March 15, 2010

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone (in a couple days I guess)! Hope you all have had an awesome week! Things have been kinda slow here in Vlore, but as always we have managed to have some little adventures and got some quality missionary work in as well.

Since Elder çelaj finished his mission this past Wednesday, we received a new District Leader replacement from Tirana. It is Elder McGlothin, who was serving as an assistant to the President and was actually one of the Elders who picked up my group at the airport. I didn’t know him to well before because he was serving on the other side of Tirana when I was there, but we’re happy to have him, and he fits in well with our District. Plus now we practically have a monopoly on AZ missionaries, as he and Elder Skousen, and myself are all from AZ. The only other AZ missionary in Albania is Motra Larson, but her family now lives in Belgium, so she doesn’t even really count. Anyway, in honor of our AZ heritage we had mexican food today. Motra Hiland loves to cook so she got tortilla and refried beans recipes and we did a little cooking and had everyone over for lunch. It actually turned out pretty good considering our resources here and everything was made from scratch. I’m trying to learn much from her kitchen skills, but I usually just give up and do the dishes.

I’m not sure if I have ever talked about Mimoza, but she is one of our investigators who is in her 40’s and lives alone and has been having the discussions for almost a year I think. She has had a few baptismal dates but never went through with them. Well she had another baptismal date for this coming Sunday, but it isn’t going to happen since she has been avoiding us for about a week and half. It actually is a really sad thing and I think Motra Hiland is feeling pretty bummed about it, but I think President has sent me down here just to keep her laughing, so I’m staying true to my responsibility. So this week we went to her house to have a “surprise visit” since she hasn’t been answering her phone. Just like when we visited a couple days before, she didn’t answer when we banged on the gate to her house. We called her name and could see the lights on in her home, but she wouldn’t answer the gate. It’s so funny that they think we don’t know they are avoiding us. Anyway, we wrote her a note to tell her that there was no church on Sunday, and then Motra Hiland just stuck it on her gate and was ready to leave. I wasn’t about to give up though, so I told Motra Hiland to try and call her again. She did and we heard the phone go off right inside the window that we were standing under, and after like 1 ½ rings the phone was quickly turned off. I just died laughing because we totally knew she was right there. So I proceeded to yell through her window that we really missed her and hoped she was well, and then told her all about the plans for this Sunday’s trip for District Conference, and a brief little spiritual thought. She of course never answered, but I know she heard every word. Motra Hiland was definitely in a better mood after I made a fool of myself, and hopefully Mimoza knew that we at least missed her. I’m sure you are wondering why that story was even funny, I guess it was one of those “you had to be there” moments.

So, like I mentioned there was no church Sunday because we had District Conference in Durres, which is about 2 ½ hours away. It was at one of the actual church buildings that has been built in Albania, but because the membership here has grown so much they had to have two sessions of conference on Sunday because not all the members in Albania would fit in one chapel. So we were part of the second session and we had a sweet road trip in a bus all the way there.
It was a regular size bus and it fit our Vlore branch, and then we also picked up the Fier and Lushnia branches on the way. So three branches fit in one regular tour size bus…we’re pretty small. It was a pretty exciting road trip with 10 missionaries, a couple families, and tons of youth. The bus driver, some old guy, had some random music blaring, it was hot, and there was talking and a little dancing going on all over… quite exciting. The busdriver missed the turn to the church though, so we were a little late getting there, but I still was able to say hi to Motra Bentley and Vera as they were getting back on their bus to head back to Tirana. They had been in the morning session of the conference, which is why they were there, but leaving. The conference was really good though. We had Elder and Sister Ford, from England with us as the visiting Area Seventy. They gave really good talks, and I was able to understand them because they were in English (with someone translating for the Albanians obviously).
It was cool to see how many Albanians actually came to this District Conference, even though many had to travel so many hours to be there. Anyway, the ride home was just as exciting. I have a new little fan named Skerdi. He is the little brother of one of the girls that just got baptized, Ornela, and he is about 9 or 10. The whole bus ride home he was playing with my hair and talking to me. The Elder’s were totally giving me a hard time, but I decided he is pretty harmless- considering I could sit on him and squish him to death. Plus, usually he is kinda a little punk, but with me he was on his best behavior, so no one was complaining about that. He is actually taking the discussions from the Elders right now too, so hopefully he will be getting baptized soon.

We had a pretty awesome experience contacting in the streets this week. A women named Valbona came up to us and asked us to come to her home and teach her and her family. She said she loved God and Jesus Christ and that she was so blessed and wanted to learn more. Of course we thought that was awesome, so we went that night. We ended up talking with her and her parents, who are pretty old and senile. She talked most of the lesson about how blessed she was and how much faith she had, which was really awesome to hear. She also was really interested in the Joseph Smith Story, so I’m excited to teach her some more. It was also kinda entertaining to teach with her parents.
Her father is in his 70’s and he kept asking random questions. He had a Koran (the Muslim Bible) under the pillow of his bed and kept talking about it. When we asked if we could leave with a prayer, the old man started reciting the Muslim prayer from the Koran. Valbona had to yell at him to stop and she was telling him "They believe in Christ and that they weren’t Muslim." So then he started doing the Catholic cross prayer thing on his heart and she told him that was the wrong thing too. The poor guy was so confused, so I just finally said that I could say the prayer this time. It was all just kinda cute, he was trying so hard.

Anyway, I guess I’ve bored you all with enough of my rambling. Just know that I love you all and miss you tons! Hope you are doing fabulous and loving life with all its ups and downs. I am so grateful for your support and prayers and I pray for you each daily. I know the Lord loves us and hears and answers each of our prayers. He is aware of our situations and wants us to be happy. Life isn’t always easy, and we often experiences difficult trials and hard times, but I know as you turn to the Lord and allow the Atonement of Jesus Christ to give you strength, we can overcome anything. Just remember that the glass is still half full!

I love you all!


Motra Hall