July 28, 2014

Hello my loved ones! 

This last week wasn't too eventful, a whole lot of finding! Woo! Vacations here, they're nuts. Definitely not a weekend thing... more like a month and a half long thing. Makes missionary work a little tricky :P But that's okay! We keep on keepin' on and it's wonderful!! 

One of our recent convert's muslim son gave me one of his copies of the Quran. I'm actually really excited about it. It's really pretty and even has an albanian translation if I ever want to read it when I get home. I think it's really amazing that I serve in a country that is very much muslim, it's a really beautiful religion really. I think it's so interesting to learn about it.

Okay, my brain is fried and I don't know what to write about from this last week. So I'm just going to talk about how much I love my mission, because I love my mission! I have never in my entire life been so consistently happy. I feel so clear, almost like for the first time I'm breathing the freshest air in the world. It's hard to explain. But the spirit of this work is incredible. I thought I was happy before, but it was nothing like this. There is a deep peace that is always with me and it makes me so grateful to be here. 
Please do everything you can to read the scriptures everyday, pray with all your heart and serve those around you. It brings a joy unlike anything else. It brings peace unlike anything else. And the best part is that you can lay your head down at night completely satisfied and fulfilled knowing that you're doing God's work by serving His children.
I know God loves us. Individually. That He cares about our success, our happiness and our spiritual well being. He has a provided a way for us to return to Him if we choose. It's all so beautiful really. And I am so grateful. So so grateful.

Much love and many prayers,
Motra Rasëll

An adorable kitten I found by the dumpster just chillin'. I of course had to love it. And then use hand sanitizer. But I like to think about the loving it part :)

Some fabulous members that I love love love love.

Sister Zollinger and me stuck in the church today because it was pouring rain outside!

July 21, 2014

Everyone! I need object lessons! Our main investigators are kids right now and I am lacking in the object lesson department. And golly gee do we need them! A 9 year old boy gets bored veeerrrryyyy easily haha

So Alma is actually a girls name here. It throws people off that he's a prophet, ie man, in the Book of Mormon. Last night we were visiting the girls, our recent converts and we were sharing a scripture about Alma the Younger. I used masculine adjectives with his name... and they looked at me confused... and then said, "Wait?! ..... Alma is a man?!" hahahahahahahaha the whole time they thought he was a woman hahahahaha oh golly, I was dying hahahaha

My fantastic companion made a pretty great language mistake :) She meant to ask someone when they would know if they would be able to meet with us at a certain time or not... unfortunately it came out as "when will you die...?" Hahahaha, a little aggressive, but that's alright! Language mistakes are the best :)

Had to give a surprise talk in sacrament this last week. I hope it went well, I'm not sure haha... I talked about using our agency to show the desires of our heart whether they be to live with God one day or not and how our actions need to match. Not quite a lay it down/call to repentance type talk that my sister "accidentally" gave hahaha but it had some thought provoking questions! haha

