February 23, 2015

Seeing as I come home in the not too distant future... if any of you had an urge to randomly send me a letter, I wouldn't recommend doing it after a couple of weeks seeing as I won't be here by the time it will probably get here. Yup. That is all.

Also, I'm at that point when people are asking me why I'm still here. Bah. Come on people!

Also, also... I did the scariest thing I've ever done on my mission this last week. 
I, Sister Rasëll, in front of the whole branch during sacrament meeting...... sang a duet!!! Oh lanta! I totally, 100%, sang a Child's Prayer with one of the elders. Yes. That TOTALLY happened. I can totally do hard things :)

We went to a place called Krost (spelling?) for an activity. Did a fire, played games, had a spiritual thought. It was awesome. Even better, in the mountains ("mountains" ... more like hills) and there were pine trees and stars and mmmmm... the heart was happy.

I was reading from the Ensign the other day and read a talk "The Most Important Things" by Elder Corbridge. I really like this part that he brought up:

" “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. …
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).
While this may be understood as a declaration that we cannot comprehend the thoughts and ways of God, I think rather it is an invitation to think differently, to elevate our thoughts and, consequently, our ways to coincide with the thoughts and ways of God. He is inviting us to think as He thinks."
I really liked that. A lot. A lot a lot.
Then I was thinking about how we can elevate our thought to be like that of God's, how we can match ours to be like His.
(oh man, I wanted to write so many cool things about this but I'm totally out of time!)
I was thinking about how scripture study (read Alma 31:5) and prayer (read Bible Dictionary Prayer) both help us to learn the will of God and change ourselves to match Him.
Study this out. It's really wonderful. A wonderful topic for how we can change ourselves to match the will of God. And I know that when we are willing to practice our agency to willingly give our wills to God, we are so much happier and so much more at peace.

Much love,
Motra R

Some cool pics that I don't have time to describe haha

February 16, 2015

I had the best valentines day of my whole life!!!!! 
Because our investigator with the family problems got BAPTIZED!!! WWWWOOOOO!!!!! :D
I don't think I've ever seen someone so happy to get baptized. And her testimony after she was baptized was just amazing. This whole experience with her family strengthened her so much. As difficult as it was for her, I'm so grateful she had it. I was able to watch it build her into something so much greater. 
Speaking of...
We spent hours and hours going to her house with members this last week before she was baptized because they were telling her that if she kept going to church, she was going to be kicked out of the house.... so we tried to help her as much as possible (because she was determined to still get baptized!) by bringing over members to talk to them so that they could understand that the church really isn't a bad thing, it's a good thing. We were barely making any progress until the end of the last visit... a miracle happened and her grandpa said yes to it all! He gave her his blessing to get baptized and said that as long as he was living, she would never be kicked out of the house. 
An absolute miracle :D
She came to her baptism with her family telling her to have a good time. She had full support and I've never seen her happier.
It really is a testimony builder to me that trials make us stronger. We may not realize this in the midst of hard times, but it's true. The refiners fire is real and makes us so much better than we could be on our own. I was able to watch it so clearly with our investigator. She didn't see it, but we saw it and I'm so grateful for it. 
God loves us. Isn't that a wonderful and beautiful thing to know? :)


February 9, 2015

I don't even want to talk about how little time I have left :( Aaaaaaahhhhh..... it goes by too fast. I literally feel like I was on an airplane trying to talk to a cute, old albanian lady sitting right next to me but having no idea what she was saying like yesterday... these precious moments just fly.

We have a less active member we've been working with for a while and we've visited her maybe 4 or 5 times now. And every time she prays, she says the same thing. "Please bless Sister Tengu..... *long pause as she tries to read my name tag but can't because she's not wearing her glasses* ........ and the other sister who's name I forgot." hahahahaha it makes me laugh so hard every time! I have told her my name countless times, I guess it just isn't sticking :P

Our investigator that's had family problems has her baptism scheduled for this week! Pray for her :) We're going over with ward members in hopes to show them that hey, we're not all that bad! I really really hope and pray it will be a good experience. A heart changing experience. She needs her family back on her side. 

I was thinking a lot about pride the other day... it's an interesting sin. I was thinking about why pride is so bad. And a thought came to my mind... Pride cuts off the channel between us and the Lord. It denies Christ and the enabling power of His grace because we are relying only on ourselves, on our wisdom, on our judgement instead of God's. Humility opens that channel. It allows us to accept the Atonement into our life and to openly use it in our life because we are relying on One knows so much better than we do. 

