October 20, 2014

So! .... I'm totally in Kosovo right now. We drove up this morning for an exchange. And we had really good indian food for lunch. Food variety? What? This exists? he he, kidding :) It's beautiful up here. I'm looking forward to seeing how the work is up here. I know it's different but I think it's something you have to experience to truly appreciate :)

It shouldn't, but it still throws me off guard how awkwardly blunt Albanians can be... things that were said this last week... to me, "You would be so much more pretty if you didn't have those freckles..." ... uuhhh hahahaa .. and to my companion, "You're too fat." What?! hahahahaha I seriously laugh so hard every single time. It's very... not something I'm used to at all.

This past week was a beautiful and devastating one. 
I was so blessed to be able to attend the baptism of a part member less active family that Sister Zollinger and I had found last transfer. The parents were baptized and hadn't been to church is 13 years. We found them street contacting and started teaching them. The mother immediately came back to church and her two children were baptized this last Saturday. I can't even begin to express the joy I felt, it was unreal. They are so wonderful. I'm so happy I was able to attend such a beautiful ceremony for this miracle family.
Once we got back home that night, we had a lesson with a family that Sister Boettinger and I had found and have been teaching that wanted to get baptized. We had fallen so in love with them, they were truly amazing! They were the light of our missionary work! Long story short, it came out in that lesson that the mother did not believe anything that we had been teaching and after doing everything that we could possibly do, we were almost laughed out of their home.... it was devastating losing them. We walked away sick inside. It cut deep and hurt reeeeaaallll good. The stark contrast in a single night. It was an emotional roller coaster to say the least. I'm still not quite sure what Heavenly Father wants me to learn from this, but I do know that even though devastating moments like this happen... I am so grateful for the gift of agency. It's a tremendous blessing. It's the only way we can grow... And I'm so grateful that even though agency can be used for bad, we still have the opportunity to choose and I know it's only because of the love of our loving Heavenly Father. Oh how much He loves us.

Sorry I don't have pictures! I definitely forgot my card reader. And I also am short on time.
But I love you!
Choose God!


October 13, 2014

Just in case you didn't know (don't worry, I didn't either...) it's Canadian Thanksgiving! ... I have a Canadian companion just in case you were wondering... And we decided to invite the zone over to have waffles and celebrate with us :) It was a lot of fun... and amazingly, we had enough waffles, dunno how that happened. By the way, did I mention how stinkin' cute my new little companion is? Because she is. But don't let the giant smile and little body fool you... this little sister can tackle you hard, because she played rugby for forever. Yup, surprised me, too haha

So, miracle. We found a family!! Mom and 2 amazing kids! And the kids want to get baptized! Working on the mom... but wow, they are just... wow. So loving. So happy. So wonderful. So, just, wow. I can't get over how much I love these kids! Good things are happening here in 1st ward :)

Sister B and I got to give a cool training in MLC this past week. That was a great experience. Even better was studying it out ourselves and having the spirit teach us more than we knew before. The spirit is a pretty powerful thing. I think having access to it whenever I want is the most incredible blessing :)

Super cool!! We got assigned over the sisters in Kosovo! Meaning that Sister B and I will be taking an adventure up to Kosovo! Woo! We'll be driving up there. By ourselves. To a foreign country we've never been to before. By following road signs. ........ I'm probably going to die. But whatever, it'll be fun! Woo! hahaha

I've learned so much about the importance of prayers on my mission. It's amazing really. I had no idea the level of importance prayers had and the power and revelation they have the ability to unlock. There's a sentence in Preach My Gospel that says "effective prayer requires great effort". I did not understand that until my mission. It is so true. But it is so worth it. It reminds me of Enos when he "wrestles" with the Lord in prayer. Prayer takes focus, energy, commitment, a whole ton of patience.... but it's so worth it. When we give our whole heart and our whole mind to prayer, to really try to align our will with the Lord's, to change, to search out the spirit... it is so spiritually fulfilling and so worth it. If your prayers are going through the motions... try to change it, it will bless you.


The cancer patients that we love so much and visit often :) The majority of our zone that came to our little party. Sister B and some other pictures that I don't remember haha


October 6, 2014

Oh wow! Conference! .... okay, just kidding haha, I actually have no idea what happened at conference. We've had so many problems with the internet and live streaming that the stake just decided to wait until next week so it could be downloaded and we would have no internet issues. So, I'm sorry that I have no conference inspiration for my email! Next week :)

First ward, from what I know so far, is great! It's definitely different on this end of Tirana and I miss 2nd ward a TON. But that's okay, I'll learn to love these people very quickly, I'm sure. 

