Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Letter #72 Ready or not...

My loved ones.
So I am sad to say that this is the last time I will be writing you as Sister Shauntel Forte and it is all super bitter sweet. I would like to thank good ol' Nelly Furtado for her words, "why do all good things come to an end"? This song seriously has been on constantly replay in my head and I cannot stop it! I can't believe that my time has come. My bags are almost packed. I'm almost ready to go. But am I? I have been in a constant battle with myself the whole past week and I just cannot control my emotions! My hourglass is down to the last few grains and I cannot slow any of them down anymore.
Some of my favorite sisters with cute Sister Ford :)
Like I said, this week has by far been the most emotional week of my entire mission and I think I can official self-declare myself as bi-polar with all of these overwhelming mix of emotions--Feelings of joy, feelings of sorrow, feelings of anxiousness. You name it. I have felt it! I have heard even from the very beginning of my mission that this is how I would feel at the end of my mission, but I had trouble believing it. Now I am seriously living exactly what "they" always said! It does not feel real in the slightest, but ready or not, HERE I COME BABY!!!!!! 

Most of the sisters in our mission!
Tonight we are having a "farewell" for all of the departing missionaries here in Fier, but with me it is all a bit different because I am finishing my mission. I am expecting to shed a few tears, but I am going to try my best to keep it all together. Gosh mom! What did you do to me?! haha. I definitely am becoming more and more like you each day! 

My wonderful companion, who is literally my best friend, mind you, gave me some comforting counsel from one of her buddies that just recently finished his mission as well. He said, "I hate endings. I hate change. Yet without the two the Gospel really has no purpose in our life." This is a true statement. As much as I hate change. As much as I hate endings. I am more sure now than I have been that the Gospel is just a constant cycle of change and endings. This is how we grow! Through change, we are put in a situation where the Lord tests who we really are and our true character. I know that this wonderful chapter of my life has to have an ending eventually so I can truly grow and see how much I have changed throughout this experience.
Me and the gorgeous Sister Schofield!
 She is my lover from Macedonia ;) 
Best exchange ever this week!
I can't find all of the words to explain the overflowing joy I am feeling at this time, but I just want to testify that I know the decision of serving a mission was the absolute best decision I could have ever made in my life. Having the experience to work right along-side the Lord and find His elect sheep has been the most incomparable privilege that is available in this life. I am sure of it. The most beautiful thing of this entire experience is that before my mission, I believed. Now I know. I know for a surety, that everything I had believed growing up in the church is all true. It is more of a reality than we can even come to comprehend. I know the Lord lives. I know He loves me and loves all of His children. I know that it is through Him that we are made alive. It is through Him that we are made free. And it is through Him that we will all live again. I know that His church has been restored to the earth and if we abide by His precepts, we will find eternal happiness. This is my testimony and I leave it with you until that lovely day comes when I will wrap my arms around all of you!!!!! I think it is appropriate to say that I say all of these things in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
love your love,
for the last time,

Sister Forte<3

Letter #71 translate me: puci puci :*

So first of all, I feel like a terrible person for having to do this but...
Happy belated birthday dad and dylan and uncle jared!!!!!!!! and
happy fathers day on the 15th daddy!!!!! ;)
Yeah, last Monday I completely spaced writing you all even though I didn't forget about you and your birthdays!!! I hope you still love me and accept my apologies.. Jordan is the better missionary bahahah.

we went to a gorgeous natural spring called blue eye today, 
and boy!!! was it a beauty! 
Day by day I am literally overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge and understanding that the Lord gives me as I serve Him. Lately I have been pondering a lot about all of the things I have learned throughout this journey, and the list would take far too long to write out into words, but I have come to understand the concept of line upon line, precept upon precept. At the beginning of the mission, I was amazed at the knowledge I gained in the MTC, and now after weaving a piece of the Lord's beautiful tapestry here in the Adriatic South Mission, I can see that those many lines have added up to create something beautiful and have not only helped others change, but have helped to create the woman I hope to be today. 
As I was doing my personal study I came upon these beautiful verses that I fell in love with:

