Monday, May 27, 2013

Letter #19: Friends & Family!!!

Family and friends!
Aweeee.. you little stinkers! Seeing your beautiful pictures in Powell is making me so jealous! It looks like you are having such a blast! Live it up and take a wake board run for me will ya? haha. 
DOMI IS GRADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL NEXT WEEK!!!!! bahh.. My little baby sissy is growing up so fast!

Sister Forte's first train experience pictures!!!
A little update with me..Its a beautiful May Day in Kosovo today! It has been a little bit chilly the past couple days, but today is blue skies and is warming up! I love sunshine. :) We took the train to Pejë today and it was so awesome! It is the first time I have ever been on a real train other than trax and I am in Kosovo! haha. Sometimes I just have to pinch myself and remind myself, "Man, I am serving a mission in Kosovo right now!" haha. The train ride was so fun and we went through a few tunnels making the entire train completly pitch black! It was so fun. We made it here to Pejë and are now writing home before we head over to a beauitful gorge up in the mountains! I am so excited to go check it out!
Wow, so much has happened this week! Where do I even begin?

Sister Forte's first train experience pictures!!!
We started teaching this adorable girl named Genta who happens to be 2 of our members, Dona and Donika's, roommate! She came to one of our activities and said that she loved what was being taught. We have taught her the Restoration and also watched the Restoration Film with her. The Spirit was so strong in both meetings and I know that she was feeling it and she will continue to grow. It is such a beautiful thing to find someone that will come to a lesson to learn and believes what you say the first time you say it, versus arguing with you about why something is the way it is! So many people we meet with are just brain-washed really. They claim to be Muslim but don't pray in the Mosques ever and they are literally stuck in the traditions of their fathers. They need to have their hearts softened and come to a knowledge of their Savior. That's where we step in as missionaries! The Lord is preparing the hearts of those that we need to find right now, we just have to keep searching until we find those that are ready!
Sister Forte's first train experience pictures!!!

We are still teaching this great man named Agim and he is such a great guy! He is 48 and has a family with 4 children. The fun fact is, no one in his family, including his wife, know that he is meeting with us and taking the lessons! SKETCHY.. He needs to tell his family, but he says, "When they are ready, I will tell them! I do not want to disturb the peace in the family and have religion get in the way of our relationships, because they all are Muslim and have different ideas!" Funny thing though, because his daughter came home with one of our English Flyers and told her dad she was going to go to this "church" and learn English! I am sure his stomach just dropped! haha. Turns out his daughter will be learned a little bit of faith at the end of our English courses together with her father after all! haha. Funny how that works out!

New Born Mall sign in Prishtina! :)
On friday it was Sister Hoover's birthday and I did the best I could to make it the best birthday for her out here on the mission! I decorated a little post it sign for her and made her french toast in the morning! We went tracting that day at a pallat out on the north side of town, and boy.. let me just tell you, I officially had my first door slammed in my face, and 100% of the entire building was Muslim. We were able to give out 2 pamphlets, but everyone else would not even touch the pamphlet with Jesus Christ on the cover. One door we went to had this man that was living by himself and we told him that we had something that could bring him more happiness in his life. He quickly said, "I am Muslim and I have enough happiness, thank you." haha. Sheesh. These people are so hard headed! in Albanian we say, "kokefortë".. haha. Later that day we went out and had an awesome lunch at this restaurant I found called Gagi Cafe! It is so awesome and they have the greatest food. I told our waiter that is was Motra Hoover's birthday and I asked for the best dessert they had. He was so excited that it was her birthday and returned with 2 tres leches and two candles burning with the happy birthday song playing in English for the entire restaurant!!! hahaha. After she blew out the candles everyone clapped and it was so awesome!! It made her birthday fantastic.
As the summer is starting, many people are getting married and it is so fun to see the funny things that these people do for weddings. Basically, everyone gets all dolled up in their fanciest clothing, have some sort of marriage, then they take thousands of pictures with straight faces.. NO ONE SMILES! haha. Its so funny. Afterwards everyone hops in their car and drives around the city, following eachother in a train of cars, continuously honking for hours! haha. Its so fascinating. Lets just say I have not been able to effectively study very well on the days of the dasëms!

I love you all so much and I am so grateful for all of your support!
Thanks for being the best Cheering Section any missionary could ask for!!!

