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