Monday, January 25, 2016

Week 65 - pyet 100 vet, bëj si do vet

5/6 of us (MTC sisters together).. shoutout to Motra Cheshire in Prishtina who was with us in spirit :)

Sibora! she has been improving soo much wow, everytime we go over, or in church, she is just happy and chatty and so much personality, it's adorable :) 

ç'kemi, si dukeni?
Gëzuar Ditëlindjen RACHEL edhe 100 wow 18..... you're all grown up! Feel old? Don't :)

Some out-of-order, random things that you might enjoy hearing about from my past week:

Lesson with the wonderful J fam yesterday evening, they are doing great by the way. Making big sacrifices to be in church every single week, and reading daily, thus growing and learning lots... we saw some new pet bunnies (#Sophie) hopping around the backyard but one apparently got sick so they put it out of its misery and cooked it up in some stew so halfway through our lesson little 6yo A walked in from the other room looking for something to eat, reached his hand in the big pot and fished out a rabbit's leg and stood there gnawing on it with the foot hanging out of his mouth while we kept reading.

Also we've jumped at any service opportunity, especially when we we show up for a lesson and are answered with the excuse, "too busy, too much housework, come back tomorrow" etc. so we've been insisting on helping out and thus saving them time so they can still afford a lesson. We helped with some housework- folding laundry etc, in a greenhouse with tomato plants, and rolled some pizza dough for a member who owns a little shop. 

There are always obstacles to be overcome when it comes to investigators progressing towards baptism i.e. without fail there's always some Muslim male family member who doesn't approve, doesn't want to break "family tradition" even though they've never set foot inside a xhami... that happened this past week with an incredible teen girl/ new golden investigator with promising family, and member referral actually.. but her grandpa told her she's not allowed to meet with us or go to church.
But there are plenty of prepared people who we are able to meet with and I am so grateful for that!

Also I'm loving reading from the Book of Mormon multiple times a day. I testify that it is a true and inspired book.
Wish you all the best this upcoming week! 

Me dashuri, Motra Rajlli <3 

Berat is beautifulll and so fun to be with sis Ariza again :) 

walking to a lesson one night and saw what looked like 4 elders fixing a flat tire but turns out it was the Fier elders stuffing the baptismal font in their makin, gettin resourceful haha 

our apt gets freezing, gotta keep warm somehow 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Week 64 - Lushnje

and this awesome and sweet investigator L cut my hair! She wasn't too impressed with what I'd done myself ha. Also that was a very interesting almost-lesson.. testifying about the Book of Mormon in the hair salon.. straining to hear each-other over the sound of hair dryers.. I'll tell you more about that one sometime lol.... 

This fruit couple was soo cool when we stopped and taught them a thorough Restoration lesson and found out they'd been friends with a senior missionary couple yrs before, and their son was best friends with our 1st counselor and used to always carry his Libri i Momonit with him etc..  but now they're just not interested.. :(

yum I loove the markets here....

Kisha e Jezu Krishtit e shenjtorëve të ditëve të mëvonshme
Hi! ç'KEMI 
As usual, our investigator pool changes up quite a bit week-to-week! We aim for daily contact to get everyone progressing towards baptism with our guidance and support, but unfortunately, others' schedules and priorities are a little different than ours. But, that's alright because when we have more time to meet new people, that's that many more people whose lives will be forever changed. 

We had some neat/ chill "real-life" lessons. One was at a hair salon with L.. we'd set up an appointment for 5 on Monday.. since we're on P-day schedule that's when our P-day ends, and she told us to meet her (we'd agreed to meet for a lesson) at her salon she works at so we went and chatted about if she'd read while she finished up her client's hair and basically we tried to get our restoration lesson happening but she insisted on touching up my hair I'd chopped off myself so I agreed as long as we still had our lesson after! And if we only talked about church things while she did my hair hahah so basically testified of the restoration as she gave me layers but once she finished she didn't have time for a full lesson since there were people waiting but we squeezed in a nice prayer and 5-min discussion before we left.. didn't count it as a lesson but definitely a step in the right direction and now she "owes" us ha and she is super sweet and for some reason it didn't feel like a frustrating waste of time, but we felt like we gained more of a friendship/ trust with her, and we really did have a great gospel conversation as she chopped away. Still, we prefer getting to people's houses or bringing them up to the church, but in a situation you can't be too picky... 

