Hello, Happy Monday!

I hope you all have been fabulous and enjoying the wonderful spring weather that is hopefully starting to pop up. Shouldn’t it be about Spring Break time? I definitely feel like I’m on some kind of Spring Break down here in Vlore, as we are having three trips in a one week period. Two I’ve already been on, which I’ll describe later, and one this coming Saturday. I love the work/fun here in Vlore!

So trip number one was to Apolonia, which is about an hour and a half away. I know some of you will be disappointed because I can’t give you any historical background at all. All I know is that is had some ruins (like some broken down columns and an old rock amphitheater) and lots of kids go there for school field trips. We went as a Branch Youth Trip, which got pretty exciting. There were a total of 29 people, which inlcuded 6 missionaries, Redi (which is the boy we used to know as Elder ├želaj) and his girlfriend from the branch, and the rest were all youth age 10 to 20. None of the youth leaders ended up showing up for the trip, so we missionaries were kinda in charge. We had an awesome time! All of us were crammed into this little van/bus with only 20 seats, which is pretty typical for road trips here in Albania, with American Rap blaring loudly and all the kids singing every word. It’s kinda funny because they know every word in the English songs, although they have no idea what they are even singing. It was a beautiful day when we got to Apolonia, so we had a picnic up on a grass field and played Albanian Dodge Ball, until a sheep herder came with his flock of ewes to graze on our playing field. It was a pretty funny scene.

The awesome thing about this trip and these youth is that most of these young people that went with us to Apolonia and that are in the Branch here in Vlore are the only members of the church in their family. And they are the center and the back-bone of our branch here. Of course it is hard to build leadership when a majority of the branch is under 18 years old, but it just makes me so excited to see the potential of these youth in the coming years. Albania is going to have some amazingly strong leaders in coming years, as these young people will be experienced and even stronger members.

Another thing we have been able to help out with the past couple weeks is a Puppet Show. The Senior Couple here, the Snows, are on a humanitarian mission so they do a lot of stuff with schools, and the newest project is a puppet show that talks about why it is bad to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. Motra Hiland and I got to accompany them to a couple of schools this week and help out. Basically I stood with them behind their little puppet stage and told them when to put the different puppets out, because the recording that they do the show is in Albanian and they can’t understand it. So I follow along with a script in Albanian and kinda direct them. And then Motra Hiland ran the CD player. The kids really just love it. The exciting story though is one day we got to a school and they were in the middle of a party in their little auditorium. One of the teachers had just gotten engaged and so they had busted out a DJ and refreshments and dancing right during school. It was an awesome cultural sight to see all the teachers holding hands and doing Albanian line dancing to Albanain Popullore music, and kids holding hands and dancing too, and then like the administrators of the school sitting up with the DJ smoking cigarettes in the school and speaking into the microphone like some Club DJ. Of course when a group of Americans walked into their school they wanted us to join in the party with them, and I must say I rather enjoyed the Albanian line dancing and I was pretty good. Motra Hiland got herself out pretty quickly though and went with the Snows to wait in a classroom till they could get people to stop partying so we could do our show.

Trip Number 2 was this morning to Zvernec, which is just on the outskirts of Vlore. We just went with our District and the Snows for a P-Day activity. It is just this little island with a Monastery on it, but it was beautiful. They had basketball hoops which I got really excited about until we realized we didn’t have a ball. We still had a wonderful time and took a little hike around the island which was really neat. Again there is probably a lot of historical background for this place, but I didn’t get any of it. Someday when I know Albanian better I can read their little history books about it.

I know it probably sounds like all I have been doing is playing, but we actually had our best week here in Vlore in terms of teaching lessons and finding new investigators. Motra Hiland said that this has been her best and most productive week in the mission which is pretty cool I think, and it was my second best week since I have been out. Mostly we just have been able to start teaching people that first ran into the missionaries like a year ago. As I mentioned last week, this is mostly thanks to Motra Larson coming down last weekend and tracking these people down. I just think that sometimes the timing just has to be right and then someone’s heart is more open to the message and they are ready to change for the better. At least that is what we are seeing, as the people weren’t really progressing with the Motrat 6 months ago, but now they realize that they really do want to know the truth and are willing to do what it takes to get their life together. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to hear someone say, “I used to just pray to Heavenly Father when I needed direction on big things, but now I pray at least twice a day, and I have seen that I’m much more close with God.” YEAH!!!! That’s what we have been trying to tell you the whole time!!! Awesome!!! This is definitely the “Good Stuff.”

As I’ve mentioned before Motra Hiland and I are the primary leaders and sometimes it can be kinda hectic in there. My favorite is in Sacrament Meeting when I have like 3 or 4 kids surrounding me at the piano and trying to play on it to. It is pretty exciting playing hymns with kids sitting on the bench with you or on your lap and the whole time you are trying to tell them in a language that you don’t hardly know to “stop playing while I’m playing” and still follow the crazy music chorister. So entertaining to see, or so I’ve heard from the other missionaries. Anyway, when we actually get to primary it is pretty crazy too, but it was all totally worth it yesterday. This little girl named Saraja is about 5 or 6 and comes with her cousin who is like 13 years old to church, and Saraja is basically like a little devil child (I know that is really mean, but it is so true she is super hyperactive). Anyway, for the first time yesterday I got her to sit, almost quietly for almost all of primary and then I helped her give the closing prayer. She was so cute, and nobody would believe us when we told them that she had given the prayer. It just took her that second or two of feeling the spirit and she totally calmed down. The power of the Spirit…so Amazing!

Well, I guess that is all the exciting stories I have for this week. I love being a missionary and being here in Albania. It is such a wonderful time of year, as we are able to celebrate Easter and Christ. I’m so grateful for my Savior and I know that he lives. Also, I’m so excited for General Conference next weekend. It is such a blessing to have a living Prophet and Apostles on the Earth to direct us, and I can’t wait to hear their messages!

I love you all! Thanks for everything you do for me!


Motra Hall