Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Final Countdown

Hello Everyone!!
The final moments are coming and it is pushing us to do even more and more. We are still pushing our goal of inviting thousands and baptizing many. Unfortunately, people are having a hard time coming to sacrament meeting (which is such a fundamental step in the learning and growing process) so I will not get to be here for their baptisms. But its all okay because one day it will happen when they are ready and in the Lord's timing. Why stress about things you can't control?
This is an exciting but bittersweet time for me. I am reflecting on all of the things I have learned from friends, investigators, companions and leaders. Lately I have been reflecting on the time I have spent as a missionary serving here. I have come to realize that I have been very blessed to see many different aspects of missionary work. I have seen what it is like to unmotivated and motivated leaders and learned from both. I have been able to teach and find many and help prepare them for baptism and confirmation. I have come to learn to love the Lord's Work and rely on Him through prayer and guidance of the Spirit. I have learned to love the Albanian culture and its people. I have learned to accept my weaknesses and have humility. I have learned how to lead and how to be led. I have seen sorrow and success. And greatest of all, I have become converted to this Gospel and will never falter. I count this as my first and most important convert in the Church.
There have been so many things that I have learned that I never thought could or would happen. I do not remember much from my blessing when I was set apart to be a missionary and that makes me sad but I do remember the words Dad said. He told me that I would not return the same person I was when I left. I remember laughing inside to myself a bit because I thought I was good enough as I was. I now laugh even more to myself when I realize how much I needed to change and how far I still have to go. His words have been prophetic and I am so grateful for the change I have seen in myself and in others around me. 
Today I want to close with my simple testimony that I know this is the Work of the Lord. His Spirit testifies and witnesses this of this to me everyday. Even though the going is tough from time to time, if we stop we can always see the Hand of the Lord guiding us along. I know that Christ lives and that He is our Savior and Redeemer. He loves us and has provided the Way for us to return to live with our Heavenly Father. It's all true and it all points us back to our divine home on high.
Love you all!!
Motra Hawkins

Monday, June 9, 2014

Myriad of Miracles

Hey everyone!! 
It is interesting to me this principle that I have learned these  past few weeks. I have been surprised to see that the harder we work the more we have to do. I feel that the Lord sees that we are willing to do more and so he has provided it for us.
Lately, we have really been trying to find families, and the Lord has blessed us with them. It seems every time we go trackting, the only time anyone lets us inside is when it is a family. Not all have been ready to receive the Gospel but I know that we were in the right spot at the right time and for them it was the perfect introduction to our church. We are still struggling to get them to come to church but I know that one day in the future these people will want learn more about us- what we do and who we are.  
Even though there are hard days, I always try and remember that there is always someone out there who has it worse off.Saturday,  we learned from our investigator Halide that her best friend died suddenly from cancer. This came as such a hard blow to her but I am so grateful that she has an understanding of the Plan of Salvation to comfort her. I am not the best at offering good advice about death, but I know that the Lord will give her the comfort she needs. We consequently are pushing back her baptism. I guess this is a trial that she needs to help build her testimony. It is hard for us to see but I know it is according to the Lord's plan for her. She is such a great person!! 
Well, I hope you are all doing well and working hard as well.  
Keep strong and smiling on! 
Love you lots!!
 
The One and Only Motra Hawkins

Monday, June 2, 2014

100% Honest 100% of the Time

Hey Everyone! 
This past week was pretty awesome and let me tell you a few reasons why! 
First of all, there was a surprise baptism a couple of weeks ago that I forgot to mention. There was an investigator named Betim that called us and called us so we went to the church and sat us down to tell us a story. 
He said that while at FHE another investigator that has been investigating for more than a year told he, "We should get baptized...really, we should get baptized!" And then she told him that he should pray about it.  
So he did and what happened was miraculous! He told us that he prayed all night and in the morning when he woke up, he realized that he news it was true, that he had always known it was all true. Now he is our branch mission leader and is doing great! He knows all of the investigators and is doing a great job to help us keep them coming. 
The most exciting part of this week was our second baptismal covenant invitation that we extended to our investigator named Kate who is an English teacher from London (Swiss Cottage to be exact) here teaching the Italians on the base. One of her students is a high ranking official who just happens to be a member from Italy who is serving here. He brought her to the church, we met last Monday, gave her a Book of Mormon, then we taught her of the Restoration and in the meantime he has basically taught her everything else (we didn't know this until recently). We met with her again on Saturday and she refused our baptismal invitation because she said that she was already baptized as an infant. We were quite sad but decided to teach her more and then ask again after she understood more. To our surprise, Cosimo the Italian member, got up in sacrament meeting yesterday and bore powerful testimony and conveyed to all a very special message.  
Before he was preparing to come here to Kosovo, he told his wife that he felt we would be serving a special mission while here. He then told us how after we parted ways on Saturday, Kate expressed to Cosimo her desire that he baptize her. This came to me as such a great shock but wonderful news. I didn't know how to respond!! We are so excited to begin to help her as well! The best news is that she reads her Book of Mormon before teaching and all of her student have many questions about her special book. We hope this will be good exposure to a large number of people. 
Other than things are moving forward little by little. We had 35 people in sacrament meeting yesterday, and almost a third of them were investigators!! The Lord is moving his work along quickly here! We have five baptisms planned for this next month as a district!  
Health, peace and blessings to you all!! 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, May 26, 2014

How Many is One?

Hey Family!