My new companion is awesome! We were actually in the MTC together. Her name is Sister Boettinger (Bet-ing-ger), she's from Canada, 5'1'', vegetarian, and stinkin' adorable! I love her so much already! It's going to be very fun serving together.

We had a baptism this last week with an excellent woman that the ward found in the cancer unit at the nearby hospital. We've been teaching her at the hospital and it's been a really wonderful experience. I'm grateful to have had it with her.

This last week was really just a whole bunch of craziness, wonderful, busy, awesome craziness! I'm so excited about my new companion, my new district and this new area. It's going to be a wonderful experience! 

Don't forget that the Lord loves you. Trust Him, follow His guidance and you will always be led down safe roads.

Me shumë dashuri,
Motra Rasëll

Some awesome people that I adore :) 

September 29, 2014

Man. Rip your heart out :( I'm leaving 2nd ward and my heart hurts about it. But alas, such is missionary work! My wonderful trainee is whitewashing KOSOVO! That's right, she's a rockstar!! And I am staying in Tirana, woo! I'm going over to 1st ward and going to be a sister training leader (I don't know what this means, okay, I kind of do, but ya know... I don't know what to do haha). So that's going to be fun! I'm going to be with the wonderful Sister Boettinger from my MTC group.... I'm so heartbroken to leave, I'm gonna miss Sister Z a ton :( sad day.... and all our wonderful people here. But I'm so happy I get to be close to 2nd ward!
I'm so distracted right now. I can't even handle it. I'm so sorry! haha 
We had a ward party and danced to traditional music. Oh golly it was fun! 
Also, my companion drank 3 water bottles at lunch when we had back to back lessons. Worst idea ever hahaha I don't think I've ever laughed so hard hahaha .... oh man. Soooo funny. Good news, she did NOT pee her pants. Close though ;)
Ya know what I love? Prayer.... Sincere. Heartfelt. Focused. Spirit filled prayer. It's life changing really. Being able to connect with Heavenly Father and really communicate our soul... it's amazing. It's a gift that I am so grateful for. Read "Pray Always" by Elder Bednar. It's excellent! It changed my approach on prayer completely. I have a strong testimony of prayer. It's also a lot of work. But it's work that's worth it. So if you've been slackin' on prayer, aka, going through the motions, saying what you usually say, not putting in the work to really connect with God.... stop it :) Get on your knees and talk with your Father in Heaven. It will bless your life :)
Much love my people,
Motra Russell
Me with awesome peeps. Girls are members, the family are some of our investigators. And my Sister Z dancing :)


September 22, 2014

It was definitely one of those weeks where everything just happened to go wrong. It got to the point where I was standing completely lost in the rain in the middle of a mud field and I thought to myself.... huh....  hahaha .... 
The elders had called us late the night before saying that one of the members wanted us to pick up her daughter to take her to church the next day because she had to go to work. We of course agreed but had no idea where she lived. We got sketchy/incomplete directions from her and the elders and headed out early the next morning. We searched and searched and searched for an hour and could not find her. And unfortunately, all the phone lines were down so we couldn't call anyone. It had taken so long to try and find her, that we ended up not being able to make it to our lesson that morning that we were really looking forward to... and as I was standing in the mud in the rain... lost... frustrated... We said a prayer that we would find her.... well, we didn't find her. I did find corn huskings on the side of the road to kind of wipe my shoes off though. Just got my hands muddy in reality... We finally got back to the church with 2 minutes to spare. Blisters from so much walking in my shoes that I only wear to church for a reason, sweaty, covered in mud, irritated that we had been given bad directions and weren't able to find her and were worried her mother was going to be upset and not trust us anymore, and irritated since we couldn't even show up to our lesson with our investigator who seemed bugged (understandable) that we just didn't show up when he had left his family early to see us .... I sat down in church slightly overwhelmed.... but the peace that came from the sacrament was unmistakable and so real.
Turns out the elders found the girl waiting for us and took her for us and so she ended up being able to get to church safely. And the elders helped us to get a lesson with our investigator after sacrament because they felt bad we didn't get to teach him in the morning.... I'm ashamed that I was irritated and immediately repented. Because, looking backward, even though nothing happened as I thought it was going to, it still happened as it should. Heavenly Father made sure everything was taken care of that was supposed to happen. It took some detours to get there, but it still happened. It just made me think about how many times we don't trust Him. We don't trust that He's got our back and is looking out for us, that our hardships really are for our good and everything is going to end up okay. But when we allow Him to have a role in our life, it always turns out okay...