A couple weeks ago the mission president came to our apartment with his wife and the assistants and talked to us, got to know us better and left a really beautiful blessing on us and our home. It was a really special moment that I really appreciated. 
So, a couple nights ago, we're getting ready for bed, I'm in the other room and I hear Sister Zollinger... "Motra.... I think this is a scorpion..." 
So I go to check it out and you betcha, it's a little, inch and a half or so, nasty black scorpion. I remembered learning that baby rattle snakes were more dangerous than large ones because their venom was more concentrated and so I applied the same principle to this little guy and all of a sudden we had a death monster in our apartment. Yup, he needed to die. So in an attempt to not get stung and die in Albania (which would be a lame way to die), I geared up in jeans, boots, long sleeves and dish washing gloves. I don't think the dish washing gloves would have done much, but it's better than nothing? And then tried to catch the little guy. Well, unfortunately he had crawled up the wall behind the door frame in the bathroom. Hmmm... problem... the door frame was loose and I could pull it partially off the wall, but I couldn't reach the scorpion. A broom just made him crawl in deeper, too. I had visions of the movie Mouse Trap going through my head and was debating if destroying the door frame to kill the death monster was worth it or not haha.... we decided to call the district leader instead :) They decided it wouldn't hurt for them to come help us.... because I was NOT going to bed until that thing was taken care of! 
Side story... on their way over, it's after 10 and they're running through the streets to our apartment... so naturally the police stop them. One of the elders had brought his flashlight because we didn't have one. Now this is a special flashlight that he bought in Kosovo... a flashlight with a taser on the end hahaha... well, the cop stops them and demands to look at his flash light... he's holding the flashlight with the spot where the taser comes out right on his hand and starts pressing buttons. The poor elders are freaking out by now thinking it would be better to just put the cuffs on right then... but thank goodness a miracle happened and the cop did NOT accidentally tase himself haha
(And no, they did not tase the scorpion... I thought it was a good idea though...)
Anyways, they get to our apartment and after some time, are very successfully able to kill the death monster :) It was quite the fiasco though. Wow. 
That night while I was saying my prayer... I was thinking about how if Sister Zollinger hadn't seen it, it could have very well crawled into a shoe or I could have stepped on it when I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of night... who knows what could have happened! And I also was thinking about the blessing of protection and safety that President Weidmann left with us. He told us that angels would be at our sides watching over us. As I was thinking about these things, I was praying to Heavenly Father thanking Him that we were okay, thanking Him that nothing bad happened from that scorpion being in our home. And I had the sweetest response... that yes, He had in fact been watching over us.
I think in all the areas that my testimony has grown the most, I have come to love the beautiful truth that we are all children of God and that He loves us so sweetly and so dearly. It's a truth I took advantage of. But as I teach it over and over and over again, I have come to appreciate it more than ever.
I know we have a Heavenly Father who is in fact our Father. He loves us more than we could ever comprehend or understand. Never forget who you are... it's a precious truth. Hold it close to your heart. He is watching over you and His hand is in your life because He loves you and you are His child.

I love you all,

We had a beautiful baptism! The sister of a member. He got to baptize her and it was so so special. She was beyond words happy :) Families coming together in the church, it's one of my favorite things and brings the most joy.
Some shots of Tirana and one of the many awesome painted buildings.
The elders and their kill. I have a close up shot, but I figured no one probably wanted to see it aka- my mother.
I don't remember what else I attached, I'm sure you can figure it out :)


July 14, 2014

I had some pretty golden street contacting experiences this last week :) I'll talk about two.
First one. 
A fiery, sassy blond came up to talk to us. She was very dedicated to her faith.... and showed it in... not the best ways.... Oh man, the fire out of that little ladys mouth was intense! So right as she started going off about how we were of the devil and all that good shtuff, a member that we visit with pretty often walked up. She is also a fiery, sassy little thing. She talks talking with us. Finds out what's going on. And they... go off... on each other. And it was intense. Oh so intense! hahahaha I kept trying to break it up, but man, that lady would not back off of the member and the member was not going to not defend herself. It got to the point where at the end, the lady was very passionately informing us that our "soul will die, DIE!" .... whew. A little too much heat for me! hahahahaha
Second one.
Someone stopped when we asked to talk to them and we told them about the Book of Mormon. She responded with, "Oh! I've seen the movie. I know that book inside and out. The movie had a lot of action, I liked it." then walked away..... uuuuhhhh.... there's not a movie, and if there is, it's not in Albanian but... alright :) hahaha

We're teaching this adorable 8 year old who I love love love! And the last time we visited, she kept calling us "the Americans".... "Mom! I want to sit by the Americans!" "Don't call them Americans, they're Sisters!" ..............."But can I sit by the Sister Americans?" hahahaha ... it just isn't clicking with her that we're sister missionaries, because we're still the Americans hahaha

We were teaching english course this last week and we were teaching occupational words and I read off the word "lawyer" and one of the students (in complete sincerity, she was legitimately not trying to make a joke, seriously) says, "oh! That means liar!" ... hahahahahaha, I DIED laughing. No, no that does not mean liar, it means lawyer hahahaha it was pretty darn hilarious actually. Not that I have anything against lawyers, I think they're pretty swell people :)

Lately I've been reading the book Our Heritage. At first I thought it would be pretty boring, but I have a goal to read the whole missionary library and standard works while on my mission, so I had to do it! Well guess what, I've loved it! It's an incredible book. I am constantly feeling inspired by the history of the saints and what they went through. The thing that I think is so amazing is being able to look over such a large chunk of history and learn from it as a whole. It's been very enlightening to me. The Lord's hand was so prominent and is still so prominent. I also love learning about the pattern of revelation and direction that was given to the church. So often, very significant revelations regarding the church only came in response to a question. And it made me think about how much knowledge, how many blessings there are for us if we would just ask our Father. It really is incredible. Heavenly Father gives us our agency and doesn't force us one direction or the other ... but he gives us the tools to be as successful as we desire to be. 