So today I wanted to start by telling you about how we met our investigator Halide Volca. She is a single 30 year old Muslim Biology professor. We in fact did not find her but she actually found us. Here is the story.
The weeks leading up to our first meeting in the street, we had been planning on offering church tours to people passing in the street but didn't have a chance until that specific day. As she was walking by, we smiled and said hello and she stopped when she saw the church sign with the name of Christ. She explained to us that she is Muslim but that she has purchased a Bible and been studying it for a couple years and wanted some help to understand different books and verses. She didn't have time to come inside the church then so later in the week we went to her home and taught her of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and then invited her to come again to the church and take a look around. 
As we walked around the church and showed her the different portraits on the wall, she marveled as she had been reading of these stories for years and knew exactly what all of them were. She had so many questions about our church and how it compares to Christ's church and was thrilled to learn that they are the same. She easily accepted that our church could be led by a modern prophet and that Christ is at the head of our church. She understands the doctrine, the need for baptism and loves Christ. Even though her family is against her joining the Church, she has a strong testimony and will be a great member once she is able to overcome her fears and enter the waters of baptism. She has been sick this past week so we have not been able to meet with her but we hope to meet as soon as she has time. Consequently we may have to push her date back but she will be ready soon!

This past week was hard because we had a difficult time meeting with all of our previously found investigators, but we had a great week of finding and the Lord blessed us with a great family to teach! We are so excited!
Another crazy thing that happened this week took place on Monday. We were at the church waiting for our investigator when a man in a suit and a blonde haired woman walked in. It came to me as such a surprise when the man started speaking to me in broken English and introduced himself as Cosimo, an Italian member who is here with the military. He then introduced me to his English teacher, Kate, and told us that he has been teaching her all about the church since they met and that she is excited to learn more. We met with her again and she even came to church yesterday and wants Cosimo to baptize her children! It's fantastic! Now we just need to convince her that she needs to be baptized first. :) My favorite part of that day was when Cosimo leaned over to me and said, "Sister....Golden Contact!" When she asked what he said we all just laughed. :)

Another crazy thing that happened this past week took place on Friday. We had just finished lunch when our investigator called us and told us to hurry and meet her. Once we found her, she was a mess in tears and told us that because she had put up a picture of Christ on her wall, her landlord told her she had an hour to pack up her belongings and get our or they were going to through her things away, just an hour before she had to be to work. We helped her throw everything into bags and calm her down. The entire time I was thinking how crazy the entire situation was. The only good thing about the whole problem was the comment Ermira made at the end when she said, "What did He ever do wrong to them? Even though they all hate Him. And what is He going to do? He is going to forgive them." I was taught so much.

The last experience that I want to mention also came as a surprise. We were out trackting and the Elders gave us a call and told us our investigator was waiting for us at the church. Her name is Bleta and she is a political leader and is running for leadership in the government. She came to the church to ask us if we could say a prayer for the country of Kosovo. For the better part of twenty minutes she explained the problems to me and my companion and largely expanded my political vocabulary. Then she turned to me and asked me to say a prayer. I was a little scared but I turned to the Lord and simply asked to bless the people and leaders here. The Spirit in the room was strong and I prayed for things I would have never thought to say. The experience was truly remarkable and I hope that the people here will be blessed.

Well that is all for this week. Don't count down the days and I'll see you all that much sooner!

Love,

Motra Hawkins

Monday, May 19, 2014

Baptism!!

Hey Family! 
So long story short I don't have much time today so I have to keep it short. 
This week has been great and we were able to achieve many of the goals that we set for ourselves, especially in regard to teaching new investigators. The saddest part of the week was that we had to say good-bye to our lovely Senior couple. It has been hard without them but I think the branch will continue to run without them.  
I also wanted to let you know that we have an investigator who is going to get baptized!!! Her name is Halide and she is the one that has been studying the bible for so long. I have never met someone who has been so prepared to receive the message of the Gospel! I see her as an amazing future member, teacher and leader in this branch. She has a strong testimony of the Savior and simply understands the principles of the Gospel. She will be such a great blessing to this branch!
Well, that is all I have for today. Love you all and can't wait to hear from you soon! 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Humble Seeker of Truth

Hello Everyone! 
I must start by saying that I am so grateful for Albania and the principles that it taught me while I was there. It greatly prepared me for all of the things that I would face while here in Kosovo. Multiple times on a daily basis others testify to me that there truly is no Christ and that the Bible is full of lies. This is always hard to hear but strengthens my testimony because I know what I know and no one else can take that from me. 
I know that Christ is the Savior of the World. I know that we have need for a Redeemer so that we can be forgiven of our sins. I know that Christ was born of a Heavenly Father and earthly mother. These things I know amoung many other truths.  
Missionary work has always been hard work- if it wasn't such there would be a lot more missionaries around the world. Fighting for the salvation of others is never an easy task but I am so grateful that I get to be a soldier in the Lord's army. Every day!! I understand that there are many things that I still have to learn and I look forward to the stretching and growth. 
The work here is slowly growing and we are finding and inviting more and more people. This past week we had success getting our one investigator who has accepted baptism to come to church! She really loved what she saw at church and is excited to come again. Even though she is Muslim, she bought a Bible and has been studying it for about 10 years so she understands everything that we do in our church. The priesthood, the sacrament, and ordinance of baptism are not new things for her. The best part of our last teaching opportunity was that she expressed that she sincerely felt she has found the truth. The look on her face and the Spirit in the room was undeniable! She too soon will be a member of this great church. One by the one, the Lord is sending His chosen children into our midst. 
I never tire of this work and am excited to see what the Lord has in store for the lovely country of Kosovo!! 
With a heart full of love, 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, April 28, 2014

