May 17, 2010

Hello! I hear that the countdown for summer break is on for everyone. Good luck with finals and all that schooly stuff...I don't think I miss that at all. :)

So as always I had a super busy, but wonderful week! I figure first I better give a couple follow-ups from my last email. First, I spoke too soon...Endri (the creepy guy) came back to English this week. I spent all my time doing some private English tutoring though and left him to the Elders, so it was no problem. Also, the woman that I mentioned we had tracted into last week...we went back to visit her. It turns out that she is a member of the church and was baptized a few years ago, but then got offended and stopped coming to church. She still is pretty sore about the whole thing, but she loved having us visit, or rather she loved having Motra Nonai visit. The one time I spoke I said, "I understand" and she informed me that I don't understand because I'm an American and that is why she is talking to Motra Nonai because she understands.

I didn't take it too personal cause I'm pretty used to hearing stuff now. To say the least, it wasn't one of my most favorite visits, but I realize that we didn't just randomly knock on this lady's door, rather the Lord has led us there to help her, so of course I'll be going back. I hope that as we start meeting with her we'll be able to remind her of how she felt when she first joined the church, and re-kindle her testimony of the Gospel. Because that really is what this religion is all about, it isn't about the people at church or the missionaries, rather it is our individual devotion to Jesus Christ, his commandments, and our role in Heavenly Father's plan.

So we had another fun Branch activity/excursion to Berat (the castle) this weekend. It was pouring rain and pretty windy, but of course we still went and were able to fill the bus, even though many people chickened out. When we got there it was pouring rain and we hadn't brought umbrellas but we still decided to hike up to the castle. In the process of everyone hiking up we got split up, so I ended up hanging back with the slower group and giving a tour of the castle to the Wilsons (the new senior couple). By the time we had met up with the group we were all pretty soaked.
So here is an interesting cultural point: all Albanians kinda take precautions a little to far. For example, they were freaking out that they were all wet because they were sure they would get sick, even though it was very warm and humid. So all the Albanians in our group started borrowing dry clothes from the random local people who lived in the castle and then they sat in a little bar/restaurant until the rain stopped. Motra Nonai flipped out and told me I was going to be so sick when I took off my rain jacket and ran out into the warm, pouring rain to play football and frisbee with the other missionaries and the few kids who weren't scared of the rain. We were thoroughly soaked but had a wonderful time together with the members of the branch.
I was pretty exhausted on the bus ride home so I just sat and enjoyed everyone else holding hands and doing traditional Albanian line dances in the aisle of the bus the whole way home.

Another funny thing about that day. When we got back to Vlore I couldn't find my keys anywhere. And of course we hadn't left a spare key at the Senior Couple's house, because after Motra Hiland and I's little April Fool's adventure, we were afraid of revenge. So I was thinking that I probably lost them in Berat and would have to try to climb up through a window (we live on the second floor), but when we got home they were still just sticking out of our door knob! I was feelings super grateful and lucky that nobody had taken them all day, or broken in our apartment. I'm such a dork sometimes!

So in addition to religion, piano, and Engish, I am nowing helping some of the kids in the branch with Math. I know it probably sounds weird, but I really love and miss just doing math. It was so fun to try and teach them, even though teaching math in another language is not exactly easy. Nevertheless, it was quite rewarding when one of the boys who is a senior in high school told me he had never understood this simple concept that I had been explaining before from any other teacher. I don't think I have the patience to teach math for real, but it is nice to be helping the kids here and plus I enjoy putting my math memory to the test with all this high school algebra that I haven't seen in years.

One more funny story for and the Elders got together this week and planted flowers in front of the church to make it look a little more beautiful, since to be honest our little rented church building here is kinda run-down. We went down to a flower shop and picked out some cute flowers, and we noticed they had these full bags of legit fertilizer, so later we went back to pick up some of it. Unfortunately, there aren't as many vocabulary words in Albanian, as we have in English, so the word "ground" is the closest they have to describe fertilizer. So I asked for "ground" and they gave it to me in 4 plastic grocery bags for 50 cents a bag. We thought that was such a great deal, so the Elders even went back and bought a couple more bags. Then we started planting the flowers and spreading our "fertilizer" out and Elder McGlothin and I realized that our "ground" looked like someone took a shovel and filled our bags with droppings from the sheep pens at the Hall Ranch. Well, that was actually exactly what it was. We had like 8 bags of sheep poo, which is why it was so cheap. It obviously still worked okay for planting flowers, but we felt pretty stupid.

Sorry I filled this email with a bunch of random things this week, but actual missionary work is going great for me as well. I mentioned a little about Elda last week, and she really is just the highlight of my work right now. She came again to church this week and even stayed for a baptism, which she thought was beautiful. She has been coming to all the church activities like the Berat trip and she is making friends in the branch, and she even joined us missionaries for frisbee this morning on the beach. She is just an amazing young lady and I am so excited to be working with her and also to just be her friend because she is such a great person.

I forgot to mention that this transfer is ending tomorrow. I, of course, am staying and Motra Nonai will be completing her mission. As I kinda already knew, I'll be getting Motra Larson for a companion until she finishes her mission at the beginning of July. I am super excited, to say the least. Briefly I'll include a small bit of my email to President this week, because it kinda sums up my last few weeks:

"I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity that you have allowed me to have the past few weeks with Motra Nonai. I can't say that every day was a walk in the park, but it was a great learning experience, and I feel like I have grown as a missionary and person. Motra Nonai has taught me quite a bit and really has had some wonderful success with the members here and some of our investigators. There is something about native Albanian missionaries, that we as foreign missionaries just can't bring to the table. Motra Nonai's ability to connect with people, and be honest and straight forward has really been a blessing in our area and in the Vlore branch."

Anyway, that is all for this week, but I love you all and am so grateful for your support and prayers in my behalf and for the missionaries throughout the world. This work truly is amazing and I see the hand of the Lord directing me each day. It is such a blessing to share the message of the restored Gospel and to see it bless peoples lives in ways they never imagined. I love it and I know it is true!

Much love to you all! Have a great week!

Motra Hall