Love Sister Shauntel Louise Forte

Monday, May 20, 2013

Letter #18: I'm Walking On Sunshine

How are my favorite people doing?! I am still on my little cloud from Skype and nothing can bring me down from it! haha. Ever since, things have just been going so well, and I don't know if this is just coincidental, but it has been a beautiful sunny day ever since! 
Here is a pic i forgot to send last week!
This wicked awesome lion statue at the fountain!
So I wanted to tell ya a little more fun facts about this crazy place! So throughout the day, the water in my Apartment turns off 2 times, first at 12pm-4pm then at 10-6am the next morning! It is such a pain sometimes because I will go to wash my hands and the water is off! haha. But I can't be complaining now that I heard Ky in Nicaragua has to shower with a bucket everyday! THAT IS SO FREAKING NUTS!!!! 
Ya..Things are going just great here in the beautiful land of Kosovo! This really is such a special little place in this big world and I am so happy to be here doing the Lord's work! This week we had more people actually follow through and show up to their lessons and it was so much better!! It is always a little let down when people don't show up to their lessons because I know how important this knowledge is for them and for their lives! Not to mention their salvation! IF ONLY THEY KNEW!!! 
Thats the key I think.. We have to break the tradition of their fathers and helping them see a better way! Once we are given the opportunity to meet with someone, we have to let them know how much happiness the Gospel will bring to their lives, or they won't have any incentive to change. The blessings that come from the Gospel are indescribable! It brings such a great joy to my life and I know how much joy it will bring to the lives of these Kosovars!

Valmira went to prom and looked so beautiful! :)
We had two baptism dates with my two favorites, Dardania and Arberesha, and in our last lesson with Arberesha we had the greatest discussion about the Gospel. She has had all of the discussions and she knows everything. She says she knows it is all true! She believes it. She just has to decide! So we told her we are always here for her, and we will just be anxiously waiting for her until she decides she is ready! I know that she will get baptized.. One bright day!!!! That beautiful girl will know that this is what she has to do although it will be hard to go against the cultures of Kosovo and the Catholic tradition of her fathers! She mentioned that her whole life she has been fighting for Christ and the Catholic religion, so to completely change will be hard, but she will still be fighting for Christ! She knows everything! and she knows it is true! So all we can do now is wait! PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE!

As for Dardania, we are still working with her and we are going to continue preparing her until she tells us whether she is ready or not! She is in a slightly different boat than Arberesha, because she is still having problems believing in Christ. I have never realized how grateful I am for the blessing of simply just believing! It has never been an issue for me. My whole I just believed, and I just knew. It has been quite the struggle helping Dardania develop faith in her Savior. I have learned so much about the importance of faith as we have taught her! In our lesson last night with Dardania, we watched Elder Holland's beautiful talk about "Believing" from the April Conference, and it went absolutely PERFECT! We asked her if she has a desire and a hope for Him to be her Savior. She said, "Yes, yes! Absolutely!" Than we said, "That Dardania, tells us that you do have faith!" It caught her off guard a bit, but I think it was really good to help her realize that she does have faith! Hopefully it helped her to see it from a different point of view!

This is a picture with a few of the members and the
soldiers stationed at Bondsteel! They are all from utah!
Yesterday was the bomb dot com! So these crazy little children are always hanging out on the road around the corner from the church, and they have been coming to the church to play ping pong! We let them play one time... BIG MISTAKE.. Its like feeding a stray cat (haha, Alta.) IT NEVER GOES AWAY! haha. They have been coming back everyday to see if they can play and finally we told them that they couldn't, but we could teach them a lesson! Three of them were all over that idea and I was truly amazed at how open and willing they were to listen. The little girls were sisters named Laura, 9, and Ardonita, 11, and the little boy's name was Denis, 8 years old! Cutest right? The oldest little girl, 11-years-old, just kept saying, "I just want to know what church is the most correct!" umm.. OKAY! That does not just come out of every 11-year-old's mouth! This little girl is prepared. We taught them all to pray and the oldest prayed for us and gave the most beautiful prayer I have ever heard. She said, "Heavenly Father, we pray to you to thank you for everything we have and to ask you to help us know which church is the most correct, In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." It blew me away! Plus all of them are all eligible for baptism! We invited them to come to church the next day and to wear their best clothes they had. They were all so excited and said they would come! Sure enough, the next day all 3 of them, dressed in their best clothes they had, plus 2 other little boys showed up! How awesome it that? It was such an amazing experience to watch all of them try and be reverent and take the sacrament for the first time! ahhhh. This work is the best! On top of that, Ermia, Arberesha, and Dardania all came to church too!!! 8 INVESTIGATORS IN CHURCH BABY! Yeah, that never happens!
We are still working on finding more of the elect! Little by little, the Lord will make His mysteries known unto us!

