Wednesday, February 27, 2013's the most wonderful time of the year!! February 27, 2013

Hello again my Wonderful family!!

It's hard for me to believe that it has already been a week! The time flies by so fast here! This past week was definitely full of a lot of testimony building and learning experiences! I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I am now Senior companion. It was hard for me at first to let my companion take the lead one because I naturally do that a lot of the time, and two because she does not have a very dominant personality, but we have both learned a lot about how to share the responsibility. We both have learned to love each other and we are starting to teach together very well. It makes me sad to think that here in a couple of very short weeks that I will have to say good-bye to her, though I am excited for the change. To tell you more about the Albanian culture, I'll start by telling you about my two native Albanian teachers. Vellai Hoxha is tall for an Albanian (about 5' 8'), has a crazy sense of humor, and is very straight-forward. In general, Albanians will say exactly what they are thinking without a filter- if you are overweight (which in their culture they consider "Healthy") they will tell you, "Hey, you are fat" or if you are having a bad day apparel-wise, they aren't afraid to tell you so. I think that is going to be hard for me to get used to, but I am excited for the new culture differences. My teachers also tell me that there are a lot of different personality styles in Albanian that don't exist here in the US...that should be exciting to begin to understand. Our other teacher (also please excuse my extreme usage of plural references...being with my companion all day has forced me to speak that way) is also from Albania and her name is Motra Iftiu. She has an awesome sense of style, and I am so excited to get to Albanian and get some new clothes. It's bad enough that I have limited choice on my clothes, but lately I have been working really hard to be able to get up to 10 pull-ups. This is a good goal, but unfortunately my arms have grown so much that I no longer fit in about 4 of my shirts, so that makes life exciting. :) I'm hoping to set the record this next week...if I have any clothes left that will still fit me. =}

In regards to the language, I feel it is going very well. My companion and I are able to communicate very well with each other in Shqip and this week we had interviews with both of the Albanian teachers. Vellai Hoxha (pronounced like hoe-jah) told Motra Forte and I that as long as they had been teaching that they had never taught a pair of Sister Missionaries that work and teach together as well as we do. They both also mentioned that they have never had a set of sister missionaries that have progressed faster than the Elders, ours is the first. That doesn't mean the language is easy (for instance there are 10 different tenses, and 5 different cases as well as noun declentions which means there are literally 50+ ways to say a word and depending on what way you are using it, there is only one correct way to say it...and if you say it the wrong way, Albanians have no idea what you are huh?) I am falling in love with speaking the language, it sounds so beautiful and I can't wait until I am fluent, but I know that will only come after a lot of hard work.

Some other good news: last night I had the blessed opportunity to sing in MTC choir again for the Tuesday night devotional and Elder M. Russell Ballard came to speak to all of the missionaries. It was such an amazing experience, and it made me that much more excited to go and preach the gospel. And just before the devotional, we had the opportunity to teach a lesson in English for the first time. It was very different to say the least and I almost started speaking Albanian a lot of the time, but it was a wonderful experience. As of right now we are teaching 7 different investigators as well as acting as an investigator, and being taught by the other companionship in our district. There has been a lot of frustrating things that have happened, but luckily I have been able to ask myself, "What can I learn?" instead of, "Why me?". It's amazing to me how the Lord is able to teach all of His children in different ways, exactly the way they need to hear and learn the message. Oh the tender mercies of the Lord.

As for your homework this week, go onto and watch the Mormon Messages, "Mountains to Climb" and "Moments that Matter Most" if you have not already watched them. I am still waiting to here about how your experiment of faith went and what scriptures you found. Make sure you have some tissues close by when watching the first one, and feel free to watch it a couple of times, I know I really wanted to because it was that good! 

Well, I love you all family and I hope to hear from you soon! Good luck with life!

Motra Hawkins

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pershegjetje! Ose Hello ne language yne!! February 13, 2013

Hello My Family!

Now it is time for me to tell you more about what it is like here at the MTC. Its so strange for me to think that I really have been here at the MTC for exactly a month, here in a couple of hours and that my halfway point is Friday. I can't believe how time has flown by- the days are long but the weeks are short. I love feeling the Spirit all of the time, I love learning about the gospel, and I love teaching. I think that is one of the biggest things that I have learned about myself while here at the MTC...I love teaching! Although I struggle to adequately express myself in Shqip (Albanian in Albanian) I am getting to the point where it is easier to express myself in their language. It is a beautiful language, more opened minded in the way you can speak the thoughts and feelings of your heart- it's almost like poetry. For example, to say the word smile it is buzeqesh which translates into "laughter of the lips" and another interesting thing...the phrase endure to the end is translated as durimit deri ne fund where deri means through, so it is saying endure through the end instead of just to the end. I think that is so much better- you need to endure through the end, not just to it. The language has been a bit of a struggle, just because it is so different but my biggest trial right now is my companion. I don't want to complain too much but I just want to let you know that it has been hard for me. She came from a very rich family, has the type of personality that is extremely annoying to me (just think Brittany Christensen with a lot of money...and yes crazy makeup and all but minus the immodest clothing). She is very nice, no complaints there, it has just been hard for me to teach myself not to judge others by how they look- and more importantly see others not as they are but as they can become. 