Speaking of which we're still goin strong with the roadside lessons and we've gotten some really great new investigators from the sunflower seed nene I mentioned last week. It's really sad because they're a tiny bit darker skinned (but with bright blue eyes, exotic beautiful, and the little girl looks like a little Indian princess) but a different lady (another nene) we'd met and befriended on the street saw us going to their house and said some terrible racist things and we stayed calm and tried not to act offended and she told us never to talk to her again since we're friends with them... what happened to we're all children of God, and we all have immense personal worth/ divine nature?

Also met with these awesome, sweet, American girls here with Peace Corp (so cool what they're doing btw! And not too different from us, minus the whole religious aspect; we're all trying to serve and make a difference in Albanians' lives) and after chatting throughout dinner, answering questions aka clearing up misconceptions and explaining mormon rumors, we ended up teaching a full-blown restoration lesson and information overload because we ended up mentioning pretty much everything we believe in and stand for, they just had great questions, and anyways one reason that was such a meaningful lesson for me was because I was able to see just how much I've grown in my faith and testimony; a couple years ago if I were in that same situation with friends peppering me with questions about my faith I can guarantee I would not have answered as clearly/ confidently. So that's one huge reason I'm so grateful for my mission; testimony growth and lifelong personal conversion. Two things that are shaping my life forever and I'm so grateful to have figured out what is true and to know for myself without any doubt that I believe these things and am not afraid to tell the world, and act accordingly. 

Also I got sick and didn't eat for a day (we stayed in, lame, after an awesome baptism in the morning w the Elders' GOLDEN investigator/recent convert) because my stomach was eating itself so hopefully that helped me get rid of some unwanted (and seemingly unavoidable!) sister missionary pounds. As long as it's not a parasite haha. 
Oh man gotta go but want to end with Alma 13:22 (through the end if you'd like to continue reading!) because powerful missionary scriptures! Not trying to call myself an angel haha. ;)
Love you! I dare you to bring up the church with someone new every day this upcoming week! I can assure you that's what I'll be doing ;)
Gjithë të mirat! 
<3 lotsa luv, Motra Rajlli :)

this member is so cute and we got her started on Personal Progress! new life goal, complete Perparim Personale ne Shqip (maybe I can get an honor shiqiponja instead of the honor bee? haha) 
and had an exchange with my former comp Motra Illajesen.. but instead of tearin it up in Vlore like we'd planned she got suuper sick (and stayed in bed) while I got a free p-day.... 

cute grandkids of a "returning member" 

J is back! She's the one who wrote you a letter mom. Check the mailbox! I promised her a new penpal :)

Meanwhile, on the homefront in Florida:   Madi sent us Albanian (and German) snacks!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Week 63 - sedra?

hand-knitted outfit made by her mom <3 these people know how to do sweaters

all of my favorites in one little pic: babies, fruit, Albanian knitted clothes.... / this member is amazing <3 Motra B

Hej! Miremengjesi dhe ju pershendes nga Lushnja, ALBANIA <3 (Good morning and greetings from Lushnje)
Hope you all are passing well.... 
The work here in Lushnje continues to be moving forward at an accelerated pace and I'm just livin the dream here!! This past week.. where to start. 