One night a while ago, we felt prompted to go tracting to a certain building... ended up meeting an awesome guy who is now an investigator. He ended up knowing someone in our ward, they had worked together. After he left, the member said something so interesting to me... "He was the last person on my list that I thought would have been interested in investigating the church....". It made me think about how we don't know these people. Only God does. God knows His children's hearts. If we want to share the gospel and be successful at it, we've got to ask Him what He wants us to do.

Last thought.... 
The pope came this last Sunday. That was crazy. We got grounded. Aka- if we weren't in a lesson, we had to stay indoors for safety reasons.... so that was... boring haha ... anyways, they shut down the buses for him coming because a ton of the roads were shut down and filled with crowds instead of cars. It made our sacrament meeting veeerrrryyy small. The people who live far, most just didn't come which ... I dunno, I think it's understandable. But there were a small few that when they found out about the buses, walked. And it's not a short walk. It made me think about the Anti Nephi Lehi's in the Book of Mormon (Alma 53:10-18). They made a covenant with the Lord to never again use their weapons of war and buried them in the ground. Well, war comes and the Nephites are dying by the thousands to protect them and their families... and they start to feel terrible. They start to feel like they should do something to help and start to get ready to go to war with the Lamanites to help out their brother and sisters. But Helamen says no, don't break your covenant. And so they don't, but they send their young sons instead... which we now know as the stripling warriors who miraculously saved many and none of them died despite their lack of experience. 
When reading that story, I thought to myself about how they that were in that situation probably thought, ya know, God is gonna understand if we break this covenant. This is perfectly reasonable... And if I was in their shoes, I probably would've thought the same! But they didn't, they sacrificed their young sons and kept their covenants. And it brought miracles! And so many blessings! I thought about that as I thought about the people who had walked long distances to get to church that day... honestly, I don't think God will punish those who didn't come. I think He probably does understand... but those people aren't going to have miracles in their lives like the people who sacrificed to keep their promises with God. It's when we give our all, when we sacrifice for Him... that's when the miracles happen. That's when the most blessings come.

I love you all!
Motra Russell 

Me with a cute nëna... she was very happy to know I would be sending her picture home :) And her toothless smile is ADORABLE!
This cut out is me teaching Sis. Z rule of thirds to improve her photos haha


September 15, 2014

First off. It's getting cool. Blessed day!! .... okay, it actually was a mild summer and never got that hot even though I still sweated my face off. But still, I am grateful :D
Second off. The internet cafe we go to just banned smoking and I can breathe cool, fresh air! Cool because it's cool and fresh because it doesn't have smoke. Oh man. Best email session in a while :)

Okay, so... I don't really have any stories this week... Our power was out for over 24 hours so I made toast with a candle... uh... what else... I dunno. I really got nothin' haha I know a lot happened but I can't think of anything right now! 
We had a lot of progress with investigators and are feeling incredibly blessed. We had 2 different families in church this last week which was a huge blessing! We're so grateful right now :) We're being blessed in the work over here.

I recently read a talk by President Eyring titled Waiting Upon the Lord. It was excellent, you should read it :) A part I particularly liked was when he, after getting an interview with President Lee at the time, says:
" “President Lee, how do I get revelation?”
He smiled. I am glad he didn’t laugh, since it was an odd question to ask. But he answered my question with a story. It was essentially this. He said that during World War II he had been part of a group studying the question “What should the Church be doing for its members in the military service?” He said they conducted interviews at bases up and down the country. They had data gathered. They had the data analyzed. They went back for more interviews. But still, no plan emerged.
Then he gave me the lesson, which I now give to you, in about these words: “Hal, when we had done all we knew how to do, when we had our backs to the wall, then God gave us the revelation. Hal, if you want to get revelation, do your homework.” "
I think it's so important to remember that the Lord isn't just going to hand us answers to life's hardest questions on a silver platter. We have to work. We have to do our part. We have to show we really want it. And I know that when we do all we can do, when we lay it all on the line... that is when we get our answer and that is when we're able to find truth from God. I know that this is possible because I have experienced it myself. It's only after having my faith tried and tested and after I have done all I could do... that is when I get those answers. God loves us, He wants us to have answers and to grow in the process. 

Much love and prayers!
Motra Russell

Photos of the wonderful sisters in my district. Some clouds that were pretty cool. The Rogner Hotel with the best food ever! 