Remember you're loved :)
Motra Russell

We got caught in the rain and were dripping wet. So we took pictures :)
There's a cinnabon here! What the what?! It just opened. Crazy! It tasted like America, it was weird :/ haha I also think I lost 5 years off my life from all the sugar.
Various missionaries that we were with today for pday.


July 7, 2014

Another great week in the mission :)
PS- this is a pretty cool film about the first sister missionaries. I enjoyed it :) Sister missionaries rock. https://history.lds.org/article/sister-missionaries-video?lang=eng&cid=HPWE070214297

We got our new mission president this last week! Oh man oh man, he is soooo awesome! I am SO excited to have him as our mission president. He's from Switzerland and his name is President Weidmann (Vide-man). He's just so great! I already love him and I hardly know him. And wow, his wife is stunning. Absolutely stunning. Definition of elegance. I don't think I've ever met a woman her age that was so beautiful. When she walked in all the sisters were just ... wow! .... haha ... Poor woman is going to have to deal with comments from Albanians about her looks for the next 3 years haha... We had a get to know you conference with him and I knew I was going to like working with him when he came in with a 3 foot long toblerone he he he :) ppppeeeerrrrfffeeeccctttt....

Something weird... I've noticed I'll think back on memories and think, huh, how did I know how to say that in Albanian? .... And then I realize that I didn't know how to say that in Albanian... because I didn't know Albanian. Oh boy... 

We watched the restoration video with the girls that I oh so love. Their cousin watched it with us. He's about 12. He got reeaaalllly excited with the part where the canons go off. His only comment through the movie was "ooo! Dynamite!!" ... but hey! He stayed for the whole movie! That's improvement! haha

4th of July was great! I wore a red dress. Sister Zollinger wore a white shirt with a blue skirt that had white poka dots... we were basically walking america. And then we ate treleçe... aka- totally normal missionary day. But hey! It was a good day!

I love to share my spiritual thoughts, but I've noticed I don't write much about my spiritual experiences with investigators, etc...  I don't really know why because I hold those experiences the most dear. I think maybe because I don't think that I could ever do these amazing experiences any justice with just an email...  I guess I'll try to write some more about these experiences. Not much though, just a little :)

We had a lesson cancel on us this last week (I say "a" lesson... but in reality waaaay more cancel haha) and we thought hey, lets go do a surprise visit to some investigators that have kind of dropped off the planet lately... so we head over. We were doing a do or die week... basically, if they don't respond we're dropping them... they hadn't answered in weeks so I didn't have much hope. But I felt like we should go and so we went. And surprise! They were there! We shared a quick scripture with them and set up a return appointment for two days later. We decided that we were going to teach follow the prophet... but when we walked in for our lesson two days later, I felt very very strongly to not teach that lesson. That doesn't happen that often with me, to feel so strongly to not teach something. I had no idea what to teach instead, we had nothing prepared... all I knew was to not teach what we HAD prepared. So after some good muhabet, we said a prayer and I opened my mouth... and just like the scriptures teach us, the words came. It was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. I've felt the spirit working through me before, but it was nothing like this. The albanian just flowed. And the spirit was incredibly strong. I could feel it just surging through my body testifying that what I was saying was true. I talked about the gospel, the book of mormon, blessings we have from baptism and invited them to be baptized. And the daughter with a huge smile on her face said yes!! It worked out perfectly! I can't even begin to say how amazing it was. It was such a testimony builder for me that this truly is God's work.

I've been thinking a lot about a quote by Elder Holland from an MTC address he gave in Brazil. He says ... 
"I had a missionary ask me once if I would give my life for the church... what he meant was, 'would you die for it?'. Well that's the easy part. That's a snap! On some days it looks really appealing. That's the easy part, to die for it. Well, what God needs is people who will live for it..."

And then I thought about these scriptures...

D&C 97:8 
"Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me."

