Monday, December 26, 2016

Week 47: I Hear the Xhami Calls on Christmas Day

Hellooo from lovely Berat! It is beautiful here, the city is strung with so many lights and decorations. It's very interesting though because if you were to ask someone they'd say that all of the decorations are for New Years and not Christmas; It's not a widely celebrated holiday here. The few Christians that ARE here don't do any of the traditions that we Americans do since they are Christians of only about 20 years after the communist era. Also to make my subject line a little clearer "xhami" is mosque in Albanian.

Anyway... this was, unsurprising-ling, one of the busiest weeks for us as missionaries! We planned a lot of fun activities. Thursday we organized a Christmas party at the church and made "ginger" bread houses (they were really just wafer houses because molasses can't be found here). Then Motra Suckow and I hit the streets hard all week and went up and down the boulevard, trying to talk to everyone with our "Light the World" passalong cards. We also blocked out time for knocking on doors and it was pretty cool, on all the three days we did this (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) the FIRST doors we knocked on let us in to share our Christmas message! We felt like we were truly led to the doors that needed to learn more about the true meaning of Christmas. 

Two other highlights from this week were Christmas Eve when we went out as a district Christmas caroling. We got in the car and drove all around Berat, singing to people and giving them cookies. It was really cool because at one point we drove to a little fshat (village) that was in the middle of NOWHERE. When we got out of the car the sky was huge and beautiful, completely full of stars! It really was an unforgettable Christmas Eve. The other highlight was when I got to Skype the family yesterday, of course! :)

Thought: This scripture stood out to me the other day,it's in Matt 7:11: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? ". December is a month all about gifts, gifts, gifts! But the best, everlasting gift of all was given to us over 2000 years ago in a little stable. This was a gift from our Heavenly Father who loves us without end. Right now we can't understand the magnitude of this gift, but someday we will. I'm forever grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving us his only Begotten. I hope that we will be able to remember and treasure His gift, Jesus Christ, not only now but throughout the whole year.

I love you all and hope that you have a great ending to 2016!!

Motra Fulop

Christmas lunch! We didn't have any forks so we ate the salad with spoons

I was pretty happy with how these guys turned out.

Wafer houses at the Christmas partay!

Shoutout to my bff Maddie THANK YOU!!
We could see the ocean from the top!
Our branch president is the man on the right. Coolest guy ever!
Christmas selfies with the bestie!!!
We hiked a big one today..... we had to burn off some Christmas calories ya know

Awesome present from Aunt Jayme! SHE MADE THIS GAME PEOPLE.    

Week 46: Merry Christmas


First I gotta start of by saying... MERRY CHRISTMAS! I hope that you all have a great week of preparation and are able to feel the Christmas spirit in abundance :). I'm so excited to Skype my family for an hour on Sunday, it will be my biggest Christmas present!

This past week we had transfers so I moved to Berat! It's a little city in southern Albania and it is gorgeous here. The city has been here since 400 B.C.! My new companion, Motra Suckow, and I go jogging in the mornings along the river and in the stony city and it is the perfect way to start the day! And I just have to brag a little about Motra Suckow - she's the coolest companion! She's from Austria and just started her mission here two months ago but she's a fireball and is a cooking/crocheting/oragami wizard and I have so much to learn from her - skills wise and missionary wise. We push each other to be better in all aspects and I'm really excited for this transfer!

It's pretty cool because every city that I'm sent to the work is completely different. The branch (church) here was just created last January, less than a year ago, yet there are about thirty of us in church so the work is really moving forward. It'll be a lot of member's first times celebrating Christmas so this week we have a lot of fun activities planned. For example in a half an hour we are doing a Christmas tree lighting where we will cut out snowflakes and put ornaments and lights on a Christmas tree in the church.

Something fun: I'm back in Primary! I'm in charge of four little guys at church for two hours and it's so much fun. I've also been called as the chorister in sacrament meeting and I feel like I'm just doing a solo the whole time because none of them sing and so it's kinda unfortunate because I'm not a good singer...

Something marvelous: I read The Living Christ the other day which is one of my favorite releases from The First Presidency. It's a short testimony that was written in 2000 commemorating the birth of Christ and it's a good one. I encourage you to read it in preparation for Christmas, to remember the reason for the season! I'm so thankful for my Savior and for this special time that I have to remember him. I feel so privileged to be here in Albania and to be able to share a message that can bring hope and joy into people's lives.

Ju dua!

Motra Fulop

One of my favorite family's.  I gave E one of my tags because she really wants to be a sister missionary.

We run across this bridge in the mornings.