Much love and many prayers,
Motra Russell

What I eat every week, it's the best thing ever having cheap fruit markets everywhere!
The view behind our church.
Some fantastic people I absolutely love!


February 2, 2015

So I've discovered that I'm allergic to kiwis.... something about how my mouth catches on fire when I eat them... but I don't even care, kiwis are so good! I'm obsessed :D

We had a combined zone conference this last week. It was basically a mission conference minus about 10 companionships haha But wow was it amazing! I love our mission president, he's incredible. We also got an awesome surprise and got to see the Meet the Mormons documentary! It was so good! I felt so proud to be a mormon :D Those were some pretty amazing people on that film. And lastly..... and worstly.... I had to give my departing testimony................... ug. I don't even want to talk about it, I still have 2 months okay! Sheesh... 

I love listening to people's prayers in lessons. I feel they are incredibly revealing as to where someone is spiritually. We were in a lesson with a member who is less active and struggles with acting. She said the opening prayer and didn't really thank God much but sure asked for a whole lot of blessings. Then, at the end of the lesson when we invited her to come to church, she said that she would come ... unless it was raining, then she wasn't coming.... it made me think.... How often do I ask God to give me everything but then am unwilling to give HIM everything? We ask for unconditional blessings but then make our obedience conditional. It made me rethink how dedicated I was to making God's will my own...

Oh! Also! Remember the girl who's family is anti church/baptism? She was in church this last week!!!! YYYYEEESSSSSS!!!! I cannot even begin to express how happy I was, point of tears happy. It was amazing! She sacrificed to come and it blessed her so much and now she's that much closer to getting baptized! It was an amazing Sunday :D

Much love!

Okay, more sunrise pictures... I swear, they just get better and better every morning!
Shots of Elbasan from on top of the castle :)

January 26, 2015

This last week was rough and wonderful all at the same time. It's the beautiful moments that make the hard moments okay. And it's the growing from the hard moments that makes it all completely worth it.

A really cool moment. We have a new investigator who is just a rock star. She is awesome. After our first lesson on the restoration, we invited her to pray about Joseph Smith to know for herself if it was all true what we were telling. Ya know, how missionaries usually do :) Our next lesson we asked her if she had prayed. She said she had. We asked her what happened. After a pause, she looked at us and said that she had received an incredible answer.... she said the moment she started to pray, it felt like the Lord was standing with her and she had an incredible feeling in her heart confirming that it was all true. The spirit was amazing in that lesson. I think it's the most wonderful blessing that we each can find out for ourselves if this message is true. I get to share with everyone that because of God's love for each of us, He has called another prophet on the earth and Christ's church has once again been restored. Not only is this an incredible message, but I can promise someone with 100% confidence that if they have a true desire to know and have real intent to act on the answer they receive, they WILL get an answer to their prayer that our message is true. Sooooo amazing. PS- She's getting baptized the end of February, woo!

Our other investigator is still in a battle against her family to get baptized :( The desire is there and still going strong though, so I'm not too worried... it's just a matter of time :)

I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have to be here as a missionary. I knew I would learn and grow from my mission. If you put in your part, that's to be expected. But I never realized how much of a significant impact and influence it would have on my life. I had no idea to what extent this mission would impact my life. I look back on my mission and am in awe with how much God has blessed me. I have a treasure trove of experiences that have changed my life forever that I will be able to draw from for the rest of my life. I will forever be grateful that I had an opportunity to serve here in Albania.

Ju dua shumë!
Motra Rasëll

Not much variety on pictures this week... just a bunch of different sunrises that I took haha, I liked the sunrises this week? The other is the view from a little game cafe, get a drink and play some games, it was super fun and a gorgeous view! I attached a picture of some of playing games... Elder Anderson is making fun of my thumbs up :P


January 5, 2015

Pogradec, a city we visited last pday. Apparently it has one of the oldest lakes in the world.
Some shots of the village our investigators lives in. Oh! And did I mention that Pogradec had SNOW?!


January 5, 2015

Let me just say that I am absolutely in LOVE with Elbasan! I've only been here a week and I already love it so much. The city is beautiful, the people are amazing, it's just wonderful :) I'm happy I get to be here for the last little bit of my mission.