September 8, 2014

So yesterday. We were running late because of a lesson that went over (oh boy, one of my biggest weakness as a missionary... controlling chatterboxes ...) so we were literally running down the road to get to our next lesson (I fear this happens too often with me...hmmm). Right before we step inside their building, it starts pouring rain. We're not out too long, so it really wasn't that big of a deal. Once we're inside, their apartment is reeeaaallly warm and since we had been running, I am sweating up a storm... but I didn't realize how bad until their mom looks at me and says, "oh no! You're so wet from the rain! Let me get you a towel to dry off." ............... it wasn't from the rain..... ah the shame haha

This last week was so wonderful! And on top of it, it was also my birthday :) I turned 22!! Can you believe it? I know you can't... so just believe me.... I'm 22. Tweeeeennntttttyyyy ttttwwwwoooooo......................... okay. I'm 26. Don't talk to me about it. All the 19 year olds over here like to remind me that I started college when they were 12 haha

For my birthday, first off, can I just say that I have an amazing companion? She got ready that morning super fast so that she could make me a birthday cake. Are you kidding me? She's amazing. We later had district meeting. That was good and cool and stuff :) After we went to a hotel restaurant that was wow, amazing. Wow! I about died it was so good. And so fancy. I felt a little out of place :P We then taught some awesome lessons which was really wonderful of course. Later that night we had been invited to a members house for dinner and a lesson .... we get to her house and open the door and there's a little surprise party for me! 4 of some of my favorite people were there singing me happy birthday :) One of our recent convert's mom also made me a bunch of my favorite food, too. It was soooo sweet! I felt incredible loved and so grateful. They really were so thoughtful to do that for me, I couldn't even believe it. I am serving in a wonderful mission with some wonderful people :)

This last week has been full of so many blessings. I am so grateful to be here. I have learned so many incredibly valuable lessons that are going to affect my life forever. 
I've been thinking a lot lately about how much God's hand is in our lives... I've been seeing it so much in missionary work as well as in my personal life. I feel so often there are little things that the Spirit prompts us to do (that we may or may not understand) and when all is said and done ... we look back on these events and realize that they tied so much into the bigger picture along with a million other little things that all fit together perfectly to make a beautiful experience and a beautiful life. I'm learning more than ever to trust the Lord. Trust that He knows what's best for us, that His hand is in our life and that He truly is watching out for us. We have no need to question promptings, to question His will... we can trust that they will always be for our benefit and for our good. What a blessing it is to know that. So here's my challenge. Don't be afraid to follow a prompting, however confusing it might be... I've been amazed to find what beautiful things happen, even when following promptings that may seem difficult or a sacrifice. 
Trust in God. Trust that He loves you. Trust that He wants what's best for you.

Me të gjithë dashurinë time,
Motra Rasëll

Some pictures of some cool stuff. One of the members put chocolate frosting on my face and a banana on my head... dunno why... but it made me laugh haha Also a group picture, the frosting bandit is not in the photo, she "doesn't like pictures" ... how are we friends? I dunno.. but I still love her :) haha

September 1, 2014

So this last week was amazing! So many miracles happened. So many doors were opening. Our mission president has really been working with us to involve the Lord in our planning so that we do the work that He wants us to do, not just what we think we should do. And it has been leading to some incredible experiences. I've already learned so much from my President. I'm so excited I get to serve even more time with him. 

So this last week in church. I'm standing on the stairs with Sister Z. There are two floors of stairs above me. I step an inch to the side just in time for a wad bomb of spit to land on the ground inches away from me. I look up and there's a stinker little kid smiling proudly at his work. Gross. Good thing I love kids hahaha

One of our investigators, who prefers us to teach and talk to her in english (she likes to practice), was in church in Sunday. Afterwards I went up to talk to her. We talked about her day, her cute dress, how she liked church and then I stopped and said.... wait.... I've been speaking in Albanian this whole time..... YES! Point for me!! :D

We had an amazing experience with fasting this last week. We both felt prompted to fast about the work in our area and so we did. It opened up so many doors and so many blessings. I am so grateful for it. I wish I had more time to write about it all! But I will say that I have a strong testimony that God's hand is in our lives. That we may wonder why things happen they way do (or don't happen at all), but I know that God always has our best interest in mind and He will always lead us along if we allow Him to. 

Me të gjithë dashurinë time,
Motra Russell

Went to Krujë again today :) Super fun, here are some shots of it along with the inside of a really old mosk and supposedly one of the oldest olive trees in the world.