Hello! Happy Monday! Thanks so much for all the emails and letters this week (I realize that most of the letters I received this week were probably send like a month ago), but I was still grateful to hear from everyone and have so much fun exciting news! As always it has been a busy, although fun and exciting week for me here in Vlore.

I thought last week might be the last for big trip stories, but we actually had another big trip today as a District, since it will be one of the last for the Snows. We went to Berat which is a city about 2 hours away that has a huge castle on a hill. We got to go up to the castle, which is 2700 years old and is like an outdoor castle so it has lots of homes within the walls of it. In fact there are currently 200 families and 2,000 people that live within the walls of the castle. It has some really interesting history that a young man who kinda pretended to be our unofficial tour guide told us. He is actually a fourth generation castle dweller, so he had lots of neat stories that are not recorded in history but have just been passed down by word of mouth from his grandfather. I was just excited that I could actually understand most of what he told us, so I’ll have to be sure and write down all of them to tell sometime later. Mostly us younger missionaries just enjoyed running around and climbing all over the castle walls, etc. It was a beautiful day though, and really was a great trip.

I think my favorite part though was when I got to be “the famous American girl.” As you can probably imagine I stopped to explore a tunnel during our little tour, so I was a little ways behind the group and we passed by this group of Jr. High School Girls who were on some little school field trip. They asked where me and my group were from and I started talking with them. They were like so excited that I new Albanian (and I was so excited that I understood what they were saying to me, and vice-versa), and were just asking me all these questions and then they asked if they could get a photo with me. And they were telling all their friends to come take their picture with this cool American girl who spoke Albanian. I felt pretty famous, and the Elders gave me a hard time later, but I think they were just jealous!

Another exciting famous moment this week was that Edi Rama was in Vlore this week. He is the Mayor of Tirana and ran for Albanian President some time ago. Apparently he lost but there were lots of ballot boxes that weren’t opened so, he is trying to have some kind of rally to open them because I think those votes will help him win. Anyway, he had a huge rally in Vlore and was walking down main street Vlore with hundreds of people just following him. At this point I had no idea who he was, but we happened to be walking in the opposite direction toward him and like I do with every person I pass on the street I just said, “ç’kemi” (which is hello in Albanian, technically it is “what have we?,” but it is used as a greeting). Anyway, Edi Rama waved and said ç’kemi back to me. Motra Snow and I both thought that was pretty exciting.

Since the Branch here in Vlore is mostly made up of youth, Elder McGlothin (my district leader and a counselor in the branch presidency) has really been working hard to start a mutual program here, and this week we had our first ever Mutual (youth activity). It was just a little lesson, but it is something that we are going to start holding every week for the youth to help them have another opportunity each week to meet each other and have good influences in their lives. Like I’ve mentioned before, most of the youth in our Branch and in Albania are the only members of the church in their families, so any opportunity for them to interact with each other is awesome. I think this is the first mutual program to be started in Albania too, so we are pretty excited about it.

I’m not sure if I have told you much about the Isufi family, but they are a fabulous family in the branch here in Vlore. We have been meeting with them a lot since I’ve got here, just because Motra Isufi is working full time and has a lot of stress in her life (ie: two little boys with more energy than a kitten on catnip…I know that was a bad metaphor, but I couldn’t think of anything better at the moment). Anyway, I just love the Isufi’s, and also I have been teaching their oldest daughter Hajdi piano lessons and she is amazing! So this week we went with the Snows and Elder McGlothin and Elder Wallentine to have a big visit with them and give some Priestdood Blessings. The original plan was for Brother and Sister Isufi to both just get a blessing from Elder Snow, but instead we had a wonderful lesson and then Brother ISufi gave his wife and son each a blessing. It was a very special experience to share with their family, and made me very grateful for the Priesthood and the opportunity to grow up with that in my home. It is like what Elder Packer talked about in General Conference, and how a father is the presiding authority in his own home. Just awesome! The Isufi’s are also one of the few families in Albania who have all been to Germany and been sealed together in the Temple! I love them!

Anyway, sorry I don’t have much more time this week, but I love and miss you all. Thank you for your support, prayers, and encouragement. It means more than you could ever know. I love being here in Albania and serving Heavenly Father’s children here. It is amazing to see the hand of the Lord working miracles right before my eyes each day, and to feel like I might be a small part of that. I know the church is true and I know that we are all part of an amazing plan that Heavenly Father has created for us.

I love you! Have a great week!


Motra Hall