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 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.