Three countries- Two Companions- One Month- Zero Complaints

Hey Family and Friends! 
It seems that the Lord is making some great preparations for this country and is also preparing His missionaries as well. These past two weeks have been rough but they have been great learning experiences as well. I think that rejection hollows out the heart leaving more room to love. We literally had one day of entire rejection from our most progressing investigators. We have not had much success in the usual respect, but rather have been forced to try new things and have been given hidden success (i.e. success that isn't measured by numbers and statistics). We have been able to talk to many people and invite many more! I learned a lot of things that I was not expecting. We had a really great conversation with a man from Chicago who felt led to come to Kosovo but didn't know why. I believe it was so that we could find him and such that he could find the church. As for our other little family we found last week, they have been busy and we have not met them again but we are never going to give up. We gave them a Book of Mormon stories book with pictures for there little children to read and hope we can go and watch the Restoration video soon. 
I also want to report that we had a great exchange in Macedonia with the sisters there! It was sad to see the Anderson's leave and I could feel the great love that is in that branch. I sense that the Lord has great things planned for that country! Being there was like walking into the real Europe I always imagined and I actually saw the church of Mother Teresa! It was great! The sisters are doing great and I enjoyed sharing with them new ideas to find more people and reach a bigger audience. It was great. I never thought I would serve in all of the countries of my mission but it happened.
I also wanted to share my testimony of the miraculous power of the Lord in teaching me. Before serving as a missionary I never understood my need to completely rely on the Spirit and the need to delve into the scriptures to find personal spiritual truths. I understand now the need all of us have to learn to literally feat upon the words of Christ. May you all do so as well!! 
Have a great week! 
Love, 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Easter!

Hey Everyone! 
I have sincerely loved the few short weeks that we have had here in Kosovo. The members are wonderful and our Senior Couple the Jones are amazing! It is going to be hard not having them here in a little while. Everyone looks to Sister Jones because of her love and Elder Jones for his leadership. It will leave a lot of room for growth here. 
This past week was amazing! We had great fun inviting everyone to come and celebrate Easter with us, even if none of them actually came.We spent the better part of everyday this week trackting and street contacting because no one wanted to meet because it has been raining and snowing. In the history of Kosovo for the last 100 years it has never rained or snowed for a week so it has been really crazy. It forced us to do new thing and consequently we found some really prepared people. We really saw the hand of the Lord in knowing who to call from our Area Book and really had some great success with that. The best part of the week was being led to a family who are really faithful and desire to learn more. The father was actually given a copy of the Book of Mormon by one of his friends from work (we are still trying to figure out who that could have been) and really enjoyed it. It was quite a surprise for us when he pulled out the book from his bookcase. My mouth about fell on the floor because no one here has even heard of the church let alone been given a Book of Mormon. Its humbling when you realize who's work you are doing. 
Things are still going well and we are striving our best to invite thousands and begin to help them prepare for baptism! 
Motra Hawkins 

P.S. Today we went and saw another waterfall and old Catholic church. Can you say amazing??



Monday, April 14, 2014

Waterfalls, Witches and Watches

Hey Everyone!!
So I think I have died and gone to missionary heaven. Yep. I couldn't ask for anything better. The Lord is working so hard through the missionaries and it is shown through the members. Last week the first branch was organized in Macedonia and just last night the second branch in Kosovo was organized in Gjakova. It is amazing to see the growth. We were blessed with 12 new investigators, almost half of which have already accepted a baptismal invitation! Now comes the fun/hard part of teaching them how they need to change their lives.
This week we worked really hard to find and teach and had much success. I have so many good stories but not nearly enough time. My favorite comes from an awesome street contacting we had.
There was a man on the ground begging for money and playing his clarinet. Since I have always loved music I had the thought to go and talk to him. Ten minutes later he had told us his conversion story and agreed to come to church the next day. He used to do drugs a lot and lived in Albania. He actually talked to my companion once before when they were both in a city called Durres. He received a Libri i Mormonit, but lost his bag. When his life was in the lowest of lows, much like Valjean from Les Mis, he went to a Catholic church and was taken in by the loving priest there. He was accepted like one of his children and given a new life. Now his philosophy is that it is better to beg than to steal. He has such a strong belief in God and Christ and by just looking at him you would never guess. He came to church yesterday and had a great experience!! I am excited to see what more will happen.
The Lord is beginning to gather His lost sheep up here and I am so grateful to be a part of it!!
Motra Hawkins
P.S. Today we went to see some waterfalls. And yep I totally went behind the waterfall (and I found a magic faden!)

Here is the video with people from Kati's Stake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UBuFN0Ntys#t=61

And Pictures:




Thursday, April 10, 2014

Happy Birthday!!

Good Morning ! I am delivering a birthday message for Sister Hawkin's sister ( I think).

"Happy Birthday from Motra Aunt Tate !"


And can I add how much we LOVE, love, love Sister Hawkins ...She is  more than wonderful !!  We have been looking forward to sisters  coming back for 6 months....they are fabulous!!!

She is so good in every way.... I am so blessed to have her here.....thank you for your sacrifice and your love, prayers and support....


I am in tears at their goodness and all that they do...it is so great to have sisters here with me...I am up here kind of in the North away from the rest of the couples !!   They have helped me so much...I pray daily that they can realize how valuable they are and their great worth...

AND  They are SO  safe here..no need to worry !!!  We love the people here and love being missionaries !

  Our time is up in May ( so sad)..We live in Logan  nice to know we are close...if ever we can do anything...

So much love,

Sister Jones

Monday, April 7, 2014

Welcome to Kosovo!