2 Nephi 30: 5-6
5 And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers.

 6 And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a delightsome people.

the oh so appropriate kissy face with sister kokol!
 and of course elder morava jumped in 
and bombed it! hahaha. i love them
Is that not beautifully said? As we learn the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our perspective of life is changed and widened. We are enabled to take a peek out of the lenses of God. To make a beautiful connection to my inspiring sister's email last week, we understand more about our divine potential and our eternal progression! The scales of darkness, or misunderstanding fall from our eyes and we can see. It is through Christ that we are given our sight. He is everything. He is the reason that we do all things, and as we come to know Him, we become a delightsome people! Um, yeah! This is the reason I am a missionary people! I want everyone to be healed from spiritual blindness and rejoice in Christ! What a special calling we have as His servants! Forgive me for getting carried away! haha.
Rronjë and Skëndër have made great progression this week as we can literally tell they have been reading the Book of Mormon together. It is so cool to see that twinkle in the eye flip on as they begin their journey unto Him. I love these two so much. They are like my Albanian Aunt and Uncle! They had us over for lunch this week and literally had a feast.. I couldn't do it. They wanted me to eat everything and I thought I was near death. hahaha. Everything was awesome except for the lamb meat. I can't do it man! I thought I was a trooper and could handle it, then oops.. I had to hold myself back from gagging. Yikes. I guess I am still a spoiled American at heart after all. haha. What do ya do?

Well i just want you people to know how much i love you all and how much I love my Savior! I know He is our salvation and our rock. As we draw nearer unto Him, He will draw nearer unto us. I love being His servant and having the privilege to work in the little city of Fier ;) There is no other work that trumps this one!

Love your friendly missionary,

Motra Forte<3 

Letter #70 FUTBOL

My apologies to you all. I am so sorry this letter is getting to you a day late, but yesterday the internet went out and we had to drive to Macedonia, so I didn't get a chance to send this out.  How are my babies doinnnn? I am so excited for your trek and hope that you have good weather! :)
This week has been a mad house with the World Cup going on and what not! Soccer here is seriously HUGE! And all of Albania is going crazy over it! Woo hoo! It is a fun thing to be a part of because we hear the scores every single day from everyone we meet! With all of this commotion and excitement, I had an idea pop into my head...
My good ol' friend once said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." haha, thanks Forrest, thanks. But I am going to change this idea a bit. Life is more like a soccer game. Good versus evil. Our actions and choices that we make determine which team we are playing for. I once read this great scripture mastery verse in the Bible that said,  "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Luke 16:13.
Now this scripture has been taken to a whole new level. We can only serve one master. We can only satisfy one coach. We can only score points for one team. Therefore, Who's side are we on? The Lord's or Satan's? I will tell you one thing. We already know that outcome of the match, so the decision is pretty easy. We are on the Lord's team! So we better play to our full potential because we only got one shot. We got to give our all all of the time! Because we never know when the ref is going to blow his whistle. 
That was just a little thought I had throughout the week and I hope that you guys followed my little brain waves. haha. So I know you are at Trek right now but I hope you all have a blast and push those handcarts real good ;)
I love you guys so much and just cannot even explain how excited I am to see you beautiful people. BLAHHHHHHH! ONE WEEK!!!!!!!
It's back to work my friends. Until next week ;)
love yours truly,

Motra Forte<3

Letter #69 And then there were threee.

C'kemi familja ime!!!
Can you believe we are somehow all the way down to 3 weeks left? I seriously cannot.. I am trying to remain as calm and focused as I can, but I am also trying to do all of the things that I haven't had time to do so I can feel fulfilled when I get home! I deserve a pat on the back for calmness, if I do say so myself ;) ITS NOT REAL.
So the greatest thing happened this week! We had an exchange with the wonderful sisters serving in Kosovo and it was the greatest thing ever! :) We not only got to spend a day with our MTC companions (yes, Sister Kokol with Sister Curtis, and me with Sister Hawkins-ironic or what?) but it was the best exchange ever. It felt so good to be back in Prishtina where I got to see all of my old friends, and also to see how the work has grown there. It obviously is still really small but it is growing! :)
We are still teaching Lavdosh's parents and they are learning and growing little by little. They really want to be baptized in the sea, so we are going to make it happen. Absolutely. I couldn't leave my mission without seeing a baptism in the Adriatic Sea, right?
I have learned so much throughout this spiritual sojourn, but one thing that is a fact is that people's hearts are changing here. People are coming unto Christ. People are understanding and learning and growing! Skender and Rronje grew up in the generation where religion was nonexistent. During the time of Communism all of the churches were completely destroyed and the people were thrown in jail if they even spoke a word about God. Enver Hoxha made them believe that they must worship Albania as their religion. He cut God completely out of the picture. Now that the church has been here for 20 years it has built up a strong foundation and is changing the lives of many. The older generations are usually the hardest to convince because of their traditions and their sad past, but Skender and Rronje are different. They are so humble and so willingly to learn more about their God. It is the most beautiful thing to see these people come from absolutely no belief in God, to developing a personal relationship with Him through the Book of Mormon and Prayer. 
They were unable to come to church yesterday because they had a funeral of a family member to attend to, but they promised they would be there next week!
Other than that, all is good in the hood! ;) Everything is about the same but we are still working hard to find those that the Lord has prepared for us.
This week we are trying to focus on being fully commited to the Lord and helping our people we are working with to do the same. In Alma 23:5-6 we read about the Anti-Nephi-Lehites conversion to the faith and how they were so converted to the Lord, that they never did fall away!