Lots of awesome lessons. 3 of our baptismal dates are now officially progressing! Besides baptisms and confirmations, I'd have to say my happiest moments as a missionary are sitting in sacrament meeting with investigators who finallyyy came to church and love it and feel the spirit and are eager to come take the sacrament for the rest of their lives. I do want to mention though that a big focus for us this upcoming week will be helping the branch to help itself... aka encouraging our members to fulfill (and magnify!) their callings so the auxiliaries don't crumble once we missionaries get transferred every few months. I have to admit I love being asked to fill in and teach primary or YW or Relief Society on the spot and doing a big part to help the church experience to be a great one, but 2 problems- am I helping or hindering because they take the easy way out and don't stretch and grow, and also, I (nor Motra Peters) can't be everywhere at once, teaching everyone's 2nd hour class and making sure everyone feels welcome and loved and chaperoning relief society and investigators so noone gets offended or causes a scene, and allowing our leaders to take charge and organize things themselves. And trying to make everyone happy with conflicting opinions and needs can be a little draining, but all in all, our branch really is amazing and growing, which is so wonderful, and I love all our members and investigators and street vendor friends and my companion Sister Piterz, she's super awesome and we get along really well. 
I'll write more later, have some cool stories to share. JU DUAA <3
Motra Rajlli :) 

this cutie L is the awesome and smart girl who was taught by elders years ago and is getting baptized this time around!


part II.

had lots of on-the-spot (which often means, roadside) lessons. For example, we taught a lady selling popcorn on the street, two girls sitting in their stairwell, and a super nice besimtare younger nene on the sidewalk where she was selling sunflower seeds with her mom (an older nene.. like the one on the Christmas card ha.) One reason why this place is so amazing is the laid-back, extremely friendly feel, which generally means that when we stop to talk to people they are receptive and respectful. While waiting to meet a member for a lesson, we sat down on a bench next to a nene to chat (testify) with her and she pulled an extra piece of cardboard out of her bag for us to sit on. 

Also, Mission Leadership Conference was great, I always love those meetings and leave a little more excited about missionary work, and Zone Training! I love giving trainings (STL still, with Motra Peters) and they are never boring/typical that's forsure haha. Gotta spice it up a little ya know? Also we always bring a little diçka për të ngrënë (something to eat). For example this time we introduced the discussion on unity with some trust falls followed by the Weidmanns' story of how they met/ first date (super cute btw.. childhood friends) since they're def. a unified companionship :) We have a huge Zone (including Berat, Vlore, Fier, Elbasan, Durres) so there are a bunch of greenies and we had them all participate with reading scriptures etc. and got a little more serious talking about forgiveness and how we must overlook flaws and forgive our companions, investigators, members, even if we feel justified in our offenses and esp. to encourage our members to forgive one another as we all try to grow and endure to the end the best we know how. 

"Spirit is willing but flesh is weak" is applicable to our work lately since we both just want to go and do everything we possibly can and teach everyone etc. but when we take a second to sit down/eat just realize how exhausted we are .. my body's betraying me. I'll sleep when I'm dead.. double meaning with missionary vocab ha. Also we're on winter schedule aka up at 5:30am and sleep by 9:30pm. I love it! Even though it's the same amount of time it feels more productive. Plus everyone's cooped up for the night by 6pm so it works well. 

I want to end by challenging whoever is reading this to join me and my mission and the Lushnje branch as we read the Book of Mormon from cover-to-cover within a month- by February 7th. I've been doing English for personal study, Shqip during language and Deutsch other down times i.e. lunch. Every time I read from the Book of Mormon, frymezohem shume dhe ju keshilloj ta lexoni perdite pa perjashtime... jane fjalet e Zotit! (I am more inspired and I advise you to read on a daily basis without exceptions ... it's the word of God!) I know that The Book of Mormon is true and guides me and gives me insights and hope and I'm so grateful that I can just crack it open whenever I need a pick-me-up. If you know anyone who doesn't have this opportunity, please make sure they get a copy. :) 
Love you, thanks for love and support and prayers and wonderful faithful examples for me. 
<3 Motra Rajlli 

my comp sis piterz :) 
this is from new year's chillin in an olive tree
owl socks from Rachel ;)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Week 61/62 - Transfer 5 (of 5 1/2) begins

old comp and new comp.. both tall, blonde, from Virginia, serving in Lushnje together.. 
now serving with Sister Peters, from my mtc group :)

