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'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.