I had to say bye to my cool "daughter" on Tuesday :(

Motra Suckow and I! We explored the castle of Berat for a bit.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Week 45: The Big 2-1 and a Big Move!


We are being really blessed this Christmas season! People's hearts are a more softened in December and it makes our work more fun. Everywhere we go Motra Holt and I are handing out passalong cards with the church's address and trying to get as many people to church. As for specifics this week... we hosted a "Missionary Night" Friday and Saturday with great turnouts! Motra Holt and I set up a little room for "Light the World" and presented the church's initiative.  Another highlight was a lesson we had with our friend M! We sat down for our second lesson the other day and as soon as she sat down she said she'd been thinking about it and that she really wanted to get baptized! She's amazing. We planned her for January 7th! Also the family we've been teaching, the S's, are so special. None of them know how to read except for the mom so she takes a little piece of glass up to her one eye and they all silently listen as she reads the Book of Mormon. Between two of our lessons last week they read from 1 Nephi 1 to Alma 5 (over 200 pages) as a family. I was astonished. They live in a little cement square of a room as a home with no heating and three pieces of furniture. They have barely anything yet they always go to the store to buy croissants and drinks for Motra Holt and I upon our arrival. I'm always amazed and humbled by their hospitality and selflessness. 

My birthday was a really special day! It was actually a holiday here so everyone was off from work. Motra Holt and I had to wake up early to go to the immigration office so I quickly got up to open a package the family sent for my birthday (thank you!!!!). Then we got on the bus and it was soooo crazy packed we were squished like sardines. We got to the immigration office and it was closed (we initially didn't know it was a holiday)... so we did the next best thing and got Cinnabon for breakfast. Then we had a regular day with lessons! In the evening we visited a family, the H's, and they fed us a traditional dinner including fasule, spinach byrek, and dhalle. Then at night I bought a little cake from a bakery and stuck some candles in it! It was a really good day :). Thanks for all of the birthday wishes!

Saturday night we got transfer calls from the mission president and I was called to serve in Berat! It's a little city a few hours south of here. The branch (church) has only been open for about a year there! I'm so excited to get a fresh start on the work in a new area!!

Love you all have a great week!

Motra Fulop
The S family!


The H Family!

The T1 T3 District


Thanks for the bday prez from some of the coolest motras!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Week 44: BFF E Got in the Water!!


Hand of the Lord moment just happened...Motra Holt and I weren't sure if we'd have time at all to email today because it was taking really long for us to move (we had to switch homes here in Tirana) and we pulled up to our new house with all of the luggage/furniture/etc.etc. and they were doing construction on our driveway so we thought we wouldn't be able to get through to move in after all. So I got out of the car to ask when they'd be finished and the construction workers were so nice; they didn't let us carry a single thing and they moved it all up the hill and on our porch in a matter of 10 minutes. God is good!

As for the work... We found a super cool girl street contacting the other day so we exchanged numbers and that night her husband called us! So we went over to their home and taught them the Plan of Salvation. It was a really cool experience because I haven't had the chance to teach a family the Plan of Salvation lesson before and they loved it! They have an adorable 1 year old daughter and I'm so excited to keep working with them. Our work is on the up-and-up and we are so busy it's a good problem to have!

To kick off the "25 Days in 25 Ways" Christmas initiative of the church we went to a retirement home to help out. Motra Holt and I went into a little room and chatted with a little nene for over an hour; she was the sweetest. We are definitely going back to meet with her again.

Highlight of the week: E got baptized! It was such a good day. Motra Holt and I were stressing out a little because E was adamant from the beginning that the water would be warm and the water heater was broken... but she still got in. She had to get dunked three times in the freeeezing water though because her feet kept popping up out of the water! Then yesterday she got the Holy Ghost and afterwards she bore a beautiful testimony. She was just beaming after sacrament meeting. E's a huge inspiration to me.

Something Albanian: Our electricity goes out at least once a week for a couple hours so sometimes we have to do our studies in the dark. Today when we were moving the elevator didn't work for that reason so we carried everything down six flights! Luckily we got a crew of elders to lend us some hands.

Something spiritual: Our ward was fasting for missionary work yesterday. Remember... every member a missionary! “True Christianity is love in action. There is no better way to manifest love for God than to show an unselfish love for your fellow men. This is the spirit of missionary work” -President David O. McKay

Have a great week ju dua shume!

Motra Fulop :)

The boulevard is pretty

And some friends

​It was freezing out but worth it
​I went on an exchange to Durres and we walked to the beach for the sunrise :).

