August 9, 2010

Another great week gone by here in Vlore! Hope you have all been having a wonderful week over on that end of the world too!

Highlights of the past week are many as always, so I'll just try to fill you in as much as time allows. Let's see, for starters we had a rocking Young Single Adult activity for Family Home Evening last Monday. We decided that if we had a dance party it might get a better turnout,so we got all kinds of music from the YSA directors in Tirana and tried to get everyone excited about it. The turnout ended up just being like 5 guys. So Motra Bentley and I tried to teach them the Macarana, YMCA, the chicken dance, and some other fun classics, but our lesson kinda just turned into a little Motra show. Since Motra Bentley is like a professional performance dancer, she was having a super time, and I was just her embarrassed background dancer. It was pretty pitiful. Once we got some of the popular Albanian music on they all loosened up though and started dancing with the Elders. Now we just need to get some girls there. Yes of course, my matchmaking inclinations are always lying on the surface!

Since I am serving in a young branch, obviously most callings aren't exactly filled or those who hold them don't know how to fully do their calling. For example, after Sacrament meeting yesterday, the Young Woman leader just told all the girls they could leave church because she didn't have any kind of lesson or anything for them for Young Women's class. I guess it's understandable to not understand how programs of the church function and the proper way to run an organization when you weren't raised in the church, or had never seen a functioning branch or organization. So Motra Bentley and I have kinda taken the matter into our own hands since almost all the young women are either our investigators or our recent converts that we do retention lessons with. With the permission of the Young Women leader, we are starting up weekly Young Women activities (like Mutual) and we had our first activity this past week. We were super impressed with the turnout - like 8 girls, and three of them are just investigators. Also with the Young Women we are starting the personal progress program. Motra Bentley and I originally started it a couple weeks ago by ourselves, more as a joke, and because I was a loser and never did it when I was a teenager, but then we got the great idea to start involving the girls. Most of them had the books but had no idea how to complete them or what they were even really for, so we did one-on-one meetings with all the girls and got them started doing the various activities and projects to start earning their medallions. We are super excited to be working together on this with the girls, and we all think it will be super awesome because they will be the first Albanian Young Women to earn their Personal Progress medallions. We are also praying that through this process of them doing this program they will start realizing how different and special they as LDS girls really are, and hopefully this will help with lots of our modesty and other problems that come with teenage girls. Also as a little side note, since we basically are the YW leaders we get to go to Girls Camp in a couple weeks with all of the Young Women in Albania! It is going to be awesome and we even have some non-members going with us from Vlore! I'm sure as you can imagine though, I'm excited out of my wits for a couple nights camping under the stars! Missions in Albania are the best!

Elsa Nonai (my former mini-missionary companion) was down in Vlore for a few days on vacation this week and so we got together and she joined us for a whole evening of lessons. As always it was fun to see her again, and remember our times together that I somehow managed to survive.

And now for the biggest success of our week (in my opinion). One day this week we had just had a lesson with our new investigator, and Eris (a really awesome young man in our branch) had come to the lesson to help out. Afterwards he agreed to go with us to try and meet a teen aged girl named Jona, who has been inactive for a long time and always tries to avoid us. We thought if we had one of the cool church kids with us she would be more willing to meet. We were kinda right...she still wasn't too excited to meet us, but she and her inactive brother both joined us for drinks and a little chat about church. After Jona fell in love with Motra Bentley they agreed for us to pick them up Sunday for church. So Sunday morning we call her up and her mother (also an inactive, who's personal excuse to not come to church is because she is too sick to walk outside in the sun) answers the phone and says she is at the beach but that Jona was at her grandparents house. So we walk totally out of our way to the grandparents, but the grandparents said she was at her own home. So we start back to church, passing her brother on the way, who told us he couldn't come to church because he was headed to the beach. As you can imagine, my patience was running a little thin with this family but Motra Bentley kept me calm and we decided to still swing by Jona's house, even though we were already late for church. When we got to the house, Jona wasn't home there either, but the Mom had just got home from the beach. We told her we were there to pick her up for church. She started whipping out all her excuses about how she was still in her swimsuit and was dirty and tired because going to the beach had been a lot of work that morning, but Motra Bentley wouldn't take no for an answer and told her she looked fine enough to come to church. "What is more important?" we asked her. After coaxing for 5 minutes and waiting another 5 minutes or so for her we were on our way to church together. It was nothing short of a miracle from Heavenly Father, since her family hasn't been to church in over 6 months, and she couldn't have come to church on a better Sunday. President Smith talked about how important this one meeting we have each week to take the sacrament is, and then another sister talked about how important the family and the Gospel is, and how it is parents responsibility to set a good example for their kids. Even though we got to church like 20 minutes late, and it had started out as a really frustrating morning, everything worked out and it was a huge blessing and lesson for me about diligence and patience and faith. I think now more than ever I'm more committed to not giving up on anybody and doing whatever it takes to help people come back to church and remember their baptismal covenants with the Lord.

Well, I guess that is all I have for this week! I love and miss you all and pray that your lives are full of happiness, excitement, and the Love of the Lord!

Have a great week!

Motra Hall