Lushnje in the background <3  

cuute primary class, most of them are the grandkids of a recent convert T <3 

new years' adventure (got an extra p-day!), also celebrating year-mark w sis piterz, my new comp! made byrek then ate it on top of a hill 
gettin in touch with our artsy sides  

Gezuar Vitin e Ri! Ju uroj nje vite te mbare, qofshit mire fare..
This past week was filled with extra p-days but also awesome lessons and down-to-earth people.
Btw, we had transfers! I am staying in Lushnje (yay), now serving with Motra Peters! She is awesome and we've been having such a great time together.

The other day I read 2 John 1:12 and it reminded me of skyping you all on Christmas.. so much to say, so little time, always better face-to-face!

New Year's is a big deal here in Shqiperi.. basically all the holidays clumped into one.. gather with family and eat turkey; give presents and advertise with Santa (Babagjushi), and party it all up on the 31st with lotsa fireworks!

We had the best view from our 8th floor apt, including the people right below us were shooting things off their balcony, and we also happen to live right by the main square so it was crazy! Also walking to and from lessons we had to dodge little boys setting off their own fireworks the whole week before..3 and 4 year olds running around with matches and explosives, not the best idea....

As much as we enjoyed the firework show, New Year's really got in the way of missionary work, I have to say! Many lessons were cancelled because our investigators and members were too busy making baklava. Also, we have 6 investigators on baptismal date but none of them have been coming to church so I have to admit, yesterday in sacrament meeting when nobody showed up after strongly committing in lessons that they would be there, I was feeling a little frustrated that people just have not been doing their part and lacking drive and not progressing and feeling like we are dragging these people to meet and read and come to sacrament but they should be eager to take these positive steps by themselves because this gospel is only going to bless them. It's a fine line between being patient and sticking with people despite their schedules and agency, while not focusing too much energy and attention on people who aren't willing and ready to make the needed changes now. They've got to have desire from within.

I want to share a cool story, actually one of the previously mentioned bap. dates who hasn't been in church. A 16yr old girl, L, who the elders tracted into a couple weeks ago. Turns out she's been taught by the missionaries and was basically an active member without being baptized like 4 yrs ago but then got busy with school/ family and kinda dropped off. But now we're teaching her! It's incredible to me that we get to teach and meet this girl who is so prepared.. I wish those former missionaries could see her now, and know that she's coming back! It's cool to be on the other side, "harvesting", because a lot of my mission has been "planting" and I like to wonder how they'll come in contact with the church years down the road when they're ready. Like the rest, she was busy with new year's but we plan to meet frequently, starting tonight.

Also we met a missionary, Christian- no set denomination but doing volunteer work with multiple churches nearby- C, from Trinidad and what was supposed to be a respectful discussion sharing our beliefs and supporting each other in our missions turned into much more of a contentious bible-bash than we'd expected. I left 2 Nephi 29 for her to read on her own. All I can say is I'm grateful for calm, respectful lessons with the Spirit present and I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and it does not replace the Bible but further testifies of Christ and His divine mission.

Also I love the lyrics to the hymn, "Lord, I would follow thee." (#220). I may have mentioned that before.. it's still a great one. :)

I love you all! Good luck with any New Years resolutions and if you're having a hard time keeping them, just be glad you aren't fed baklava (thin strips of white flour saturated with oil/butter/sugary syrup) multiple times a day, in a culture where it is rude to reject food that's offered to you. Haha. But really, I wish you all the best in this new year! It's gonna be a good one, I can tell. 
Me shume dashuri nga Motra Rajlli :)

kinda spontaneous, chopped off my hair.. new transfer, new yr of my life (21) plus I figured if it turned out bad it doesn't matter since I'm just out on the mission right ?:)

my new comp! mtc reunion ha 

year-mark in-country! 

construction in front of our house finished!

WW3 I mean New Year's in Albania!