Flowers for E's big day :)

Us and E!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Week 43: Gezuar Diten e Falenderimeve!


I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We celebrated it well here in Albania. We had a mission conference where all of the missionaries came to us here in Tirana. We ate American food, performed skits, and dessert-off'ed. Our week seemed packed with fun activities! Then Friday Motra Holt and I went to a member's home where she taught us how to make homemade qofte and byrek (traditional Albanian food). She had really loud Popullore music on and danced as she cooked; it was very entertaining. Then Saturday we drove ontop of a mountain for lunch for a ward activity. Finally today we went on an adventure to Kruja which is a city an hour north of here! We checked out a sick castle and explored some ruins. 

Something Albanian: Motra Holt and I were just walking here to the internet cafe and there were two random shark heads laying on the sidewalk....

Something Marvelous: we were calling and calling the plenty of numbers that we had for potential investigators but no one was accepting lessons. So we were finding a lot this week and praying for more committed, solid friends that we could teach. Then some missionaries sent us a referral to a family. We went to their home for a first lesson and it was amazing. They said probably five times that we were the answer to their prayers because they just moved to Tirana and had been praying for a church to go to. Their big family came to church yesterday! We are so excited to be able to teach a family. Also our friend E just got back from Milan, she came to church yesterday and she's ready to get baptized on Saturday, so we're preparing her for that this week :).

Something Spiritual: Watch this video the church just came out with - it's a kickoff to the Christmas season! (It's there on the homepage.)

Love you all have a great week!

Motra Fulop
In the clouds

Be the sandwich

Today and tomorrow are independence day it's going to be nuts

The Kruja castle!

It was a little chilly  
Pretty but rainy

Fun fun

Thanksgiving lunch!

The view was sooo pretty

Monday, November 21, 2016

Week 42: Singing Kumbaya..

Ç'kemi! How's everyone?!

I don't have too much to report this week! Motra Holt and I have really been trying to find people that are prepared for our message, so we've been out on the streets trying to talk to everyone. We're also really focusing on less active work because there are soooo many inactive people here in Tirana. That leads me to my highlight of the week! Saturday night we knocked on a less active's door and she warmly let us in. It was pretty chilly out that night and when we got into her little cement flat it was even colder, but then she took us into a tiny room where their family was gathered around their oven for warmth! We shared a spiritual thought with the family and sang a few hymns with them because they really loved to sing. The grandma and sister-in-law were really into it and they were just visiting for the weekend from Greece but they started asking a ton of questions about the church. We gave them a few verses to read from the Book of Mormon and they loved it! It was such a nice visit with an unexpected finding opportunity.

We also got together with all of the missionaries in Tirana and sang for a retirement home. We did a Christmas program it was a nice kickoff to the season. Finally, I was on an exchange with Motra Hall and we had a lesson with bff E after English course and she offered to take us out for hot chocolate. She took us to the top of an observatory that overlooks Tirana, and it just so happened to be the night of the super moon! We sat up there and taught her the Plan of Salvation over hot chocolate, it was perfect.

Something funny: I just reached into my bag for my camera and I found a pomegranate instead. It's been sitting there the past four days. Whenever we leave someone's home it's tradition that they don't want you to leave empty handed so they give you a piece of candy or fruit. We're always loaded down with fruit in our bags!

Have a great Thanksgiving week! I'm so grateful for all of you!

Motra Fulop :)

We had to get a little creative because someone has been stealing our food from the church refrigerator. "Don't touch. Don't steal. Mosiah 13:22."

​Fun exchange with Motra Hall :)

Just for fun! This is Albanian Lek. It's pretty easy you just move the decimal place over two places and it's almost directly converted to the American money value. For example 500 Lek is $5.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Week 41: Inspirational People. Goals.

Përshëndetja to all!

Motra Holt and I had an amazing week! We had a lot of first lessons and we have high hopes that a few of these people will become solid investigators that we can consistently teach.Our one friend, E, is doing great. She's such an inspiration to me. I would like to share something that she told us at the beginning of a lesson the other day. A little background - E works with blind people; many of whom are young adults in their 20's that were blinded from war blasts in the late 90's. E walked into work the other day and upon her arrival she stood their silently and offered a short prayer before she started working. A few of the blind people noticed that E had entered the room but wasn't talking, so they asked her what she was doing. She responded that she was praying before she started working. They pleaded her to pray for them to receive their vision back. E readily agreed and offered a prayer with them. Wow, when she told me that I felt the spirit so strongly. E is such a strong, faithful example and a light to everyone around her!

