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 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!!
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!

 Motra Hawkins