Monday, September 9, 2013

Letter #34: new country, new mission, new world.

my lovely family and friends!

As you know, I am now serving in Tirana Albania! I got moved from one capitol city to another! It is a completely world. I feel like I am in a completely different mission almost. Its so crazy how a 4.5 hour bus ride from country to country can really change everything! And I mean everything!
I am now serving with Sister Heathcote here in Tirana and it is a wild ride. We get along really well and things are going great. Let me just paint a picture for you..
Here in Tirana, it is a bustling city. The people drive like absolute crazy people. Like Dad's road rage times 4 billion. And thousands of them! It is seriously a miracle that people are able to get around without crashing. "Organized Chaos" some call it, but I think calling it "Absolute Madness with a bit of luck" is more appropriate. Another crazy thing. Its nuts because you will be driving on the main road and on the left will be a sweet, brand new $200,000 Range Rover, and on the left will be a horse and buggy heading back with their goods for the week, heading back to their village. Like, WHAT IN THE WORLD? Where am I? I could never have even dreamt up a place as crazy as this one. For reals.  haha. There is a lot of poverty here in Albania. Many people are good just with a loaf of bread and Kos, which is a form of sour yogurt. I have noticed that the hygeine here compared to Kosovo is drastically different! People actually bathe often in Kosovo. Here.. Welp. That's another story. 
There is just kinda a natural smell walking among large masses of people. Some people probably don't even know what a tooth brush, if they even have their teeth. Other have nice implanted fake teeth because their real teeth all fell out from rotting.. yuck.
But besides some of their cultural pit falls, they are some of the most loving people I have ever met in my whole life! All of the people we met this week have completely accepted me with open arms and they treat me as if I am already their daughter! It is such a blessing really. Sister Florez, the Sister who just left has been here in the area for 9 months and has formed some very strong relationships with the people, so I have some pretty big shoes to fill!
The work is so completely different here in Albania. We are always teaching teaching teaching! Lessons, lessons, lessons, all day long! It is the greatest thing ever. Although many people here still claim to be Muslim, they seem to be so much more open to listening and hearing us out. Meeting with some of these people for the first time was such a delight. I formed instant connections with just about all of them! The Lord is for sure blessing me to be able to relate to these people and make them feel comfortable around a new face.
Me and Lumturi. She insisted that we take a picture together.
She loves me, what can I say?
I love the people here. We met with many people who are returning back to activity and I hit it off with this one older lady named Lumturi, which means happiness in Albanian! She is the best. We went to visit her one night this week and our love was sparked after I made some joke with her.. It was so great to see her completely open up to me. She then insisted we came over from Lunch the next day, so we did! She made us delicious pasta and pulled out every photo she had in her house with her family. I later found out that she had never showed the Sister before me, Sister Florez, her photo albums! SCORE! I broke past her wall. 
We visited many families this week that fed us and loved the heck out of us. Two of my favorites that I absolutely fell in love with are the Toskas and the Deda Family! Both of them are returning families and they are both so dang strong. The Toskas have been through the temple and they have two adorable little children, 7 and 2. The 3 year old said the prayer as her dad told her the things to say! It was the most adorable thing to see a father teaching his daughter in the ways of truth. How cool it is to see families living the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Deda family is another family that I completely fell in love with. I connected with their niece as she is almost Domi's age and she loved me asking her about her fiance that is 3 years younger than her! haha. Geez these people are nuts. In the best way possible.. haha.
We made signs for two elders that got sick with some sort of food poisoning
 from Chimichangas and are in the hospital.. Poor guys..
The translation literally means, "Bless your stomach." haha.
It is an expression they use often to show appreciation.
For example.. "Të lumta dora" = bless your hands.
You say this to thank someone who prepared a meal.
Or after someone offers a beautiful prayer, you say, 
"Të lumta goja" which means "Bless your mouth". haha.
We thought it was very appropriate. The nurses gave a good laugh
because you would never really say that.. haha.
Funny story: We went into this meeting with a newly baptized member named Mehmet, and his loving wife, Lavdia, who has been a member for 5 years. She served us this delicious dessert that is like Baklava mixed with some sort of Byrek, and it was unreal. Along with this treat was some Coke. Everyone always serves us Coke. Its terrible. As I took a sip, I instantly got the hiccups because I am not used to drinking carbonation! RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR LESSON! haha. I did all I could to get rid of them, but every time I secretly held my breath to get rid of them, I would hiccup again. We were in the middle of teaching about Eternal Families, and as I started explaining the Family Proclamation a huge hiccup came out and everyone started busting up! We laughed for a solid minute and eventually they went away! Soooo embarrassing. haha. Hopefully that doesn't happen again.. 
Here is a pic of poor Elder Ferguson and Elder Anderson.
Poor guys. At least they had eachother for company right?
Church in Albania is amazing. It was such a blessing for me to be able to see an established church here function by itself without the missionaries! The entire room was filled will members. WOOOOW. I was in aweeee. But sheesh, is the culture sure different here! The music director, Sister Martiri, is this heavier lady that wears bright coral lipstick, and she is an opera singer. She got up for every song and belted her heart out! It was the funniest thing ever, but I had to hold back my laughter. Then to my right a woman pops out her boobie and started breast feeding her little 2 year old who wanted a little sippy!!!! ahhhh. I was completely in shock. bahahahah. I just pretended that it was completely normal and didn't look over.. YIKES. Talk about a culture shock! HAHAHA.
So yes. Things are going so amazing here in Tirana. The members here are so strong. Many of them have been members for 5 plus years and it is just a breath of fresh air to see people that understand the gospel and understand the importance of it! We are working to get those that have fallen away back into activation along with finding the new that are searching for the truth they are thirsting for. I am so excited to be a part of the work here in Tirana. It is going to be a wild ride. And I am super pumped for it!

i love you all so much. Thanks for the prayers and love every week! You are the best..
love your missionary,
until next week,

Motra Forte<3