Hello Everyone! 
I must start by saying how very grateful I am to be here in Kosovo. Upon entering and talking with the senior couple presiding here, Elder and Sister Jones, I understand how greatly we are needed here and how hard it has been without Sisters serving here for the last few months. I thought it would be scary coming after the attack but we have had no problems. We are completely safe and are having much success. We have had a lot of luck calling up random numbers in the phone and meeting with them. We are trying to not only work harder but also work smarter. So far we are having much success. Our first night we sat down together and read from Alma 26 about Ammon and his missionary work. After reading, we made a plan and goals for our transfer. Our main goal for this transfer is to invitethousands to learn of Christ and baptize many just like Ammon did! We wanted to make a goal of baptizing hundreds but we thought that would be a bit difficult, but not impossible.  
We are beginning to understand that many here do not know Christ and never have any intentions of doing so. We had a refferal from a different city come and meet us with her best friend. We taught her a bit about the Book of Mormom which she readily took and then when we mentioned that we wanted to go to the church she refused. The idea of even walking by the church was impossible in her mind. Another thing that is different than Albania is the fact that people here when they say that they are Muslim, they actually practice their faith and religiously pray and cleanse themselves. It has been interesting talking to people and learning more about Islam. It is not all that different from us than I always imagined. The biggest difference is that they cannot believe in Christ and believe that simply asking God for forgiveness satisfies the demands of justice. We are doing our best to teach all that Christ is an essential part of the Gospel and Plan of Salvation. 
We are trying to do our best to follow Ammon's example and invite all to come unto Christ. We have seen progress and are trying to think of ways to reach a larger number of people. Today for our activity, we went to the place where Elder Nelson dedicated the land of Kosovo for the preaching of the gospel. Below I included a picture of the grove where it took place. After we read the prayer, we offered our own as a district and felt the power of the Lord in this area. The Lord is truly preparing this people for the Gospel. I feel in not too many years away there will be a stake here. We are really excited to see what the Lord has planned for this people in the near future!! 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, March 31, 2014

I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go Dear Lord

Hey everyone!! 
So last night I received my transfer calls and you'll never guess where I am going.....
Okay by now you have probably read ahead and know I am going to Kosovo so I will explain.
I have to start by saying that there is no fear for me in going to Kosovo, only excitement for something new and sorrow over leaving Tirana. I have felt that I would be leaving but I am excited that my 3 Week Companion Motra Pitcher will stay here and take over. This is really good news for me since I have been working like a crazy person to get our Area Book perfect. Even though I think I understand what happened there and that there is the possibility of lingering problems, I know in the strength of the Lord I can do all things and will do all things that He will ask me to do. He has blessed me with the ability to have faith and not fear so I will go and do as He asks me. So you should not worry either. 
As I have been packing I have felt sad that I will not get to say goodbye to many of the people I love here, but I know that Kosovo is where I am needed. I was reading the other day in the Book of Mormon about the great missionaries Alma and Ammon and Aaron and all the other Sons of Mosiah. I was impressed by their courage to go against the Lamanites to teach them of Christ even though they knew they faced the possibility of imprisonment and or death. They took up courage, went forth and taught and then by their diligence and patience they recorded that: 
"And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away." (Alma 23:6) 
I feel a little that I am going amoung the Lamanites but I know that the Lord has been preparing me and I, like Ammon, seek to help all learn of Christ and invite them to come unto Him.  
Love, 
Motra Hawkins 
P.S. Today we went and got pictures in traditional Albania clothing. Please Enjoy.
I know I did...



Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy New Ward!!

Hey Family! 
This last week has been really hard on me because my companion has been really sick and consequently much time has been spend indoors (again). Though it has been a great time of learning and I have still been able to do some great missionary work. I spent a lot of time calling my investigators and even had an almost lesson with someone over the phone. It was not the most comfortable thing for me to do but now that I know that I can do it, I think I will try more often to do that. I also spent a lot of time doing book work getting everything up to date. I get the feeling that this next week with transfers, that I will not be staying in this area. It was really hard for me to be sitting for so long but it was good to finally get maps made and information in the books for future missionaries. I really have seen the importance it has because when I came into the area it was empty- there were no phone numbers, no maps and no records. I made it a goal to leave it better than I found it and I believe that I have succeeded! It has to be the world's best now...or something pretty close to it. :) 
Yesterday we were also able to see many miracles in the ward under the direction of the new Bishop. Things are going wonderfully in 3rd Ward and I know that many of the desires that we have had as missionaries will now be met under the new leadership. They help we have wanted in teaching, in finding and supporting the less-active members is finally coming. For the first time, we were invited to take part in the missionary part of ward council and voiced some of our desires. There are no more missionaries in leadership positions so everything is being run completely by the members. I am so grateful for the loving examples of Bishop Zela and his wife. They are truly miraculous and I am so excited for the time that we get to work together. Already they have provided their help and service in regards to investigator work and are extremely interested in visiting every single active member, recent converts and those who are being reactivated. Tonight we are actually going to take our investigator over to their home for Family Home Evening. It's going to be amazing!! 
It has been great for me to see the great changes that are taking place here. I am excited to see what the future holds for the members of this ward as they become more independent and willing to take more part in missionary work. 
I hope that back home things are going as well for all of you!! I love you all and pray that you are happy and working hard. 
Love, 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, March 17, 2014

Surprise!!