Anyways, sorry for the novel, but I love you all so much and I hope you know that!
Sister Shauntel Louise Forte xoxo

Monday, May 13, 2013

Letter #17: How Sweet Is The Work.. :)

This fountain was absolutely incredible..
I feel like I am in Vienna or something
So yesterday was absolutely magical. Best Mother's Day I have ever had! That's for sure.. :) I was on cloud 9 all day, you have no idea!!!! Thank you for all of your beautiful words of encouragement and for being so awesome! After I got off with you I wiped away a few tears and just said, "Sheesh.. I seriously have the best family in the world!!!!!" Its so true. I really do!!!! Thank you for being the best support system any missionary could ask for! You are my angels :)
This is Alexander the Great..
oh and Sister Forte the great.. :)
So right now I am in Macedonia for P-day writing you this letter!! How awesome is that? haha. Yeah, its not every day of your life that you get the opporunity to go to Macedonia for the day! Woooo! Its overcast today, but it is still SO BEAUTIFUL!!! So they say on a level of class and poverty, Albania is the lowest, then Kosovo, then Macedonia, then Montenegro! I can totally vouch for that now.. Macedonia is stunning! They have all of these incredible statues that make me feel like I am in Italy or something.. Its amazing. We walked around the city for a while then we headed up to this fortress on the side of the hill! Us missionaries, being the rebels we are, broke in to a couple of the towers and climbed up to the top to look over the city! We walked around the whole fortress in an "off-limits" zone until 2 angry Macedonians started blowing their whistle at us and freaking out! hahah. OOPS. The Macedonian Elders were faking that they didn't understand what they were saying so we didn't get in any trouble and have to pay a fee.. haha. This whole language barrier sometimes comes in handy! If they would have responded in Macedonian, we would have had to pay up for trespassing.. haha. oopsies!
Here is a pic of the fortess and it looks over the city!
This week has been quite the week! I told you a lot yesterday, but I left out a few of the hard details! This week we got 7 new investigators.. Did you hear that correctly? YES YOU  DID! Seven new investigators baby! Yeah.. We were pretty stoked about it. We started teaching some girls that we found on the road, and some of them are showing a lot of interest. Here in Kosovo family is a huge deal in the Muslim culture and that is something that I really admire about them. We had a great talk and really focused on how the Family is central to God's plan and how the Lord gave us our families to learn, to grow, and to love. They were all on board with us and told us how much they all loved their families. We tied in how because the Lord loves us so dearly, he also sent His son, Jesus Christ, for us all to pay for all of the sins of the world so that we could one day return to Him. This concept is obviously something they have never heard before because they only consider Jesus Christ to be a good man, but I really feel that the Spirit was present and testified to them that this was true. All four of the girls we were teaching were so intently listening and I really feel that we pricked a part of their hearts and brought back some of the knowledge that they used to know. Its a beautiful thing to share the Gospel with these people, because as missionaries, we are simply reminding them of knowledge that they used to know before this life. They all will come to a perfect understanding one day, and I cannot wait for that great day!
This is looking over the city!
The poppy in my hair is from this beautiful patch of poppies
that are all over Macedonia right now! They are gorgeous!
On Sunday, we had pretty few numbers because many of our investigators and members went home to their villages for the weekend to be with their families. That has been one of the major struggles out here... CHURCH ATTENDENCE. Some of these people just don't understand the full importance of church yet, so that is something that we have to keep working on. We had 6 new faces show up to the church this week though.. and they were in uniform with an American Flag on their arms! They were soldiers from the base in Film City that just arrived this week from Utah!!! They brought their love from the US and were very kind to us. They also told us that 53 other Mormon soldiers had arrived as well! haha. Too bad our church is too small.. There is no way we could fit that many inside! One of the soldiers was so awesome and went around to introduce himself to all of the members and some of our investigators. He came up to me afterwards and said, I have done my homework a little bit before I came here, and I want to help in building up the church here in Kosovo! It was such an awesome thing to hear that this soldier wanted to take part in this work :)
I just wanted to tell you again how great of a joy it was to skype with you yesterday! Have the greatest week and know that your little girl in Kosovo thinks of you everyday! I love you forever!
Motra Forte

Monday, May 6, 2013

Letter #16: Strength Beyond My Own..