D&c 64:33-34
Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
 34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.
It just made me think about how we put so much pressure on ourselves for not being perfect. For not being that perfect member that makes casseroles for every sick person in the stake, quilts once a week for the homeless, has every scripture that you could ever possibly want memorized and has perfect teeth, not to mention has a clean house and finds time to exercise an hour a day... okay, so maybe that's just from my female perspective haha ... but you get the idea. I think a lot about the missionary I want to be, where I want to be with the language... and yes, it's good to have a vision and goals... but when we're not perfect and we let guilt torment us for this lack of perfection, it's not okay. And God doesn't want it of us. All God wants is for us to have a willing heart... what are the desires of our hearts? Is it to serve God? To do all that He prompts us to do and tells us to do? Or to at least try? Because that's all He wants from us. Our hearts, our wills and our best and if we do that, we will be accepted of Him. What a beautiful blessing. He doesn't say perfect, He doesn't say ridiculously talented or the best at time management... just our hearts and our wills and our best. I know it's possible. And I know He loves us and wants us to succeed. So don't be so hard on yourself. Dive into the scriptures, pray with all your heart and everything He asks of us will start to happen for you.

Love you all!
Motra Missy

Pictures in no specific order- 
Us with treleçe!
Out to eat with other sisters! 
My favorite girlies! 


June 30, 2014

So training is awesome.
I have never felt the Lord's hand in my life as strongly and as prominently as I have this last week. It's been incredible. If you would've put me in a lesson a week ago, I would've understood, hmmm... I dunno, maybe 40-50%. Really not much, maybe every other very general idea. Now, put me in the same lesson a week later, I understand almost everything they are saying. Honestly, I was shocked. We were walking to our first lesson together and I was thinking... "wow, I know the Lord has called me to train for a reason and I know that in Him I can do all things... but man, this is gonna be interesting" ... and then, I'm sitting in the lesson, and I know what they're saying and I'm thinking... "how, how is this happening?!" It amazed me. It still amazes me. I am amazed every single time I open my mouth and my grammar is correct and the words come smoothly and easily. I am amazed every single time I know what someone is saying. It's an incredible gift. I am just, wow. I am so blessed. The gift of tongues is so real. And this work is going to move forward no matter what. 

Speaking of training! I'm training a wonderful sister named Motra Zollinger from Utah. She's pretty stinkin' great. She's really sweet and kind and we get along wonderfully :) (see inserted, awful blurry picture) I'm excited to get to know her better! It's going to be so much fun! I also love training! I feel like I'm getting to retrain myself which is pretty awesome. I just hope that she is getting as much out of it as I am. 

So the other day we were passing out english fliers and we headed out to the artificial lake because there are a lot of people there in the evenings. Turns out there was a motorcycle show going on. It was basically a lot of loud ACDC, leather and harleys. I definitely felt like I was in America. It was pretty weird/kind of awesome haha

I also... accidentally took my new trainee down a road full of raging clubs... at night... that was a mistake hahaha... ooops. Shortcuts. Not the best idea haha

Oh wow, totally almost out of time.
I just want to say that God's hand is in your life. He's in all of our lives. It's amazing really. And if you look for it, you WILL see it. I've been experiencing the most incredibly miracles lately.
I really like Ether 3:5 ... "We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men."
There are miracles all over the place. They may seem small and insignificant, but they aren't. Our Heavenly Father is there and He loves us. It's a simple and incredible truth. One of my favorites to teach really... it's so beautiful. We are truly sons and daughter of a loving Heavenly Father who loves us.

Motra Missy
Last night with Sis. White, miss that sister of mine.
My new companion Sis. Zollinger!!


June 23, 2014

So let me tell ya'll that haven't served a mission.... transfer calls are nuts. The day of is nuts. Want your brain to work and be focused? Guess what, it's not going to haha Especially when you have 3 month transfers! They're a big deal! Man oh man.... so anyways, we had transfer madness yesterday and..... wait for it.............................. I'M STAYING!! WOOO!!! I cannot tell you how excited I get to stay in the Tirana 2nd ward and keep meeting with our amazing recent converts and investigators. Such a blessing. Guess what else? I'm training!!! Obobo..... I.... am training hahaha .... I don't know if the mission president got the memo, but I definitely don't speak Albanian yet and the cute newbie sister coming in DEFINITELY doesn't speak Albanian... soooo.... I hope the Spirit is on guard and ready to take on a crazy heavy load, heavier than normal, otherwise this is going to be an interesting transfer! haha ... in all seriousness, I really am excited. I just pray that I'll be able to make this as good of an experience for her as I know it's going to be for me. Oh! And Sister White is going to Kosovo. Where we won't be able to call each other :( booo.... I could serve the rest of my mission with her and be happy. I love her so much. It'll be sad to say goodbye to this last amazing transfer. Excited to start a new crazy one.