Everyday, we teach one of our investigators in Shqip (we have three now- Aldo, Mihal and Linda) as well as we get to be investigators and act like them. That has been a huge learning experience for me to try and image how it feels to be an investigator and feel what it is like to learn from the missionaries. (We also get to pick everything about what kind of investigator we are) My name is Sarah and I am 25- I grew up in a very active family, but after moving away from home I lost my testimony and have been drifting for a while. I know that something is missing in my life but I feel that the answer is definitely not the LDS church. I was a referred to the missionaries by my older brother who was concerned about me. Now I feel I am bitter toward the church and don't really want to hear their message. It's been hard for me to try and think that way but it has made me think a lot about what I truly know and what my testimony is right now. 

Another great opportunity I had this last week was to stay with my other companion Sisar Clifford (a sister going to Finland) while she was sick. As hard as it was missing class, being able to talk with her and comfort me taught me a lot about charity and the love and concern our Father in Heaven feels for us. I almost can't believe how much more compassion and love I have for others now that I have become a missionary. Just this morning we said good bye to her, because now she is healthy enough to go and be a missionary. It was sad, but it was good! She taught me a lot about enduring to the end and having faith that everything will work out in the end. She was sick, literally the entire time she has been here at the MTC. She even had to go home for a week and half to have surgery and get her tonsils out. She hated it, but she was able to help a lot of people and if nothing else I learned a lot from her.

Now I want to share some really random but cool things that have happened here: I have fallen in love with running and during gym I can go for miles ( I also use that time to learn new vocab while speaking to my companion in Shqip- so it's a win-win situation), I have been working hard and can now do 8 pull-ups (pretty sure I want to set the record for the Sister with the most pull-ups in the gym since there is no record for the Sisters), I have fallen in love with eating Cream O' Wheat with chocolate chips- its is basically the best thing I have ever eaten, there are more Sisters than Elders in my Branch (which is crazy considering at one point my old comp Sisar Cliffor was the only Sister in the branch), I love speaking Albanian, everyone thinks I am 21 because I act so mature (and they all are very aware that my companion is only's makes me feel good that I am not acting as immature at the rest of the 19 year old missionaries), I never have enough time to do what I want but it all works out in the end. 
Well, that's about all I can think of right now. It's great hearing from all of you. I still haven't heard from the little boys, Danielle or Aaron yet so some word from them would be nice. Again, I love you all and can't wait to hear from you again. If I didn't answer some of your questions I apologize, I will try next week. Feel free to ask again.
With Love,
Motra Hawkins

P.S. Pictures are near impossible to send from here so you might have to wait until I get out to receive any. Me vijn keq shume. I am so sorry!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Week 3 -- February 6, 2013

Hey Everyone! 
I finally have time to write a decent letter about how life is here at the MTC! We are no longer teaching the "investigator" Albana, she actually surprised us by telling us she is our teacher! This week we had a really special chance to teach our new investigator Linda. She is a mother that just lost her husband three months ago and is having a really hard time trying to understand why God allows bad things to happen to good people. While in our first lesson we were so upset with her that we didn't know what to say to her (in Albanian of course) to try and comfort her broken heart. Yesterday we had the opportunity to meet with her again and share a message about the Plan of Salvation and God's love for all of his children. We shared with her the scripture in 2 Nephi 2 about the need for an opposition in all things. We taught her that we can't know the light without the dark, we can't feel joy without first feeling sorrow, we can't be grateful for the good days unless we have some bad days. As I was bearing my testimony to her about this principle, the Spirit was so strong (yes I know that sounds so cliche but it is so true). The woman I was talking to was no longer a native Albanian acting for our sake, I truly saw her as one of God's children struggling to understand and looking for answers to her questions. It is so amazing to me how the Spirit is able to speak hear to heart, soul to soul, and express thoughts and feelings cannot express especially when it is from someone who can't really speak the language. This has been a great blessing in my life to come to understand. 
Another great opportunity I had this week was to stay with my other companion Sisar Clifford (a sister going to Finland) while she was sick. As hard as it was missing class, being able to talk with her and comfort me taught me a lot about charity and the love and concern our Father in Heaven feels for us. I almost can't believe how much more compassion and love I have for others now that I have become a missionary. It is fantastic! 
Okay, I used all my time chatting with Mom and Dad, so if you have any questions, they might be able to answer them. Sorry I wasn't able to say more. If you have any other specific questions- shoot me a DearElder and I'll include it in my next email. 
But, before I finish I want to extend an invitation for an experiment of your faith. I would like everyone to try this next week to instead of watching TV at night, to instead take the time to search the scriptures either personally or as a family. Specifically spend that time looking for the blessings that the Lord promises when we keep His commandments. Good luck and let me know (with references) what you find. I love you all and hope to be able to say more next week! 
Motra Hawkins