Oh family.. guess what?!! 
I get to call you next Sunday!!!!! 
(you can delete this part out of the email if you want)
So I am thinking that the best time will be for us to call you at 7:00 am your time, 3:00 pm our time and WE GET TO SKYPE!!!!! Yeahhhh baby!!!! So if that works for ya I definitely works for us! I don't want you to miss any church! hahaha. So plan on that! I am not sure how exactly it will all work out, but WAKE UP!!! WHO NEEDS SLEEP WHEN YOU CAN TALK TO YOUR FAVORITE PERSON IN KOSOVO??  haahha. Yes, so keep your phone on, your email on, and skype me to my user or my account.. I think it is something like, shauntel.forte.. haha. This is so terrible. I'm hoping it all works out! But it will be fantastic! I cannot wait to talk with you all! So I don't have much time to write this week, but its all good because I will fill you all in in 6 days!!! WOOO HOOO!!!!! If you cant tell, I'm just a little excited! haha.

So today our P-day was absolutely rockin!!! We went to these GORGEOUS water falls called Marusha Falls! Google it or something! It has around 12 cascades or something like that, but we only hiked up to the 5th one! It was unlike anything I had ever seen! So beautiful!!! Successful P-day, AGAIN!!! I think next week we are going to Macedonia for P-day! Whats up? haha. Im super excited! ahhh.. this keyboard has sticky keys and its real hard to type!

These pics are all from Marusha Falls!!!
IT IS A DREAM!!!!!!!!
This week was such a great week! I have become so close with all of our members especially Gjon and Valmira! They are the strongest people I have ever met and their faith is such a strong example to me. I am strengthened by them each time I meet with them. Both of them are continually growing in the Spirit and it is such a beautiful thing. We had a lesson with one of my other favorite members, Aida, and Gjon sat in, and lets just say the Spirit took over that lesson and was it was so evident that the prescence of the Spirit was there! We started talking about how the Book of Mormon and Prayer give us strength beyond our own, and I was able to share my experience as a missionary with the Strength of the Lord. I told both of them that there was no possible way I could do the Lord's work without the help of His directing hand that pushes me to keep moving forward. They both shared powerful experiences of how the Lord has strengthened them and it was so amazing. Both of them were just glowing with the Spirit and I am so lucky to have taken a part in hearing their testimonies and seeing how the Gospel has strengthened their lives. Gjon is progressing towards recieving the Preisthood, and he is literally a changed man. He is such a happier man and the light of Christ just shines from His eyes.

we found a turtle on our adventure!!!! hahaha.
alta will die laughing..
This week I have really recognized the hand of the Lord. He is hand-prepared one of our investigators. His name is Agim and he is fantastic. He is an older man that is Muslim but is open to learning about other religions. He has been reading the Book of Mormon as we have commited him and he loves it! HE IS EATING IT UP!!!! This is such a joy for me to see! We are actually teaching someone that wants to learn and wants to believe!!! It is such a blessing from the Lord. Having so much dissapointment and rejection gets pretty tough sometimes, but I have grown a thick skin. They ALL will one day know! That is the ultimate blessing.

I am so happy to be serving here in Kosovo. I am in love with the people! Each and everyone of our investigators and members. They are my second little family out here and it is such an increible thing to watch each of them grow in their faith in our Savior. I love missionary work! Although at the end of the day, after I have exerted every last bit of energy I can muster, and my body is absolutely exhausted it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done!

I hope you all of the best week and that things are going so great with everything! I CAN'T WAIT TO HEAR FROM YOU NEXT SUNDAY!!!!! BEST DAY EVER!!!!!
I love each of you with all of my heart!
Love Motra Forte