week in Lushnje was very exciting and we have been doing a lot more work with the members than the past couple of weeks.If I ever think we are busy, the next week is always soooo much more busy.  Now on top of our regular investigator/recent convert/less-active lessons, we are also doing and English course, Young Women activities  and now we are teaching the temple course to all of the members who want to go to the temple this October. Luckily we never have any extra time because when we do, we will have a member call us with a referral and poof we instantly have work. The Lord truly has blessed us with a lot of work lately!! We are now halfway through this transfer and have found 25 new investigators and have had five baptisms!!! Speaking of which....
We had a baptismal service for the Daka family on Saturday and yesterday they were confirmed and received the Holy Ghost! After weeks of waiting, it finally happened and they were so happy! (Again I cannot attach pictures sadly). Additionally, Ervis (the son) was interviewed and next week he will receive the Priesthood! Today we are going to teach them more about the temple and eternal families. A couple of years ago, Xhevarihe's husband passed away so we are excited to teach them about eternal families and encourage them to prepare to go to the temple.Other than helping some of the members here prepare to go the temple, we are working hard with our new and old investigators to prepare for baptism. Something interesting that happened this week is that we received a call from one of the native missionaries who is serving in England (he was in Albania for visa stuff),Elder Hoxha, and he requested that we begin to teach his family who lives here in Lushnje. Hopefully his desire can be fulfilled before he returns home, or even when he does return.
The greatest thing that I have learned about missionary work this week is that it is all eternal work- we can do family history for those who are not here, spread the Gospel to those who are, and live and teach in such a way that our children will learn from our example. We not only teach eternal principles but are in the midst of eternal work. When I think of this and the hard days come, it makes the work that much sweeter. I think I have finally gained that missionary spirit and desire that all can learn and apply the principles of the Gospel in their lives because I see how it has helped me and desire that they may do the same. 
One other great thing that happened this week was the exchange we had with the Sister Trainer Leaders. I went to Fier and while I was away thought about what things I wanted to change with my companionship, and when I got back discussed those things with my companion. It was not easy thing for me to be so frank with her, but I have seen the extreme difference it has made and I know that it is a good thing. We are teaching more in unity now and the Spirit is with us in our lessons more often. Things aren't where I want them to be but the difference is huge! Also, rumor has it that I will be training again this next transfer so I am excited to be able to do this all again. I have seen how different I am because of it and I am excited for the challenge because I see how much good it has done and how much I have changed. Sometimes the change is hard and a bit painful, but change it is and always for the better. I truly love missionary work and the people we are teaching. A lot of the time I wish you all could be here to meet them, the other half of my family, and I hope one day that can happen! It may not be in this life but that day will come.  
Well that is all I have time for today. I hope you are enjoying your vacation in Mexico, and like I said last week,if there is anything specific you want to hear about let me know. 
Love you all! 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hey Family!! July 8, 2013

Hey You Guys- Long Time No See! ;) 
I just have to start by thanking you all for the wonderful package that I received this past week. The letters and plethora of goodies was about more trunkiness than I could handle. You made me cry, you made me shout for joy and you made me wish that we were back together again. I love have the calendar and being able to look at pictures of all of you every morning when I wake up.
As for the work here in Albania, this past week has been wonderful! Well, I guess depending on if you asked me or my companion you might get different opinions, but from this companion it was amazing! I might even venture to say that it was one of my best weeks out here. As a companionship, we have been setting effective goals, working toward achieving those goals and the growth has been immense. Just this past week alone we found seven new investigators (with an additional seven last week! which is a lot considering we only ever had nine the entire time I was in Durres), had three baptismal interviews, had five investigators at sacrament meeting, twenty-one lessons (that's a big number as well), and we even had a less active member come to church both of these past Sundays. Long story short, we are having a lot of success( which also means a lot of work!!) 
We have a wonderful group of investigators now (not all of whom have a baptismal date) but we are trying to take it slow with them and wait until they are ready. We have been having a lot of success out in this little fshat called Zhame. There was a family baptized by the previous Elders who are all really interested in learning about the Gospel as well as how to improve their reading skills. There are a total of about ten of them who are interested so it is a bit crazy. The other day in our lesson, there was a total of eleven other people- a little insane but a great lesson with all of them. Since they are from the village, they are not very learned- very simple people but very accepting of everything we teach. A lot of the time I feel like we are teaching Primary, but that is how the Gospel principles should be taught- at a level that even a child could understand. It is really helping my teaching skills learning how to teach them. Most of them do not know how to read or write, so tonight begins our work of teaching them to read and write in Albanian. This will be a bit hard because it is not my native tongue but I know the Lord will help them to learn and grow if they have the desire. One of the best things that we are going to do with them is read out loud from the scriptures. I have seen in my own life that reading out loud from the scriptures was one of the best ways to improve my reading skills and I hope that it will begin to help these villagers as well.
Some other exciting things that we are working on right now include organizing and encouraging Mutual (called Sebashku in Albanian) to help the Youth work on their Personal Progress and Duty to God, teaching English course twice a week, buying food for members who need extra support, inviting and supporting less-active members and families, preparing three people for baptism, as well as our usual proselyting efforts. It's been a bit crazy and it will only get busier but I love it. The days that we don't have much work are always the hardest.   
Like I mentioned before, we have had a lot of success this past week and there is never a dull moment. It seems that there is always something to be doing so thankfully there is no down time, which is how I prefer it, though I think my companion does not feel the same. I have tried to slow down my pace for her but there still seems to be a lot of conflict when it comes to our timing. I am trying really hard to work with her, and I feel that I am putting forth adequate effort, but I do feel that she is doing the same. I am also really struggling trying to teach her principles of missionary work that I have learned from my experience. I feel that most of the time when I voice my opinion, I am met with opposition and so I am beginning to stifle my opinion and advice more and more. I have been realizing that this is not a good thing because I want to teach her but cannot find the way to do so. I know that it will get better with time, but from time-to-time it sure tries my faith and patience. I am learning so much and am ever grateful for the tender mercies the Lord supplies.
Well, that is all I have for this week. Thank you for all of your love and prayers. They are needed and greatly appreciated! 
Until next week, 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, June 24, 2013