Our mission president has been having back problems so he had to fly out to Switzerland for surgery last week. We did a mission fast for him and it all went well, now he's coming back this week! Our mission president is the coolest. He texts us a spiritual thought every morning and they are so. good. There was one I wrote down in my journal the other day that I really liked:

"'We should not assume that just because something is unexplainable it is unexplainable.' - Neal A. Maxwell. Dear Sisters and Elders I am so grateful for the love of my Savior and for His wonderful Plan of Salvation. I sure don't know the answers to every question or why things happen the way that they do, but I know of his love and I trust him that his promise is true when he said 'Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, He shall reveal all things - things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the Earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof - things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the Earth, and upon the Earth, and in Heaven.' D&C 101: 32-34"

I would like to testify that I know these things are true! We don't need to worry and stress about everything because the purpose of our hardships, trials, everything, will be revealed to us. There is a purpose to everything under the Heaven! So, as my mom has always told me... let Go and let God! 

Ju dua shumë, jave të mbarë!

Motra Fulop :)
Bestie from Vlore, A, came up to church on Sunday <3

Swamp zones - fun to walk through.

​It rained 24/7 this week.

Street dogs but soooo cute. A mom and little puppy :)

Motra Bennet finished her mission last week (tears)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Week 40: Many Miracles & Changed Hearts


We've been busy this week, which is always a good sign as a missionary! A few of the highlights...

We've been continuing to teach our friend, E, and she's amazing! She has now made it a priority to come to church every week. She's in her 60's and she walks an hour to get to church! Also she's introduced us to her granddaughter, A, who's 11. It's pretty fun to be teaching her. I was thinking about it the other day, and it's like the roles have switched. I remember when I was around her age learning from the missionaries!

We watched 17 Miracles Friday night which was amazing! It's a movie about the Mormon pioneers crossing the country to settle in Salt Lake City. All of the women sitting around me were commenting and laughing and balling. Albanians have very loud personalities; I've come to love it.

Something funny: Everyone thinks that Motra Holt, my companion, is Albanian! Apparently she looks like it. Anyway I usually start off conversations with people on the street but they can tell right off the bat that I'm not Albanian so they look to Motra Holt to start talking. Motra Holt gets a little panicked (remember she's only been out a month) and then they realize we're both foreigners. I like this pattern though because it's giving her a chance to talk!

Something marvelous: We were walking to a lesson on Friday and we decided to stop by our friend, F's, little food cart for a short lesson. We emphasized church attendance and how it's a commandment of God. She said that it was impossible because she can't use her right leg; it'd be really hard for her to walk from the bus to church. Then we read with her 3 Nephi 17:7 - "Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy." This really touched her! She said that she will try her hardest to make it to church. Her heart was completely changed from the beginning of our conversation.

That's all I got for this week! Ju dua shume kalofsh shume mire!

Motra Fulop

The struggle. I had fun zipping around with this penguin thingy.

We went ice skating today and the rink was completely empty :).

We got a little ahead of ourselves and decorated our apartment for Christmas already....

Fun exchanges with Motra Risk!

We need help.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Week 39: Kitty & BFF E


This week was great as usual! 

Crazy story:

One day Motra Holt and I were teaching a lesson in our friend, S's little clothing shop. Then one of S's friends comes in the shop from the street... holding a little kitten in a grocery bag! The kitten was just laying at the bottom of the bag and I thought she was dead. As soon as the lady saw us she pleaded that we take the kitten, or else she would just leave her on the road. Motra Holt looked over at me with puppy dog eyes... and we couldn't resist we took the kitten spur of the moment. Then we went outside and had to decide what we were going to do with the cat because it is against mission rules for us to have animals. We jogged for a good 30 min with this tiny meowing kitten in our arms untill we got to a pet shop. They didn't want to take her because she still needed milk and she'd be too high maintenance. But after a good 15 minutes talking with them they took her for us! Hand of the Lord moment that day.

Amazing story:

We met with a lady named E this week. She's a journalist and she just wanted information about our church so she could write an article about it. We met her at a local cafe and gave her a lot of information about our services and everything. She asked a ton of questions and she was really interested. By the end we were having a really spiritual discussion! We've had two more lessons with her since and now she's on a baptismal date and she wants her family to meet us, too. It's really cool because she came into all of this with a completely different intent, just on information! It's cool how the Lord puts people into our paths!

Have a great week & HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Motra Fulop
I got home made nene socks from a member in the ward and they're soooo comfy!

Kitty and I! Couldn't get a good pic she kept moving

We celebrated M's 8th birthday this week! Son of an awesome recent convert