We had mission conference this last week. It was a pretty emotional meeting because our mission president goes home next week. I'm definitely going to miss them... I'm excited to meet the new President though :) I'm also glad that our mission is small (only about 75 missionaries total) because I had to give an on the spot role play, bleh, awkward haha ... But the conference really was so wonderful. It'll be interesting having two different mission presidents each covering a half of my mission.

We also had two baptisms this last week! The two wonderful girls that we've been teaching. Words cannot describe how much I love them. The baptism was beautiful and they were so so happy. Wow I feel so blessed to be here. How amazing that I could have such an incredible relationship with such incredible people in the most unusual place that in any other circumstance, would never have come to. The Lord definitely has a hand in our lives.

Okay, I forgot my planner and my life doesn't exist without it... sooooo.... I don't remember anything else. But it was a good week! Yay! haha

As far as a thought this week.... I really like the scripture in Isaiah 55:8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways..."
I take a lot of faith in the fact that Heavenly Father always knows what's best for us. There are many times we may not understand why He asks us to do a certain thing or why we go through certain trials... but that's okay. We don't have to understand. Our thoughts are not His thoughts. But we can take trust that His entire work and glory is for us to live with Him again, happy and blessed. So no matter what happens to us, if we keep trust and faith in Him, everything will work out as it should and we will be happy. It may be difficult and confusing, but that's okay, "the only way to salvation is through Gethsemane" (Elder Holland) ... Trials help us to grow, trials of faith help our faith to expand to new levels, and "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."

I love you all,
Motra Missy

One of my favorite little girls in the entire world!! She completely has my heart, she's adorable. Sorry future husband, I don't think anything can match how much I adore her ;)
The funniest old lady you will every meet. Sis. White and I die laughing every time we came over. Most recently when we came over, she told us something we didn't understand and then her daughter said, "Mom! You should be ashamed! They're too young to hear stuff like that!" .... all I know is it had to do with marriage and I'm glad I didn't understand hahaha
The baptism!!
Yes, I was THAT sister missionary and took pictures of some flowers. In my defense, I have never seen flowers like this before! They're so pretty!!

June 16, 2014

How did it go by so fast? Nuts, that's what it is, nuts.

Sister White got sick again. AKA- more time inside. Man, that poor girl :( I feel so bad... Hopefully the doctors found a fix, I would hate for her to stay being sick... I sure have gotten a whole lot of study time in though! And I'm not going to lie, I ... I love it. Yup, I love it. Give me talks from the living prophets and the scriptures and hours of time and I will, as Sister White and I like to say, "kënaq up a storm!" ... but unfortunately, there is no english equivalent for our poor use of combined english and albanian that literally makes no sense most of the time... so I'm just going to say that it makes me very happy haha

This week has been an amazing week. Not that much has happened, but I have just seen God's hand in my life more than ever... I just feel so grateful lately. So grateful to be here. So grateful that Heavenly Father let me have this incredible experience that changes my life more and more every single day. I am so grateful for the gospel. Because of the gospel, I am here... in Albania... the most unlikely place for me to have ever traveled to! And I'm meeting the most incredible people and gaining the most fulfilling and touching relationships with them. I get to be a small piece of one of the most important parts of their life. I get to see them change and grow in incredible ways. I get to be a small part of these sacred experiences. And they get to be an enormous part of my life. I feel like I have been touched forever. I will always be grateful to Heavenly Father for this experience. It's been a blessing beyond anything I could have ever imagined. 

Be grateful for the gospel. As a friend wrote to me today, be grateful that a 14 year old boy decided to pray and it changed the whole world. Be grateful that peace can be found and blessings can be had and lives can be changed because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Everything is possible because of Him and because we have a Heavenly Father who loves us perfectly. 

I love you all,
Motra Missy
Went to Krujë today! It was so beautiful. I felt like for the first time out here I actually got a real taste of some Albanian culture, that made me so happy! 
The next few emails will be pictures from it... PS-the mountains look like Utah mountains, oh man, I miss those mountains haha

yes, it's a painted turtle

That's right, I took a selfie, don't judge... I just never get pictures of myself!!

People hand weaving! My dream to learn! Happiness right there.... a mosk.. and some other stuff...

One of my favorite members!


I have to trick Sister White into drinking water hahaha

June 9, 2014