Crazy doesn't even begin to describe it... June 24, 2013

Okay since I forgot in the craziness last week, I have to start out by saying Happy Father's Day to Dad. Sorry I forgot. Thank you for being such a great example to me! 
Also, it sounds like things are going well at home. I'm sad I missed the family reunion, but before you know I will be back home. Sometimes it scares me to think how fast the next year is going to pass by. Every day by itself feels so long but the weeks pass by so quickly. 
This past week was especially eventful and full of much craziness as I mentioned before. To start off I shall begin by describing my companion in more detail now that I know her better. Her name is Motra Wait (or Motra Prit as I like to call her) and as her name implies I do a lot of waiting for her. She is a lot like my first companion Motra Forte in the fact that she really cares a lot about how she looks so consequently she spends a lot of time in the bathroom in front of the mirror. I do not believe there is anything wrong with trying to look my best, but when that begins to interfere with our study times it becomes very frustrating for me. Long story short, I am learning to have a lot more patience in different ways than I ever thought I could. She is also a very physical person- i.e. loves to give hugs and touch me which is weird because my last companion was quite the opposite. The entire time that we were together I think I only received one hug from her. Also she is vegetarian so I have had to say good-bye to meats for the next little while. Oh and she hates chocolate..also another hard thing for me to accept. What do you do? It has been difficult during lessons because she does not really speak and I do most of the teaching but it is good for me. But overall I am enjoying it here in Lushnje. We have met with most of the members and all of our investigators. We will have three baptisms here in a couple of weeks and hopefully two the following week if everything goes well!  
As far as the branch is concerned, it is very different than in Durres. There are only about 30 members that usually come instead of 90, and since yesterday was the election we only had about 15. The youth here are amazing, few in numbers but very strong. There is one in particular that is amazing- her name is Tea (pronounced Tay-a). She is basically a missionary and loves to help us with our lessons. One other interesting thing about this branch is that we only go for two hours because the relief society was really bad so now they no longer have it. Consequently, my companion and I will be very involved with young womens. We spoke with the branch president last week and found out that there is not mutual here so we are going to start planning and organizing that so that we can begin to help the young women work towards getting their medallion through personal progress. It is going to be a lot of hard work, but I am really excited! The more I think about it, the more I realize just how important the youth are here in Albania- they truly are the living blood of the church here, as well as the recent converts. The converts and investigatorrs that we are teaching right now live out in the middle of nowhere in a place called Xham. It is a fshat, or in other words a village. We have to take a taxi to get there, but it is great! The people literally have nothing in their homes other than some food, themselves and their clothes. They are so poor that they go and pick bunches of flowers and or weeds, dry them, put them in water and eat that for their meals. It is sad how much poverty there is here in Albania, it almost brings me to tears at times.The saddest thing here is that poor families only have a couple of children and the girls usually get married really young because that is one less mouth they have to feed...it's sad but that is just how the culture is here I guess.  
On a happier note, I have very exciting news!! On Saturday I was able to go to the baptism of Anesa and Adelsona in Durres!! I had initially decided that it would be too much effort to go and decided against it, but I am so grateful that I decided against it because to the two of them, it meant everything in the world. I don't think I have ever seen two happier little girls. It was literally a miracle that we got there on time, but we made it just in time for me to give a talk. The baptism was beyond wonderful and I am so grateful that I was able to witness and take part in helping them make that first covenant of baptism. As I was sitting in the meeting I was again reminded of how important the youth are to the growth of the church. I was just trying to imagine the two of them ten to fifteen years down the road, graduating from seminary, attending institute, serving missions and or getting sealed in the temple and in turn teaching their children the very principles which they are learning now.  The though brings tears to my eyes and I hope with everything in my heart that they will continue to strengthen their testimony of the gospel and never fall away.  
As far as the work goes, this past week has been very good for Motra Wait and I- we have been able to meet with all of our investigators, talk about baptism and help them to continue to progress towards baptism (all five of them!!). It is a bit hard because the previous Elders did not leave very updated records but slowly we are learning where they are at and what their concerns are. We are both very excited to get more involved with the branch and we are actually going to start organizing Mutual with the youth and help them begin to work towards finishing their Duty to God and Personal Progress requirements. Our finding efforts have not been very successful this last week, but I pray that this next week we will be able to find some new investigators through the efforts of the branch members. 
Well, that's all I have for this week. Tune in next time to hear more about some crazy Albania myths... 
Love you all dearly!!!
          Motra Hawkins
That is the hobbit I found in Durres. 


