May 10, 2010

Happy Mother's Day Yesterday! I hope everyone had a wonderful week and were extra nice and sweet to their mothers!

Motra Nonai and I have had yet another eventful, but great week here in Vlore. So I guess I'll just tell you about the exciting/funny stuff. I of course realize that the things that happen to us are probably not that funny for you, or I could never recount these stories in an email to do them justice, but I'll do my best.

For starters, I get a lot of letters telling me how lucky I should feel that I'm out of the whole dating scene and all that drama type stuff, but might I let you know that the fact that I have a name tag for my church and I dress in frumpy clothes does not deter many of these Albanian boys and men. I'll recount just ONE story, although, I could probably write a whole book series with similar stories. So street contacting one day we met this guy named Endri and he seemed a little too interested in hearing what we had to say (usually I would welcome such enthusiasm, but not from guys like this.) Instead of giving him a pass-a-long card with our number, we just gave him a flyer and invited him to the English class. Of course, the next day he showed up to English, which is a pretty small class of just 3 or 4 students usually. We had him introduce himself and he explained how he had been going to University in Italy and was now back and living with his parents. And then he said he was like 28 or something like that and of course added that he was Single. Throughout the course of the class in our discussions he kept saying the funniest stuff, like how his Mom cooks all his meals for him and takes care of him. Of course that is kinda normal Albanian culture, but I guess it isn't something I was too impressed with. So after class he waits till everone leaves and then comes up and asks if I would like to go "drink a coffee," which is basically a common thing to go out for drinks. I told him that we were way to busy doing missionary work and that I couldn't. About a week later (this week) I get a text message from him in English (which makes it even weirder for me) saying, "are you still busy with jobs, do you have time to come at my house to introduce my parents? Write to me." We debated for awhile if we should even answer, and then decided that everyone has the potential to learn the gospel, so I wrote back that we were still very busy but would come the next night after English to meet his parents and teach them about our church. He writes back that his parents wouldn't be home the next day but I could still come with my friends. Coveniently, my "friends" happen to be Elders (boy missionaries), so I arranged to go with the Elders. Obviously I don't think that he meant bring boy "friends," but that's what he gets! So he came to English and then we all went to his house. We talked a lot about why we are here as missionaries and Elder Smith did a great overview of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but he didn't really seem to have any interest. Much later that night he texts us again to go with him to his Aunt's bar to drink a coffee. Apparently he hadn't got the clue earlier when we explained all about what missionaries do, so I replied that it wasn't allowed. Luckily we haven't heard from him since, and although it is one less student in our English class, I don't feel too bad. Now that I have written all that story I realize it is super boring, but if you can remember how awkward I was with these kind of things before my mission, and how even more awkward I am now, then maybe you will think it is even funnier.

Okay, on to some better missionary stuff. Last week I told you all about Motra Nonai's first tracting experience. Just as a follow-up, we went again this week for even longer, and Motra Nonai did awesome and is totally getting the hang of it. We talked to quite a few people and even knocked on the door of a woman that said she was baptized in our church when she was in Chicago. She didn't have time to explain, but we set-up a return appointment for tomorrow, so maybe I'll have another exciting story for you next week.

Also, I don't know if I have ever talked about Elda, but she is a young girl going to college here in Vlore and Motra Hiland and I met her about a month and a half ago while we were street contacting. She is so sweet and totally accepts everything we tell her and just believes everything. The only problem is that she is in school and never has time to read, and then every weekend she goes home to visit her family, so she is never in Vlore to go to church. A couple weeks ago I tried to talk about faith and how to increase our faith we must take action which also includes sacrifices like coming to church and taking time to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. She is so nice though, and I didn't want to be too mean, so I just kinda mentioned it casually. Then a couple lessons ago with her, Motra Nonai basically was super bold with her and told her that she needs to just read from the Book of Mormon at least a little every day. That is the great thing about Albanians, they are just super straightforwared and honest (especially with each other), and just say what needs to be said. After Motra Nonai said this, Elda came back the next lesson and had read the whole introduction, the first couple chapters of 1st Nephi, and everything I had assigned/recommended to her in our previous lesson, and she had loved it! It was awesome, and I was so excited, and we just spent that whole lesson talking about what she had read and Motra Nonai and I just testified over and over again about the truthfulness of it all and we encouraged her to keep reading. This was last week, so our next lesson wasn't until today, but to my utter surprise, Elda came to church and stayed for both hours! It was honestly like Christmas for me! I was so stoked! She was totally out of breath too because she had come straight from visiting her family, but she made it! In our lesson today, she just talked about how much she enjoyed church (even though I was worried because it was a pretty crazy Sunday, just noisy, etc.) and plus she had read like 10 more chapters from the Book of Mormon, and she just has this different glow about her that was so apparent to me. It is crazy to think that this huge progress she has made in just the past week, all started with simply reading the Book of Mormon. I'm so grateful to be working with Motra Nonai, because she is really what these people need, and I have much to learn from her ability to be bold with people. I know the Book of Mormon is true. Just like it has changed Elda, it continually is changing me as I'm reading through it again for this 40 Day Fast. It is amazing how personal of a book it is, yet it is a book for everyone.

I guess that is all the excitement I have for this week, but I pray that you are all well and enjoying a beautiful Spring week. I love being a missionary and sharing the Gospel. I know that Christ is our Savior and Redeemer and he lives. Whenever we face trials we can turn to him because he completely understands and knows how to help us through them. My new motto this transfer has been, "Have a great day or not Motra Hall, the choice is Mine!" (I kinda stole this from my High School Principle, Mr. Snyder, if anyone remembers that). It really is true though, we have agency and can choose to be happy or to let our trials and challenges make us miserable. I hope you all our choosing to be happy and have a great week!

Love and Miss you tons!

Motra Hall