Greetings, and Happy Memorial Day!
I actually had no idea that was today until I started reading all my emails. Haha!
Motra Larson and I had another fabulous week here in Vlore and accomplished much and saw many little miracles. Of course, we also have been having lots of fun adventures, in which I'll try to fill you in on a couple. For starters, on Saturday we had a District Primary activity in Tirana which included all the primary kids from all of Albania. Since the one primary teacher we have in Vlore is inactive, of course that basically leaves me and Motra Larson in charge of 10-13 kids every Sunday as well as for this activity. Which is pretty ironic, because of all the sister missionaries in the mission the two of us probably like kids the least, but we survive. I have known about this activity for a month or so though, so a few weeks ago I started teaching the kids the song "I Hope They Call Me On A Mission," which luckily we had in Albanian. It was pretty crazy trying to teach all the kids the song, but we added in some dancing/hand motions and it ended up being pretty fun. So the morning of the activity we only had 8 kids come, and then we picked up 4 more in another town on our way. Two of our Elders came with us, as well as a mother (Eva Isufi), and then two Elders in the other town that we picked up. In short the 3.5 hour bus ride to Tirana was absolutely chaos. The kids were running around everywhere and is was just so crazy that Motra Larson and I would just look at each other and laugh. There were these two girls who sang "Count Your Many Blessings" the entire ride there, then at the same time there were kids doing animal imitations so we had choruses of cats meowing, etc, and still others playing hand clapping games and singing little chanting rhymes, and then the little boys just chasing each other in the bus. Needless to say, it was a long ride and a long day. The activity was really great though, and the kids enjoyed themselves. It was also great to be back in Tirana and see some of the people I knew. And a really cool thing was the Lejti and her daughter Noena (I taught them with Motra Bentley and they were the neighbors with the American family, the Bairds) were there and so excited to see me and tell me that they had gotten baptized. That was so rewarding to hear!
This week Motra Larson and I have continued to try and make as much time as possible between all our lessons to go tracting, just because we have seen so much success this way. In fact we have been tracting 5 times together already, and have a 100% track record of finding a new investigator (someone to teach) every time we go. We have also met some super interesting people. For example, our newest investigator is Ksenofon Bita, who apparently is a very accomplished math textbook author. In fact, I am now the proud owner of the textbook "Matematika Per Gjimnazistet," and it is even personally addressed to me and autographed. I'm not really sure what I'll ever do with an Albanian math book for High Schoolers, but I feel pretty cool. Also, last night we tracted into this old man, who actually kinda scared us at first. But we started talking to him and he is the Hoxh of the main Xhami (Mosque) in Vlore. I'm not sure what the translation for Hoxh is in English, but it might be "Imen," anyway, he is the head-like priest, Bishop, Pastor, whatever you want to call it here in Vlore. And since everyone here is "Muslim" that is a big deal. We thought we were pretty cool that we met him, and he wanted us to come back and bring a Book of Mormon to talk about it. Of course we aren't setting our sights so high as to baptize the Hoxh of Vlore, but everything in it's time. :) It was just cool to meet him, and we can't wait to talk to him more.
So another cool tracting experience that Motra Larson and I had this week was one afternoon we climbed up one of the hills in the middle of the city and we decided we were going to look over the city and decided where we should go tracting. So we split the city into 5 sections and then we each took some time alone to pray and meditate about which areas we should go tracting in and which apartment buildings. We each chose three areas and then compared, and of course we only had one area that overlapped and we both had chosen. And one apartment building stood out in each of our minds for that area as well, so that is where we decided we were supposed to go tracting. Maybe it was just random coincidence, or maybe it didn't even matter where we tracted, but we put the effort in to at least receive some revelation and that apartment was actually where we found Ksenofon. It was just a cool testimony to us, that when we take time to listen the Lord can and will direct us to where we can find his children.
One more cool experience from this week that I'll share quickly. In my last couple meetings I mentioned Antoineta, which was the woman that Motra Nonai and I tracted into that was baptized in our church but got offended and stopped coming. So it turns out that Motra Larson also knew about her, and we had some records that had been written about other missionaries who had also randomly tracted into her in the past couple years, and most of the things that missionaries wrote were that she would be basically impossible to get back to church. So you can imagine that when Motra Larson and I went to see her this week we thought it might just be a waste of time, and we actually almost didn't go, but at the last minute changed our minds and decided to do a little visit. When we got there she had a friend over, but still invited us in. Shortly after we arrived, Antoineta left and we were alone kinda awkwardly with her friend, Idi. As we started talking with Idi we learned that she had lived in America for about 10 years and had only been back here for less than a year. Of course she wondered why we were here, so we were happy to explain. As we started telling the Joseph Smith story she told us that it was kinda funny/painful to hear us speak Albanian and that we could continue in English, since as it turned out she knew English perfectly. So we continued with the story of the Restoration and Idi was absolutely hooked. When we explained about the Book of Mormon, she asked "where can I get that book?" which is a question we never hear from Albanians. We arranged to start meeting with her and explain more in her home, and before she left when we testified to her that it was true all she could say was "I really do hope it is true." Amazing! It gets better though.. then Antoineta returns and so we meet with her briefly and she is so humble compared to my last visit with her. She talked about the R.S. President of the Branch who she still deeply respects and when we told her about a R.S. activity, she was actually excited to come. When we were going to read a scripture with her, she hopped right up and got her scriptures and was telling us how much she loved them. And then at the end in her prayer, she apologized to God for going away from the church and acknowledged that she needs to go back! Yay! She was like a totally new woman this week, and it was beautiful!
I know that through the power of the Atonement we can change, like Antoineta, and become better. And that it is never too late to come back or to even start new on the path that leads us to Eternal Life in the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. As I was telling one of our investigators this morning, the beauty of the Gospel is that it is so simple and that we really just must follow the example of Christ. His doctrines and teachings have been the same from the beginning; Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. I know sometimes it seems that the enduring part can seem to be the hardest for many of us, but when we keep that eternal perspective and remember that this life is an opportunity and a blessing, then I know that we can live each day to its fullest and have true happiness!
I love you all! Have a great week!
Greetings, and Happy Memorial Day!