5 And thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord, yea, thousands were brought to believe in the traditions of the Nephites; and they were taught the records and prophecies which were handed down even to the present time.

 6 And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.

Wow. This is the exact faith and conversion that we all must develop in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We must be truly converted. We know that He will never fail us or forsake us, so why would be ever do the same to Him. We can all develop this conversion in the Lord if we just trust in Him and make His will ours. THATS ALL WE HAVE TO DO! 

Yeah, basically I just want to you know how much I love being missionary and coming to understand the ways of the Lord. There really is nothing else better. Ahhhhh, I love you guys so much and pray for you alwayyyyys.
Keep praying for us too! :)
Love your girl,
Sister Forte<3

ps. I forgot my camera today but next week the pictures will be coming your way ;) loves loves loves

Letter #68 Peace, be still.

This missionary is back on track baby!
yeah. it doesn't get much better ;)
So I won't lie. Last week was a bit of a downer. I am not sure exactly why, but I think that Satan was really trying to bring me and Sister Kokol down.. I have three words to say to that... AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN!!!!!!!
Me and Sister Kokol are going strong and we are trying to find the elect that God has prepared for His gospel. They really are out there and we have the faith to find them.
welcome to lake ohrid. heaven on earth!!!!!
This week has been awesome. The Lord has been working with us in a very close way this week. I have really come to understand the ways that the Lord works and communicates with us through His spirit. The scriptures tell us that the Spirit communicates with us through our feelings and our thoughts. The words seem so simple, but to feel and recognize the power of the Spirit is a whole different ball game. In this life we have so many distractions--noises and plans and people and activities and music and movies and games and i-phones and commotion all around us 24-7. Do we ever take a moment for ourselves to listen to the silence? This week we had an amazing broadcast for the YSA from Elder Ballard and it was very powerful. He discussed this very thing and encouraged us to find take those moments of silence and listen to the Spirit. 
take two. I love these girls. haha.
I have been prayerful to find the people that are ready. Then one day walking down the street, I had the epiphany that we should meet with Lavdosh, a recent convert's parents! At first I thought, hmmmmm. Maybe? Maybe not.. Then I realized that these thoughts were not my thoughts, but were thoughts given to me through the Spirit. 
We met. They accepted. And now they are on a baptismal date for the 7th of June. WHAT? 
Beatles attempt take one.
Yeah. That is the power of God manifested my friends. He is real. He is with us and working with us every step of the way if we rely on Him and not in the arm of man. This is His work. The field is white and all ready to harvest ;)

Sorry for the short letter this week.We went to the most beautiful place today, Lake Ohrid in Macedonia! bahhhhhhh. What a beautiful sight to see! I love my mission. 
I hope you all have a lovely week and remember who you are ;) until the next one.
love your guts,

Sister Forte<3

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Letter #67 how firm is your foundation? ;)

Familja ime e dashur,
Sa shumë qe ju dua juve. Jam e habitur cdo herë qe unë flas me juve sepse mbaj mend sa shumë që t'ju dua. Ju jeni njerëz më të mirë në botë dhe jam shumë mirënjohëse për juve në jetën time. Pa fund. Ju jeni inkurajo ime që më mbeshtet gjatë javës dhe s'mund të shpjegoj apo përshkruaj dashuria ime për juve. (hint:use google translate)
This week was a real whirlwind and came and went faster than I could blink! I cannot even believe how quickly my time is running out. Its as if I am watching the sand time run out, and I cannot slow it down. Neither can I slow this work down. There is so much going on, and there is still so much work for me to do!!! 

