May 24, 2010

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone is just doing fabulously! As always it was a busy, amazing week for me. Motra Nonai finished her mission at the beginning of the week, and although it was hard for her, she did say that it was a beautiful experience, so I was grateful to be a part of that with her. I brought home Vlore Motra Larson, and we haven't stopped working since the night she got here; it has been amazing. I had the best week of my mission so far (number-wise) and things have already picked up with our work here. She is definitely ready to work and got out with a bang! This past week we had 34 lessons (the mission average is somewhere around 18-20 lessons) and we found 5 new investigators together. Two of the new investigators were people that I already had a relationship with and had just kinda kept in contact with them, and kinda saving them for when Motra Larson got here, and the other three we found tracting.

So a little about my new, amazing companion. Motra Larson technically is going home to AZ, but has lived all over the world and doesn't technically have a home. She has graduated college in literacy and anthropology and then spent a few years traveling, so she is a couple years older than me. She will be finishing her mission at the beginning of July, so it is my duty to make sure I "kill" (mission terminology, finishing a mission is like death to life as we know it as a missionary) her well. She has been serving in the same branch in Tirana for the last 10 months, and before that she started her mission here in Vlore for 4.5 months. So everyone knows and loves her here, and is so excited to have her back. She is absolutely amazing at the language, and she is a captivating speaker and very convincing teacher, which is quite the blessing to have. Just an awesome person and missionary, and I feel super lucky to get to serve with her.

So a little about our tracting success! We decided to branch out and try a new area, so we climbed this hill and decided to just start knocking at all these private homes and make our way down the hill. The very first door we knocked on we met three cute girls aged 10-14 who actually seemed interested, and knew a little about the Bible and Jesus Christ, which is super unusual in this Muslim culture. We told them we could teach them but we would like to talk to their parents first, so we went back the next day and talked to their mom. Both their parents are busy with work, but a super cute family, and the Mom said we could teach the girls if we wanted. It turns out that actually the youngest little girl, Ermela, was the one who was most interested and had read most of the pamphlet we had left. That night when we told them about church, Ermela started begging her mom to go, and she was so excited. That same night we taught her how to pray and she said her first prayer ever. It was super cute, and simple yet so beautiful. It was as if this whole new world has opened up to her, where she finds out she has this loving Father that she never knew about.
Our next meeting with them, Ermela met us alone, but it was amazing. She had already read both pamphlets we left her and the first seven or eight chapters of the Book of Mormon, and she summarized and re-told us everything she had read. She was super involved in the lesson and answered all our questions, and is very intelligent and really thinks about things. When we asked her what she thought about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith she said that the day before she was kinda thinking it was true but also kinda thinking maybe not. So she prayed and then she had these thoughts in her mind and these wonderful feelings (she described it much better, but I can't translate it from Albanian because it would sound stupid in English) and so now she knew it was true. Motra Larson and I were just thinking we had been sent this angel, because she really is! As we got ready to leave, her older 14-year old sister told us that actually their father doesn't want us to come back anymore because they have their own religion. (Own religion meaning, their ancestors are Muslim, and even if they don't practice it, it is their family religion still). Ermela was about as heart broken as us, which is probably why she hadn't told us this because she just wanted to keep meeting. She begged us to talk to her parents again, and we said we would try what we can. We haven't heard from her since, but from Motra Larson's experience most men here are like this, and it is impossible to convince them otherwise. I'm not giving up on her this quick, but at the same time we are trying to realize that this might just be a "seed planting experience" that will blossom long after we have left Albania. Anyway, kinda a sad ending story at this point, but really the few meetings we did have with her this week, really helped me see that there are people that are so prepared and ready for our message.

Quickly, our second tracting story happened last night. We were tracting a pallat (like an apartment building) and met this man named Hate (he said his name meant the "Spiritual one" or something like that in some other language...I didn't tell him what his name meant in English). He was actually really nice and said that he was a believer, but that it would be better if we talked to his daughter and wife another day. So we arranged an appointment and started leaving. As we were walking down the stairs of the pallat to leave, we ran into this young girl who was 19 years old. Of course we started talking to her and she was telling us that she was a "super believer." She invited us to come in her house to talk to her, and it turns out that she is Hate's daughter, so we went right back to the house we had just left. We started teaching her the overview lesson about the Restoration of the church, and when we talked about Joseph Smith and how he had a question about which church was right, she told us that she was the same right now trying to find the truth. Since I had the huge DVD player in my bag (another long story for another day) we decided to watch the Restoration film with her. Unfortunately half way through it kinda pooped out, but what she did see she absolutely loved and committed to start learning with us. I'm so excited to start teaching her!

Anyway, those are my fun tracting success stories for the week. I've never really had such success in my mission tracting, so it is awesome to be with Motra Larson and really see how things are done. She is an awesome example of someone who is ready and willing to teach anybody. She doesn't care if you are an old xhaxhi (old man), who thinks that you know everything, she will stop you in the street and tell you about Joseph Smith.

Well, I guess that is all the excitement I have for this week! Hope you all are enjoying summer break now! I pray that you are healthy and happy and enjoying life! I'm loving the mission and so grateful to be out here sharing this message of hope and peace. I know the church is true!

Have a great week!

Motra Hall