Hello Everyone!! 
So Tuesday brought some big changes in my life that I was not quite expecting. Monday we called Pres. Ford to tell him that we would like to meet and talk about Motra DeFriez's problems with the work. We sat down and then carefully began to explain that he thought it would be better if she went home to get better medical attention and results. This was not the reaction that either of us were expecting but we got agreed that it was a good idea. Tuesday we went home, I packed her bags, we said some quick good-byes and then Wednesday morning she flew out. The good news is that we had Zone Conference so I was able to quickly be put with my new companion. Luckily another Sister left the mission for a new area so our companionship fell together nicely. I was in a bit of shock for a while trying to come to grips that she was gone but now I am doing much better.
This past week with Motra Pitcher has been interesting. We had a couple of sick days inside of the apartment due to health problems on her part (5th times the charm...) but gratefully today we are back on our feet and have some great plans for this evening. The transition has been a bit difficult on me but I realize that I am very grateful for the change. I have already gained so much perspective and I am laughing more than I have in months. I feel fantastic! If laughter is contagious then I am really sick with it. The funniest part is that Pres. Ford promises us that we would not be together (i.e. we are only together two weeks) but this is the best companionship we have both had and wish that it will last longer. We both recognize that our time together is short and we are excited to continue to learn together!! 
I pray that everything is going well at home and that you are all happy and smiling...because it is St. Patrick's Day!! Go and pinch someone!! 
Love, 
Motra Hawkins

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tirana Albania Stake

Hello All!
There are so many things that I want to share this week but I just don't know where to start...
I guess I will start with the surprise that I received Friday night. We were waiting at the church for a family to come so we could teach them about the new Stake when President Ford gave us a call. Motra DeFriez answered and quickly handed the phone to me and said, "It's for you..". You can imagine my great surprise when he invited me to speak at conference that following afternoon. Like so many times in the past I gave him a quick yes and then realized I didn't even know what the topic was, where or when the meeting was. When I exclaimed my surprise to the invitation, President Ford simply replied that he knew I could do the job and that it wouldn't be a problem. He was correct on both accounts and my mind quickly began to think of what things I could share. I was asked to talk about the joys and blessings of missionaries working with members. It was easy enough to prepare since there are so many things for me to share. My preparation experience was different than any that I have had before because I trusted solely on the Spirit to prepare. It was amazing for me to see how easily the words and references came to me. As I stood and shared these things before everyone (no one told me until I got there that it was being broadcast to the entire stake via satellite) the Spirit was so strong in bearing witness of my message. It was a very unique experience indeed. (also afterwards a member complimented my language skills and said that I speak like a native but I believe the Spirit was speaking through me such that they could understand perfectly). 
So that was the good news and now for the bad news. Shortly after attending this wonderful session of conference and then attending a celebration at which all of the missionaries sang, we went home and prepared for the next day of conference. The next morning when we both awoke we were both extremely sick and Motra DeFriez couldn't even get out of bed because she was so sick. We both received a Priesthood blessing and then spent the rest of the day in our apartment. I cried when I realized that the day I had been looking forward to for more than a year was taken right before my eyes but I then understood that the Lord had a greater purpose in keeping us because in those hours we were taught some very wonderful principles. From the others, we learned that everything went well and that everything is set up for the stake to run at full force! I am excited to see how everything will play out now!
I love you all and am grateful for your prayers and encouragement!!
Love,
Motra Hawkins

Monday, March 3, 2014

Here Comes the Stake!!

Hello Again Family (and Friends!!),
Here we are at the beginning of another beautiful week!
It's crazy for me to think that this time next week, Albania will be organized as a functioning Stake!! This is pretty much the only thing that gets me through the day..looking forward to the moment when it will all happen. Work and our key indicators have been really low lately because (in my personal opinion) that Satan is trying so hard to bring us down before the marvelous work and wonder comes into effect here. We are putting forth so much effort and seeing so little progress but I know that once a stake is established, Satan will have just a little less power here and the work will go forward at full speed again!! Now that I have come to understand this, I am so excited for Sunday.
One other important thing that is going to take place Saturday is a cultural event in which we will take part. Many VIPs are invited, including many of the country state representatives. As missionaries of Tirana, we are going to sing "Called to Serve Him" arranged together with the recently translated "Thirrur T'i Sherbejm Mbretit". With the new stake they will now start publishing the big hymn book in Shqip!! I am so excited for it!! I am also ecstatic when I think of the power the newly called Stake Patriarch will be here. This past week I have been listening to some BYU Devotionals given on the power of patriarchal blessings and I am excited for those blessings to be available to all worthy and desiring Albanians. Things are going to change in great ways here! 
We have also started doing some new finding opportunities through activities. Yesterday we set up a big screen tv at the church, popped some popcorn, and invited everyone passing by to come and watch a movie with us (The Restoration). It was a lot of fun, something different and we had some success! I hope that we will continue to have more success in finding more who are seeking for the truth.
Also, I wanted to share a bit about our Sunday worship service yesterday at church. As it was our last week as a branch and fast and testimony meeting, there were many who got up and bore powerful testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel and its effect on their lives. Sadly, they are realigning the boundaries here and many (okay all...) of my most favorite members will no longer be in our branch. I was all tears and joy as I sat and listened to their heart-piercing testimonies. As I work amoung the members I am beginning to recognize the hand of the Lord in this country to bring the true disciples of Christ unto His protective Fold. How fortunate we are to live in a time and place (I refer to America) that practices religious freedom and believes in God and His divine goodness. The Lord is building a strong foundation for the future generation of the Church here and I am so blessed to be a part of it. I never want to leave!!! This has become such an important part of my life and my testimony is that I know that I will never stop working to build, expand and edify the body of Christ, no matter where I am serving, always beginning with myself. 
I want to bear my sincere testimony to you all that I know that the Lord loves all of His children without exception, patiently waits for them the find Him, and always provides a way for them to return Home. I know that the Book of Mormon has divine power to change lives and I know without any doubt that Joseph Smith has been the source of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ back onto the earth. My testimony is that Christ lives, He loves each of us and invites all to come and follow Him!
Motra Hawkins