We are working with Anisa still and she is the cutest thing ever. She has so much sincerity but just seems to be a bit scared of commitment so she is still without a baptism date. As the Spirit continues to work with her, I know that she will come around. She is a very special girl. This week we are going to find, find, and find some more! I know the Lord has people anxiously waiting to find everlasting happiness. Who wouldn't want it?!

Today we went to my favorite city in all of Albania, Berat! 
The city of a thousand windows! :) It was such a blasttttttt. This is my ballin' district ;)
Last night I was woken up by an earthquake in the middle of the night as my bed rocked back and forth and our closet rattled against the wall. It wasn't a very strong earthquake to scare me too badly to get up and run under the door frame, but it was big enough to disturb my slumber. haha. It was pretty crazy. The Elders on the other hand live in a quite unstable building made of brick and Elder Morava told me their whole building was rocking back and forth! He was a bit freaked out and hopped right out of bed to safety just in case.
This led me to think about the little ways Satan tries to tempt us rock us off our path. He tempts us in such a way that we hardly even notice a change. Everything seems okay at first until you realize that you are completely sucked into his sly trap. In reality, his ultimate desire is to knock us off our spiritual paths. He will do everything in His power to rock us into despair, but as we are close to our Father in Heaven and build our foundation on the Lord, Jesus Christ, we cannot fail. Just like in Helaman 5:12.
 12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon  the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
Satan will send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shaft in the whirlwind, but when his mighty storm shall fall upon us, we will not be dragged down. Why? Because of the rock upon which we are built. Which is a sure foundation. Whereon if men build, they cannot fall! This is the truth people. If we just trust in the Lord and deny ourselves of all ungodliness, Satan cannot have any power over us. More and more throughout my life, I have become more aware of the forces of good and evil. Just like the forces of good in evil depicted in Star Wars and Harry Potter. haha. Cheesy but so true. Although they are depicted in a worldly different way between Harry Potter and Voldamort and Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, they are both displaying the reality of good and evil. We are in a war right now. A spiritual war between Satan and his team, but it is a war that if we choose it, it has already been won! Christ made it all possible for us to overcome all things. If we stay on His side, we will always win. Wickedness never was Happiness, and Righteous always brings about the Victory. We will be victorious as we place our faith in Christ and build upon Him as our rock.

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that it is the only key to our temporal happiness and our eternal happiness in the life to come.
i love you people so dang much. You better know that!!!! Have the best week and keep smiling! :D
love your missionary,

Sister Shauntel Forte<3

Monday, May 12, 2014

Letter #66 i am the captain of my soul

Oh my beautiful family.
Skype is the world's best creation. I have been on cloud 9 ever since people! 
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. This is true. And I am the first to admit that I miss you people like crazy. That "one day", whenever it may be, will be a magical day.
With all of that said, I am even more committed, now more than ever, to serving the Lord Jesus Christ and I am going to continue to work hard until the buzzer rings! I love being a missionary. I love what I do and really wish I could do it forever.. Member missionary work? I think YES!
I have had a few cool impressions throughout the week that I thought I would share with you.
I am reading Jesus the Christ and I am absolutely in awe with the glorious plan of happiness that our merciful Lord has prepared from the foundation of the world. A vital piece of this beautiful plan is the loving gift of our free agency that our Father has given us. I have never thought about how grateful I am for the ability to choose my happiness. The path is laid clear. We literally have the opportunity to choose our destiny. What truly matters is what we choose to do with that agency.
Back in high school I learned this poem called "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley and the final couplet in the end is so applicable to the plan of salvation. It goes like this:
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 
William Ernest Henley
Is that not the truth? The Lord has entrusted us to make decisions by ourselves through the help of our Spiritual guides: the prophet and his apostles, the scriptures, church, and prayer. If we hold on strong with unshakable faith to these precious resources, we will never go astray. If we hold fast to the Rod of Iron, we will always stay on course. One truth that continues to ring true to me is that our Heavenly Father loves us. He wants us to succeed. He wants us to obtain His happiness and it is made possible when we use our agency the way it was meant to be used. To bring us happiness! When His will becomes our will, it is then that the Lord takes over and He directs our souls. As for me and my mission, I want Him to be the captain of my soul! The final stretch is going to be the most rewarding!
Well I am not going to write a ton this week because I think you got enough of me yesterday, but those thoughts were just on my mind. I love you guys so much. Thank you for being the best cheering section any missionary could ask for. Me and Jordan are sure lucky to have such an awesome family supporting us while we are out here in the Lord's vineyard!
I love you guys to the moon and back!

love Sister Shauntel Louise