Random things that happened this week:
Our landlord made me drink a spoon full of olive oil to get rid of my cold......I wouldn't recommend it haha
My mission president sent me a text that he hoped I was feeling better from being sick. How cool is that? It made my day.
I got to drive to one of our investigators house that lives in a nearby village and the drive was absolutely stunning. We drove between hills filled with olive trees just as a fog had rolled in at sunset.... I was so happy. It made me so grateful for the beautiful life that God has given me.

Okay, not much has happened since I wrote like... 3 days ago haha So I think I'll just leave with a spiritual thought and some pictures.

I ready the other day "Free Forever, to Act for Themselves" by Elder D. Todd Christofferson. It's an incredible talk about agency and our personal accountability in life. I just loved it.My favorite line was...
"...God will not act to make us something we do not choose by our actions to become." 
I know this is true. Agency is such a precious gift that God will never take it away from us. We all have such great potential, God wants us to become like Him... but we have to choose for ourselves. I know that it is possible. Everything is possible when we turn to God... but we have to do our part. We have to choose by our actions... just having faith, thinking about it, etc... isn't enough, we must act. But once we decide in our hearts to change, to allow God to mold us into something greater than we could've on our own... beautiful things happen. Amazing things happen. 
This gospel is a gospel of becoming. It's made possible through Christ, we just have to reach out and accept the gift.

Much love!

The view from my apartment. Some pretty lame shots of new years fireworks, they totally don't do it justice... just keep in mind I have a super wide lens....


January 4, 2015

So, I forgot my card reader, that stinks, no pics... sorry about that :)

I got transferred! ... there's an explanation point on that sentence, but I was actually pretty sad about it haha... I was only in my other area for 1 transfer and I love Tirana, so it was super hard to leave... now I'm in Elbasan serving with Sister Tengu, a native to Albania. I know what you're thinking, oh boy! She's gonna be so good at Albanian! However.... she speaks really good english... sooo... we'll see haha I try to speak in Albanian a lot, it ends up being 50/50... I'm excited for language study though! And golly, I have a walking dictionary with me always! So that's pretty cool :)

So, New Years... I have literally never experienced anything like it before in my entire life ... there has been some really strong wind lately. So strong that it will shake our building (we're the 9th floor). Between the building shaking and the constant explosions starting at about 4 pm, there were times I could have very easily confused it for our building actually exploding haha
I also sleep right next to a door that leads to the balcony. It's an all glass door so you can easily see outside. I woke up at midnight to gigantic fireworks exploding at eye level about 15 feet away from my face. Looking outside the window, there were fireworks exploding everywhere, and I mean everywhere! And these weren't little fireworks... I'm talking the big, Forth of July, up in the sky kind of fireworks. They were being shot up, down, sideways, between buildings, above buildings, in the streets, from people's windows, it was insane! There was not a place that you could look where there were no fireworks. Normally for a firework show, it's like this ... POP.... *pause* ... POP POP ..*pause*.. POP ..*pause*... POP POP POP ......... etc... and the grand finally of a bunch of fireworks for a few seconds... this was a constant, never ending stream of POP POP POP POP POP POP POP... the explosions just never ended! .....golly, firework shows will never be the same hahaha

Saying goodbye to people on your mission is probably the worst thing in the entire world... I hate it, so so so much. Anyways, there's an elderly less active member that we were working with in the area that I just got transferred from. Honestly, I didn't think we really meant that much to her. I knew she liked us, but ya know, just kind of eh about us. We visited her once a week and she's been coming to church pretty consistently now and is soon to be active again which is super exciting! Anyways, Monday night we were saying bye to people. We were about to go in and finish our studies (it was a normal work day) but we felt that we should say bye to her. We went over and told her we were leaving and how much we loved her and wow..... she was devastated. She said she's been so lonely and we've been the only people she's had, that we've become her girls to her and that she looked forward to us coming over all the time. That we've always been there for her and helped her to not feel lonely... I literally had no idea how much of an impact we had on her. It shocked me really. This whole time, I thought we were hardly making a difference to her when in reality we had meant everything to her. It just made me think of the scripture, "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass..." (Alma 37:6) Sometimes we have no idea what kind of a difference we're making in other people's lives, for good or bad.... I hope we're doing those little things to make a big difference in other peoples lives for the better. The kind that touches their hearts forever and we may not even know :)

Love you all!