Monday, February 24, 2014

I Will Never Forsake Thee

Hello Everyone!!
To start off my family email, I would just like to thank you all for the wonderful emails you always send me. It is such a pleasant experience to read the things that you are experiencing in yours lives and learn from both the good and bad things happening to you. I am still hoping to get some more stories from you all about your favorite memories but I guess I will have to wait to hear about those until next week. This is an important part of family history that I am beginning to understand. If we now record our memories and things we have learned, it leaves a great heritage for our children and grandchildren as well. We need to let them learn from our mistakes and joys (it's like the prophets in the scriptures!!).
Things here in Tirana are passing well. We are working diligently to get everyone ready for the new Stake. Things are still slow with all of our investigators but we are having a lot of continued success with most of our less active or returning members. We continue to have over 60 people in sacrament meeting and are in need now of a building with more room. There are many changes in our branch in regards to the members taking action and it is very exciting to see. In preparation for the new stake we are going to try something new with all of the members that we meet. We are going to encourage them to do three things before they come to sacrament meeting: bring their own personal scriptures, come prepared with a personal question which can be answered through personal revelation and leave 5-10 minutes early such that we can start our meeting on time. We hope that this will increase the activity of the members and encourage them to be more engaged during church.
This Sunday, I was again blessed with the opportunity to give a talk in sacrament meeting. For the first time I was actually able to prepare and  loved the things that I learned as I was preparing. I really feel that through personal preparation we learn so much more than we can ever try and teach in the small talk we are given to present our talk. It was exhilarating and I hope that before I leave I get to give another one! 
Also, I believe that I found the secret to effective missionary work! I was reading in Alma and I believe he teaches us the answer. See if you can find it below:
"And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them." (Alma4:19The answer is pure testimony!
Motra Hawkins
P.S. Here is a picture of a sulking mouse, my things as I was preparing to give my talk and translate everything and also an awesome quote from our favorite ice cream store called Me Gusta. :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Can you hear the voice of the Children?

Hey Everyone!


Things are moving forward here in 3rd branch. We are having trouble meeting with a lot of our recent converts and less active members and investigators (okay everyone I guess) but things will work out soon and start getting better. One of my favorite memories from this past week happened on Sunday. We got there in time to greet everyone and after calling and inviting all of our investigators, we had one show up. We were really excited. The sacrament meeting was wonderful but the biggest surprise came during Sunday school. The Primary teacher slept in so we were asked to teach the lesson. Being unprepared I decided to that we would teach about my favorite Gospel subject- the Holy Ghost. I thought it would be especially appropriate since the children in our branch love to scream and run around. We taught them how we have to be quiet and reverent if we want to hear the voice of the Holy Ghost in our lives. We taught about the courageous example of Nephi and his father Lehi while traveling through the wilderness and on the ocean. We taught them about the Liahona and compared it to the church magazine, teaching how its words can direct our lives if we give heed to it. But the best part was the game we played at the end. One of the children was blind folded and went out of the room while the rest of the children hid a bag of cookies. All of the children then played the role of the devils advocate and one was designated as the Spirit. The point of the game was to have the Spirit lead and direct the blindfolded child to the bag of cookies. The best part was that only the Spirit could touch the blindfolded child and had to whisper to tell them where to find the cookies. It was amazing to see how quickly the children understood how to recognize the voice of the Spirit. The game was simple but it has a great life application!


I love you all and can't wait to hear more from you next week!!


Motra Hawkins



Monday, February 3, 2014

Hello Again!!

Hey Everyone!!
To summarize my week, I just want to quote Pres. Lee who said, "Missionary work is but home teaching to those who are not now members of the Church and home teaching is nothing more or less than missionary work to Church members.
We have had so much success in our branch this week because I feel that the members here are finally beginning to understand this crucial principle! I think far too often we try to put a line between all of the organizations and divisions of the Church but it is crucial for us to understand that they are all interlaced with each other and that is how it is meant to be! Home teaching is no more less important than the visits the full-time missionaries make to investigators. If anything, we should consider these visits even more important! 
Here in 3rd branch we saw so many miracles because we are continuing to work closely with our branch members and the leadership. So often I read and receive this advice, but I do not think I have ever fully put my plan into action until now. The blessings of doing this were so great this last week. We were able to go and help with some visiting teaching visits to less-active/inactive members and they went wonderfully!! It really has been a big surprise to me how involved everyone is getting...now we just need to keep encouraging them all to refer potential investigators to us. :)
The biggest blessing of the week happened yesterday when we saw more new faces in sacrament meeting than old faces. Inactive members are returning, new investigators are coming and people are bringing their friends. It is miraculous!! Things may never go as we plan but it is always according to the Lord's plan. 
One of my favorite things happened this Saturday as we were doing our weekly service activity. This is something new for me but I love it, and this week we had the opportunity to plan the activity. We got our hands on some Helping Hands jackets, got some sacks and gloves and went and cleaned a nearby park. The first forty-five minutes were pretty boring but then at the end a miracle happened. There was a little group of boys who started asking me a lot of questions about who we were and what we were doing so I of course answered them. Then I offered them some gloves and asked if they wanted to help out with the cleaning. They were a big hesitant but then jumped right in. For the next twenty minutes all six of them were running left and right picking up anything that looked like trash and filled our bags in a few short minutes. The best part were the comments they were making about how usually they waste all of their time but how they loved helping us clean and that they wanted to do this every week. We thanked them for their help and invited them all to our English course. It was beautiful to see the spirit of wanting to help spread so quickly!
Other than that, things are going forward with the work here and I am learning lots! Thank you all for your love, prayers and support!!
Motra Hawkins
P.S. Here some pictures that I have forgotten to send.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Well, What Do You Know??