Here is me with Adelsona and Anesa and another missionary.

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's Already June! June 10, 2013

Wow! I cannot believe it is already June!! Yet again another week has come and gone- sometimes I cannot believe how fast they go! Just the other day I was thinking it was still March...I guess time flies when you are serving, eh? Even more crazy to me is to think that  this is my last week here in Durres. Transfer calls came in last night (at 11:00!!!!) and I will be transferred to Lushnja, a little village in the central part of Albania, and I will also be training as I had already assumed. The craziest thing is that Lushnja has never had Sister Missionaries before, so my companion and I will be the first ever! A little daunting but I am very excited. I am so sad that I have to leave my little Durres, but I am really excited to start training, especially opening a new area. The worst part is that I assumed that I would be staying, so when my companion has been saying her good byes to everyone, I have not because I assumed that I would be seeing them all again soon, but for some people I may never see them again- which is hard for me to accept. Though I do hate goodbyes so it may be the best this way after all.
  
It's a bit hard for me to take it all in at once, all of these changes, but I know that change is a good thing. I have always had a hard time with big changes, but I have realized while serving here that the biggest changes have always brought the most growth for me. Thus, why I am so excited- I know I have so much growing to do and as hard as it is going to be I know that the Lord with provide and strengthen me. I love the scripture in Ether 12 where the Lord says that if men come unto Him, He will show unto them their weakness and I know that is me. I know that if I have faith in Him, then He will make me weak things become strengths. It's is going to be an adventure and I pray that I will have faith sufficient to make my weaknesses strengths! 
As far as news goes from this last week a lot of crazy little things happened so I will just start naming them off. We saw a dead hedgehog, almost got attacked by a wild sheep dog that just attacked a little shepard boy, ate a lot of different desserts (when I have the opportunity I will send pixs), got Adellesona and Anesa on baptismal dates even though neither of us will be here for the baptisms, ate grilled sheep head, had a picnic on the beach (today), learned how and made byrek, saw an octapus, find a baby frog the size of my thumbnail, played with fireflies, stopped meeting with Valbona because she has quit progressing, took a million pictures with all of our members and investigators, and basically worked until we were exhausted. I don't know if I have ever been so tired in my entire life, but I love being busy!  
Well, other than that and our normal things that happen every week nothing else exciting has happened but next week will be different. I will have a new companion, a new area, have gone to District Conference and a Mission Conference, as well as moved to a new apartment. It's crazy but I love it!! 
Love, Peace and Chicken Grease Y'all! 
Motra Hawkins   
P.S. Sorry I have been really bad a responding to people! I will try harder this next transfer to be better about responding personally to letters.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Another Week -- June 3, 2013

I don't have much more time this week so here is a copy of what I sent to my mission president. Sorry I don't have time to write more or make it any more personal.

What a wonderful week it has been this past week! Like every other week though, the time seems to pass so quickly here at the end of the transfer with my companion preparing to leave. It has been a bit of a struggle for me to stay focused, but I am trying my hardest to continue to work hard and do my best. One of the greatest lessons I learned this week is the power of a simple testimony. Yesterday in sacrament meeting, one of our recent investigators Adelsona got up and bore her testimony. She has been so wonderful in accepting and keeping all of our commitments and she surprised us yesterday by doing even more than we had asked. As a family we taught them about fasting and tithing and that wasn't a problem, but we never expected her to get up and bear testimony in front of all of the branch. She stood up and bore a simple but powerful testimony about the Book of Mormon and the prophet Joseph Smith. It was limited but again powerful, such that it brought her mother to tears. The mother keeps saying that she only wants to girls to learn for themselves so that they can better their lives but I hope that she will begin to realize that the Gospel is for everyone. I hope that we can help her understand that the opportunity to repent and learn about the Gospel is something that everyone has the chance to do no matter what age you are. Change is something that I think a lot of Albanians have a hard time accepting- if you look at their culture the evidence is everywhere. The older generation still wears the same style of clothes from centuries ago- the death and family traditions that seem crazy to us are still the norm and the belief that it is impossible to change religion. We meet so many people that tell us they cannot get baptized because their parents were Muslim, they are Muslim and can never change. It has been a challenge for us to figure out how to help them understand that through the Gospel and Atonement, we are able to change and always for the better. Like I wrote last week, this is why I believe the Savior tells us that we must been like a child- like Adelsona- and be willing to do anything and everything we can to follow the Savior's example. It has been hard but I am doing my best to keep a positive attitude. If you have any advise about what I can tell people in regards to changing religion, that would be wonderful.