October 4, 2010

Greetings from a dark and shadowy Vlora!
We are hours away from another strike from the Vlore Assassin. This time I'm not just taking out one Motra, but three! I guess it takes a special kind of missionary to kill 5 companions in a row...I'm not exactly sure if that is a good thing or not?!
As you can imagine the past couple of days have been full of packing bags and lots of farewells. The big question of course is, who will be replacing Motra Bentley, Motra Kapllani, and Motra Beleshi?

Sister Bentley and I on our last day together. - at Vlore Castle overlooking Vlore.

We actually got transfer calls on Saturday with that information, and I can honestly say we were all a little shocked. I'm not sure if you all have been keeping track, but I now have 9 months in Albania, and even stupid people like me that never had health class know what happens after 9 months...yep, I'm training! But I'm not just training...I'm having TWINS! I'm not exactly sure if this is some kind of punishment for killing off the last 5 Motras, or what. President said that I am probably making mission history by training two missionaries at once...I guess that was supposed to be comforting or something!

I'm actually super excited about my two Çupas, as we call them. The first is Marsida Korita, which I mentioned a couple of months ago. She is from Tirana and received her full time mission call to Albania, which kinda threw off the traditional rotation of Sister Missionaries here, causing us to have an odd number, thereby causing one companionship of three (mine). She has already served a couple mini missions, so even though she won't be going to the Missionary Training Center she is pretty trained thanks to Motra Larson, and she will be a huge help to me. Our other companion is named Sister Light and she is from Denmark. Last night we were checking out some old General Conference talks translated into Danish...all I can say is I hope she knows English well, because I didn't understand any of that "Dansk." I think it should be pretty exciting though, and hopefully I don't ruin these new missionaries too bad!

My new Cupas! (companions) Motra Korita (Albania), me, Motra Leit (Denmark)

Moving on to all the excitement of the week: As a little follow-up on our little boy Valerio. Turns out even though he is 11, he has never learned to read and doesn't even know the Alphabet, so now in our lessons I'm trying to teach him how to read Albanian so that he can read the Book of Mormon. I know it is quite the undertaking, especially considering I can hardly read this language, but we just hope that for once he might find the motivation to learn. Also, Valerio has now told all the neighborhood boys about his church, so now every time we walk down the street of the church, if someone sees us they yell "they're coming" and then about a dozen little boys will come running at us and ask when they get to have their lessons. We tried teaching them all together but it can be quite chaotic! Plus each time they bring another friend or two, so we have to keep starting over from the beginning.

The best is when they either fight to be the one to say the prayer, or they try to teach the newcomers to pray and hit them on the head if they "mess up." We are still struggling to get the actual concept of prayer through to them considering right now most all their prayers consist of a wish list of blessings they want, always including "help me be the best futball player." We were pretty proud though when seven of them showed up ontime for church Sunday, and we even got half of them into white shirts and ties. We had to spread all of them out so they were sitting by missionaries and not each other, but they were quiet and stayed the whole meeting.
Although they all are nice (yet still wild) kids, there is one who is super special, Kristi. He was one who originally came with Valerio and this kids just feels it. He knows how to read, so in his first lesson we let him read a verse from the Book of Mormon. After he read he just sat there with the book in his hands staring at it. All his friends were teasing him and hitting him, but he just continued to quietly hold the book and look at it. We gave it to him and he has been reading from it ever day and meeting us on his own before school. We watched the Restoration film with him and he loved it. And when Motra Bentley asked him how he felt, after a really long silence he just said, "I think God is happy with me for coming to his church." He's so amazing! Tonight he invited us to come meet his family...we are super stoaked!

Little boy, Kristi, Mesi, and I in front of the church- September 2010

Saturday night Genti got baptized! We just had a small service with the missionaries, a couple of members that have helped teach him, and his family & two buddies. I thought it was super cool that our super cool 25 year old Genti invited his friends, parents, and brother. We are super tight with his parents (they feed us every Sunday), so it was really neat to have them come support Genti. Oh and speaking of Genti and how awesome he is...before he was even baptized we started taking him to a couple lessons to share his testimony of the Word of Wisdom since he did the stop smoking program with us like a month ago. So we took him out to see Eva (she's the one that lives like an hour away in the mountains), and he told her all about how amazing he has felt since he stopped smoking and drinking. He then helped us again on Friday as we presented and helped Eva to start the smoking program herself. The Good Stuff!

Genti's Baptism- his family, me and Motra Bentley - October 2010

Last quick story ...so I just want to say that Heavenly Father is pretty super amazing. I'm not sure if I ever mentioned this, but there is a girl named Lola who learned from the Elders last Spring until she got busy with her job and couldn't get baptized. I knew her from back in the spring, so when she randomly got a job at my favorite restaurant that we go to multiple times a week, I knew this wasn't some coincidence. That is when she asked us to start teaching her again, yet in the past couple weeks she has been busy again and hard to meet with. Then one morning this week I went walking out of our little apartment building, and in walked Lola, our new upstairs neighbor. Let's just say picking her up for church Sunday morning was less than simple! Yep, we're super blessed!

I don't have time to get started on General Conference, but we got to see the two morning sessions and I hope you all enjoyed then as much as we did!

I love and miss you all and hope you have an amazing week!

Motra Hall