Hey All!!!
I have to start by saying that I absolutely love missionary work, especially when it leads to change and growth. This week I have seen these two very important things with the correlation between the missionaries and branch leaders/members in Tirana 3rd Branch. Our missionary meeting with our Branch Missionary Leader and Branch Council was spectacular!! There was so much good communication about investigators and returning members. And not only that but plans were made and goals set to go and find even more!! Then yesterday in Relief Society, I was so touched when all of the women started to offer their help to go and find lost members, setting up times to go do their visiting teaching and offering their homes as places to teach others. I was so touched that I began to cry. For so long I have been reading in PMG about all of these things that we can do as a companionship if we want the help of the members and yesterday it was as if all of our small daily planning and in depth weekly planning and prayer finally slipped into place. We have now seen the blessings we have been seeking for so many weeks realized. The Lord is blessing us with amazing new investigators who have truly been prepared and are ready to learn. One went to university for two years studying the Bible and is so grateful for all of the sacrifices of Joseph Smith in helping to fix the translations of the Bible. Another man that we found through tracting met with the missionaries back in 1994 when he was single and then moved. Now he has a family and wants his two children to learn about Christ. Our biggest success in tracting has come through what we call cookie tracting. We put a couple cookies, a picture of Christ and a quote from the Book of Mormon in a little gift sack and then we hand them out to people and invite them to learn about Christ. We have also seen a lot of success in taking time to offer service to others and then acting on it. Everything that PMG teaches is true!!!
Preach My Gospel has helped this week change from good to great. It has helped our companionship and friendship change from mediocre to majestic!! Change is one of the biggest challenges and blessings of my mission. I am so glad that I have learned how to make changes in my life and in the lives of others. At times I feel that this is the biggest struggle in life...to learn how to change yourself and to learn how to emulate the character of Christ. I see it happening slowly in my life and it is amazing! A year ago I would have never thought that I would be at the level I now am. The Lord truly does take us from a cottage and wall by wall builds and fortifies us into a castle.
Some exciting things that happened this week include that my bed frame broke so I was sleeping on the floor for a couple nights, I saw a giant peacock sitting in the top of a tree (which is crazy because the only birds in Albania are pigeons and sparrows!!), and we saw a family tree in a picture frame in an investigators home (again this is so rare because Albanians do not even remember their grandparents names!!). Also, on Monday we had a dinner appointment and ate as quickly as we could so we could go to our next one which was a FHE lesson with a less active member. Unknown to us, she had also prepared dinner for us so I almost exploded eating it all. The best part is that the stew she made for us was made from cow head (brain, skin and all!!). Luckily I told her I was full so I didn't have to finish it. I thought it would be best to just stop while it was still a head. :) (I try to make puns in Albanian but they just don't understand my humor sadly...) 
There were many other small things this week that were wonderful but this is all that I will mention today. Thank you all for your advice and prayers!
With a grateful heart,
Motra Hawkins

Monday, January 20, 2014

365 Days of Learning

Hey Everyone!! 
Thank you so much this last week with your advice both in all of your emails. I hope that you all have received your reply. If not my sincere apologies for lack of time!! Things are really starting to look up in our area both with our work and relationship. I thought for a long time that it would never work out but the sun is beginning to shine again!! (in more than one way). We are inviting everyone to be baptized and most are accepting!! I have set a goal to invite 40 people to be baptized this transfer and so far we are at 6!! There is still a long way to go but we are up to the challenge! 
These past couple of weeks have been learning weeks full of a lot of different experiences. At times I feel like am orange being pressed into juice but I know that with a little bit of sugar everything will turn out lovely!! 
This week has been crazy since we were in a little earthquake (literally little- just enough to make your heart race), we taught a homeless man (who is so excited to be baptized, change his life, and receive the Priesthood), and taught a lesson in a fish shop (this is crazy in the fact that I really hate fish so it takes a lot of endurance to stay). There were other crazy things that happened but these take the list.  
One experience that really shook me for a little bit took place while we were tracting. Lately we have been searching for lost members and have had a lot of success at finding and teaching them (one came to church yesterday!!). In the process of looking for one, we ran into a man who had been Christian but converted and is now Muslim. This is very rare here in Albania because so many are Muslim. He actually was talking to us in English so I understood 100 percent of what he was saying. To make a long story short, he tried to convince us that Christianity is all a lie and that Christ was only a prophet and nothing else. He could not conceive the idea that Christ is the Son of God or that modern revelation is possible. This was so hard for me to hear and no matter how hard I tried to explain the doctrine of the Godhead or bear testimony he just kept tearing me down and beating my words into the ground. It reminded me of Alma trying to teach king Lamoni about God, except for this time his heart was not open to hearing what I had to say. It was very sad for me but a good testimony builder for me to be grounded on what I know  to be true. I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father. I know that Jesus Christ is His Son and the Savior of the world. I know that there is no other alternative. This is my testimony and I will always know these things to be true. 
I love you all and am very grateful for your many prayers and advice for me.  
Til we meet again, 
Motra Hawkins

P.S. I just hit my year mark on the 16th. Isn't it crazy that it's already been a year since I saw you last??

Monday, January 13, 2014

Welcome to Tirana 3rd Branch!!

