December 6, 2010

Happy December!
I'm sure you all have your Christmas decorations up by now...haha, I know my family better than that. Our missionary apartment would still be pretty bare too if it was up to me, but Motra Leit and those Danish folks are quite the festivators (I don't think that is a word), so we have all kinds of Christmas stuff up and multiple countdowns going all over the place.

So I think this will be a quick little email today because our P-Day is being crashed by a member dinner. We don't usually have those, but the Smith's and us were invited to one tonight at 6pm. I just got a phone call from the Sister that has invited us though and she wanted us to come early to help her cook because she is the only female in the house, and of course to ask a man to help in her kitchen is preposterous. In normal circumstances I of course would happily offer to help someone who is having a dinner for me...but this isn't normal. I said we would be free after five. She said earlier. I said 4:30pm. She said 4pm. I said 4:30pm. (My negotiating skills are improving I think!) Anyway, whatever we could possibly be eating that takes 2 hours to prepare can't really be worth it. Plus me in the kitchen is always a bad idea. Mix that with me cooking and trying to communicate "kitchen talk" in Albanian. I think I would be more successful at shooting a six point buck in the middle of May (FYI: deer hunting season is not in May). Okay really random example...don't know where that came from. I'm not complaining though.
Baptism! Me, Denisa, Motra Leit, and Eva (the awesome little sister getting baptized in December)

I guess for starters I'll just include my "highlight" story of the week which I sent to my Mission President today:
"Although we had lots of great things happen, probably the highlight of the week for me was a small personal experience that I had. I was feeling a little frustrated and down (in a happy, motra kinda down way) because of the lack of activeness we have had from most of our adult members and Albanian branch leadership here in Vlore. Not to say that I don't love running half the auxiliary organizations of the branch single-handed, but I was thinking lots about the future of the branch and how it really needs some strong leaders. Anyway, as it was fast Sunday, I took these concerns and questions to the Lord seeking both comfort and direction during my fast.

Sunday morning as I sat playing prelude music 10 a.m. came and left and we had the usual turnout of about 5 youth and that was about it. Then slowly families and couples started coming in and sitting together until we had about seven or so couples, four or five other adults, and then our usual crowd of teenage youth. I was touched to receive such a prompt and direct answer of comfort from the Lord to my personal prayers, although it was kinda crummy because it was a little difficult to read the piano music through my puddle-filled eyes. As President Smith and I talked later we agreed that it was probably the best turnout to church that we have seen in our time here."

So yeah, I know I've said it before, but the Lord really does hear and answer our prayers...even us little unimportant Motras in the middle of nowhere Eastern Europe. Don't worry I really haven't had a bad week, it has actually been super awesome and busy!

Albania Flags fly today for Albanian Flag Day (basically like their 4th of July) November 2010

On Thursday morning Motra Leit and I went up to Tirana to do exchanges with Motra Halabuk and Motra Highland. Even though I have never served in that part of Tirana, I know quite a few of the members and people they teach, and I got super lucky and got to visit all my favorite people of that area and Sister Hiland and I had some great lessons Thursday night. Friday morning we turned around and headed back for Vlore with Motra Peatross and Motra Yourstone with us for an exchange in our area. I know back-to-back Motras are super spoiled. But it was good to have some help to catch up on the work we missed while in Tirana. This time I got to spend the evening with Motra Yourstone and it was great. We hadn't been together on an exchange since back in late June, so it was good to work together again.

Also, more super exciting news...Vlore Branch has another return missionary. Enea Rrokaj came home this week from his mission in Rome. He is really awesome and is going to be so good for this branch. Also, he has lots of cool connections. First of all he served with Breanna Hawkey on his mission. I had seen a picture with him and her at his parents house while he was out, so when I told him on Sunday he freaked out. More importantly though, he is best friends with Kozeta's son and his family knows and is close with her husband. So Kozeta was super, super excited to see him on Sunday at his homecoming. And I'm super, super excited to have Enea talk to her husband....I'm hoping it will help him give his permission for Kozeta to be baptized!

The only other notable event of the week was teaching the young women how to make paper snow flakes. That was some messy fun, but they all enjoyed it and now the church is looking all decorated for the holidays! Thankfully paper snow is as snowy as it will be getting here in Vlore this winter! :)

So, I didn't send this email before the dinner because I wasn't quite finished, but we just got back from that delightful aforementioned dinner. It didn't go so bad...mostly because the family ended up just calling the four other Elders also to join us, which meant I could scrape all those leftovers onto the Elder's plates when nobody was looking. As for the cooking....well I just kinda went through the motions and kept shaking seasoning and salt on stuff and the Sister seemed content with my contribution to the meal.

Well, I guess that is all I got for this week. I'm sure I've forgotten somethings, but if I told you all everything, what will we talk about when I get home!

Have a great week! Love you all!