July 5, 2010

Greetings! I hope everyone had a lovely Independence Day. I decided if I had to "miss" one 4th of July in my life, then this one as a Sunday and fast Sunday was the best one to miss. I hope you still were able to enjoy it and get a late picnic in or something. As for Motra Larson and I, we ate watermelon in our apartment and felt quite patriotic!

For the last few weeks we really haven't had consistent water running in our apartment, so every few days we are lucky and the water comes on long enough to slip in a quick shower, but otherwise we have been trekking to the church for showers,etc. In addition, for about a month and a half, even when we do have water running, there wasn't enough pressure for it to come out of our bathroom sink...or so we thought. So finally we gave in, or rather found the time, to call the landlady. On the phone we explained the problem and she was saying something to us like we need to clean the filter. We couldn't figure out was she was saying though, because we have a water filter, but it is in the kitchen sink, and that is our own portable one that we brought to the apartment. So the next morning she sends this guy to fix our water problem and he has water shooting from our bathroom sink in like 10 seconds. We really felt like totally stupid American girls, but the man was nice and said it wasn't our fault that we didn't know. The problem...the water here in Albania is so bad and full of minerals, that the tiny little grate in the nozzle of the sink gets clogged with little pebbles and so we have to rinse it out every so often, or it will block all water from coming out--interesting. So it was a simple fix!

I have a few awesome stories from this week, and I'll try to get in as much as I can from them. The first story is about how Motra Larson and I tried to walk our legs off. So one night this week we got a phone call from this woman, who said she had learned from Sister Missionaries about a year ago and who wanted to meet again. Since Motra Larson was here a year ago, she figured she would know her and asked her name. She said it was Eva, and after a second it clicked in M. Larson's mind it was a woman that we actually went looking for the first day M. Larson arrived back in Vlore, but her neighbors told us she had moved away to the mountains. Motra Larson told Eva this, that we had tried to look for her, and she started crying on the phone because she was so touched. Conveniently, our usually packed evening had just cleared up because everyone cancelled on us, so we decided we would go to Eva's home right then. She said she lived far and told us the name of a school that she lived by, but she didn't expect us to come all the way to her. We started walking that way and got lost and talked to lots of people asking for directions, and finally after about an hour arrived at the bottom of this mountain. We spent another half and hour hiking up this mountain and when we got to where we thought it was we called her and she came and met us and led us to her home, which was literally a hole in the wall...simple, but cute. We had an amazing lesson with her and she is so committed to learning and wants to be baptized. It truly was a miracle that she called when she did....first, it was on the perfect night when we unexpectedly had 3 hours of time in one block, and secondly, that it was just days before Motra Larson left and so she was able to set me up with this amazing woman that she had already taught.

Another absolute miracle, which actually has a little background to it from a couple weeks ago. So we were out visiting Anisa (she is the girl that I did the Stop Smoking program with, and she was really successful...for the first few weeks) and she didn't seem interested in us at all, and all she wanted to talk about was her problems and stresses, which have caused her to start smoking again. In fact she almost didn't even let us in, but her husband came out to the gate and said that we should come in and then while we were just chatting with Anisa he asked if we were going to do a lesson, and then he sat on the porch a little to overhear the lesson. We actually were at the point that we weren't going to waste our time meeting with her if she didn't care, but when we left the lesson Motra Larson and I started talking and we both had the same thoughts...the key back in is through her husband, he needs to learn. Also we thought that it would help their marriage, which is struggling. So this was our plan, but we didn't exactly know how to carry it out, especially because we weren't sure how Anisa would feel about it. Then we got the thought to take one of the member girls, Rezarta, who used to be friends with Anisa, just to do a little visit. It went really well, because Rezarta has no problem calling people out and telling them to stop being stupid and follow the commandments if they want blessings, yet following up with an "increase of love." So we went back this week after the lesson with Rezarta and when we walked in their home it was a totally new feeling. All the ash trays in the home were gone, and there was just this wonderful spirit of peace and not contention. Anisa came in the room just glowing and proceded to tell us that what Rezarta said had really touched her, mostly because it was coming from an Albanian and not a couple of foreigners. So she had talked to her husband and decided that if they wanted to make their marriage work they needed to do this together, meaning quick smoking (both of them) and work to get baptized together. So for the first time ever they sat down together and their 2 year old daughter sat quietly with them and we watched the film "Our Search for Happiness." It was absolutely amazing! It was one of my first experiences teaching a whole "family" and it was simply beautiful and their home was radiating the Spirit. I feel so blessed to be able to start teaching them together!

The last awesome experience of the week was Saturday morning - Aurora got baptized! We had originally scheduled it for Sunday, but really she didn't want a big baptism in the church with everyone, so Motra Larson and I got to work and made some arrangements and she had the most beautiful baptism ever. We took a van out to Zvernec (the island with the Byzantine monastery that I went to on a Trip when I first was in Vlore) and hiked about 10 minutes across the island until we were on a quiet,deserted, beautiful beach. There is a small open church/monastery there that we used as our "changing room" (hopefully that isn't like, apostate), and then we just had a small little service there in the forest on the beach with just us missionaries, Aurora's mom, one member friend, and two of our special investigators that Aurora let us invite. I was pretty proud that everything had worked out so perfectly, but the one thing that we didn't think of was about how deep the water was. Aurora was baptized by President Smith (the senior couple), so they just kept walking out in the water and getting farther and farther away, but still were only like knee deep in the water. Finally they decided to just go with it, but by that point they were so far out that the "witnesses" Elder Smith and Elder Thorpe, were too far away on the beach, so they had to roll up their dress slacks and wade out in the water too. It was kinda funny, but an amazing experience both for Aurora and us missionaries, as well as for the others there who aren't yet baptized yet.

So many blessings and miracles this week! I wish I had time for more, but I better get back to the work. Oh, by the way we had transfer calls this weekend, since Motra Larson will be dying tomorrow (ie: finishing her mission and returning to America), I already have made her pack her bags and I'm kicking her out. Just kidding, I'm going to miss her so much, but to compensate for losing an awesome companion, President is blessing me with another awesome companion...Motra Bentley! Yay, I'm so excited to be back with my trainer! We are going to rock Vlore! As for Motra Bentley's old companion, Motra Yourstone, she'll be training the new sister missionary that is coming in a few days.

I love you all and miss you tons! I know that Heavenly Father loves us so much, it is so obvious by the wonderful and good things that he blesses us with each day!
Have a great week!