Hey Everyone! 
This past week has been a bit crazy for me and my companion. We are still trying to contact all of the investigators that we were handed at the beginning of the transfer but they are almost all impossible to contact or find in their homes which has left with a lot of finding to do. We have located the homes of some lost members and we even get to meet with one of them the day after tomorrow!  
Finding her home is a bit of a funny story actually. For a couple of days we spent quite some time looking for her home. We searched long and hard, up and down with no success. We enlisted the help of some local Albanians and still we could not find this hidden apartment complex. Luckily, we finally found someone who knew where she lived and the craziest thing is that she lives right behind us. The very road we had been looking for was our very own road. We had searched every other road but never thought to look at what our road is called. It just goes to show that the thing you are looking for is always where you least expect to find it. :) 
Another fun thing happened to me yesterday when we arrived to the church for sacrament meeting. The second counselor in the branch presidency came up to me and informed me that one of the members who was supposed to give a talk would not be coming and he asked if I could do it in her place. Since I am now used to this, I excitedly said yes and sat down to gather my thoughts.
Over the next twenty minutes I was then told I would not be speaking, I would be speaking, then the mistake was made and it was announced I would be speaking, then I was reassured that I would not speak by hand signals, and then for the third time I was told I would be speaking. Since it was all a big surprise, I realized that I needed to just let the Spirit speak so I didn't plan anything. Anyone who knows me knows this is never how I do things. I always have to have a plan so I was taking a jump of faith with this one. Right before I got up to speak, I led the music for the special hymn which was, Did You Think to Pray. As we sang the closing verse, I knew what I needed to speak and testify about. As I began to speak, I saw in the congregation many upset faces. It was then that I knew why I need to speak about prayer. I testified that I knew prayer is a powerful tool of communication from our Heavenly Father. I then proceeded to testify about the healing power of prayer and as I did I saw the frowns melt and tears begin to fall. I also began to change myself and the tears freely fell from my face. It was such an amazing experience to feel the Spirit working through me touching the lives of others and watching it shape their lives. This has been my favorite thing about missionary work- seeing the Spirit change the lives of others. It makes up for all of the harsh words said of Christ, the slammed doors and tiring days. Seeing miracles happen in the lives of others is the most valuable gift I have ever been given. 
In other news, I taught a girl about faith in sign language, was invited to attend an Iranian Muslim festival by some Iranian refugee leaders and and was offered a bottle of wine. Not quite the norm but the Lord's work nevertheless. 
I love you all! Thank you for your many prayers on my behalf!! 
Motra Hawkins

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Year, New Start

Kati's letter from this week. She is not in Tirana and is a trainer for the third time in a row. One more transfer and she will come home. She says the fly home date is June 23rd (her un-birthday). We are anxious to wrap our arms around that little girl again.


Hey everyone, 
I just have to start by saying I feel that this transfer is going to be a bit harder than the last because I am not learned with the area but I know we will figure it out soon. Right now it just seems we are in a big maze and only know where our home and apartment are. I guess these are the only important places for the moment. So many times we have tried to find a members home and end up taking an extra half an hour to back track and find them. Unfortunately the Sisters here before did not leave a good area for us to work with so we are running around crazy trying to find members and investigators. I am so grateful that I heeded the advice of Preach My Gospel and left my area better than I found it. 
 
But the good news is that I am finally with my new companion/trainee Motra Defriez. She is from Michigan and has a very quiet personality. As a companionship our relationship is struggling a bit because we are very different because she is really stressed about not having learned the language. Luckily I am more than willing to help her and have learned to have a lot of patience from my other companions. I keep telling her that she needs not apologize to me for not knowing something but instead focus on what she does know and testify of the things that are in her heart. My favorite moments are when I see her doubting herself, and then the Lord helps me to imagine how great she can be with my help- not just with the language but also with teaching. Multiple times He has helped me to understand that this is my greatest purpose and this gives me the perspective I need to keep teaching her all I can. In just the few short days we have been together, she has helped me learn so much and I am excited to see what will unfold throughout the transfer. 
 
Other good news are the words that my mission president sent to me this week. In my email I read:
 
"Thank you Motra Hawkins. You are an amazing missionary, and you must know that to train three times in one mission is outstanding and very unusual. Thank you for being the best, always."
 
This was very comforting to hear and a witness to me to know that my companion and I need to be together. Ready or not Tirana, here we come!!
 
Love you all! 
Thank you for your prayers!!
 
Love,
Motra Hawkins

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Third Times the Charm!

Hey Everyone!


 Just to let you all know, I have moved Sunday night President Ford surprised me and told me that I am headed to Tirana 3rd Branch to train again for the third time in a row (I am really getting to know the training manual after ten months of using it). I just got to my new apartment here and it's nice. I wouldn't say it is anything like my others but it is nice. I will try and send some pictures later on.


 I just have to start by saying I am so excited to train here in Tirana!! It didn't even cross my mind that I might be training so I so excited. Tirana is really big and I don't know the area but I am excited to learn. Here in a couple of hours the new missionaries will be flying in and hopefully later tonight we will get to go out in the streets with them on their first day.


 It was really hard for me to leaves Durres after seven months and so many miracles. I am so close to so many members that it was 100 times harder to say good-bye to everyone this time. I don't even want to think about how hard it is going to be to have to leave the country.


 Motra Smith stayed in Durres and will be training there. For this past week she has been really sick and I worry about her a lot. She is throwing up often and gets really lightheaded. We went to the clinic on Monday but nothing came of the visit. It seems a lot like dejavu of last transfer I fear. I pray that everything will be alright with Motra Smith and that she will recover quickly so that she is ready to train.


 The New Year here was great last night, from what I heard. I have been so exhausted the last couple days trying to pack and take care of Motra Smith (and no I never went to bed late) that it has drained me physically. I do not remember the last time I felt so tired. Last night was some good sleep for the first time in a long time that was really needed. From what I hear though, outside was like a war zone with all of the fireworks. I am excited for the New Year and I have a lot of goals for these next six months, especially for training. I pray that I will be able to accomplish them and continue to change myself. This is what is the most important- the change.


 I love you all and pray that you are doing well!! Stay warm and stay strong!


 Love,
 Motra Hawkins