Monday, February 3, 2014

Letter #53 I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ

Me with the twins after their baptism! They were both glowing! :)
They also wanted to wear the Elders ties. Precious!
Can I just simply start out with a shout out? My girl Kenzie Dawn Holmes is now engaged to my boy Andrew Hawks!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHH! I am so excited for the two of them! Congratulations my dears! I just love ya ;)

How was Maui babyyyyy? Dang, these pics mom is sending me look so wonderful! You all are tan and beautiful! How jealous am I!!!!! Nahhh, I know I will be there next year :)

This week just flew by, like all the rest, and I am pretty much flabergasted that it is February. Didn't I just wish you all Happy News Year? Oh wait. Yeah. I did! I am completely tripping out to see the time cruise on past! The work here is going.. its going, going, going, gone!
All in white! What a beautiful sight! haha.
My adorable little Sister Sejati leaves our tri-panionship this week and me and Sister Wendt are so sad. I can't bear the thought of sending her away from us. We have all become to close as friends and are always laughing and having a ball together. I just love them both!
This work is going well here in Fier! This week the Elders had a baptism of two twin brothers, Stivi and Flori! They are awesome boys, but crazy as a 16-year-old boys are. We had a family home evening night over at there house and I felt like I was messing around with Cameron and Dylan all over again. It was so much fun! 
Their baptism was awesome and the spirit was so strong. Both of the boys are around 6'3 so dunking them was quite the task! haha. 
As for our investigators, we are working on weeding out the unprosperous weeds and working on building up the flowers! I really feel like we have some good seeds to work with here :)

This is the Fier Fabulous Five plus our wonderful Senior couple and the Malaries! 
 They are a wonderful mother and son that are old-time-members. They are moving to Italy.. so sad! :(
It is so interesting how I happen to learn one big thing every week that I have been out here on the mission. This week was a special one that completely struck me.I have come to really come to appreciate the wisdom of youth. Yesterday in church, this cute 11-year-old boy, Davidi Avdiaj, gets up to bear his testimony and said to the congregation, "The Elders and Sisters can't be the only ones inviting people to church! We need to be inviting our friends and telling our family about what makes us happy." Dang. I was so impressed by this little boy. It was hands-down the best testimony and exactly what the branch needed to hear.
 It directly tied together with what I learned from my personal study this week. I am reading in Romans right now and I came across this wonderful scripture from Paul in his valiant ministry.

Romans 1:16
 16 For I am not aashamed of the bgospel of Christ: for it is thecpower of God unto dsalvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

 Isn't that beautiful? Paul put it so simply and he said it boldly. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. As I look at my life before my mission, I was always so timid and shy to tell people what I believed. I would literally avoid the subject to avoid feeling uncomfortable when it came to religion. Now that I have been out for over a year now, I no longer have to be shy or reserved when talking about my beliefs because I now know with a surety that these things I am preaching to these wonderful people are 100% true and are of God. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I am proud to say that I am a follower of Christ, and this is His glorious gospel restored on the earth for all those that will have faith and believe in Him. What a simple and glorious message. And I have the privelage of teaching it every single day. ("errrrrr day, errrrrrrr day"--by some unknown rapper)

I hope you all have a great week back home and that this great little message touches you like it touched me. We are responsible for sharing His light. I just love you all lots! I hope you never forget it! :)

143 I la la la love you!
Sister Shauntel Forte<3

Letter #52 on an island in the sun..

So I know I am not more fun than your island in the sun, but I hope I you can take a minute between pina coladas to remember your white missionary in the cold humid Albania. haha.

we went to the beach for p-day again and played futbol!
real chilly today but really fun! this is my cute tri-panionship!
I got onto email today and my sweet Hermana Forte got her visa baby!!!!!! Bah, it was impeccable timing because she leaves in an hour for Argentina! Ahhh, I love how things work out so nicely! :)

Well to start things off on a funny note, I got pulled over for my first time in Albania and it was the funniest experience of my life. Such a joke. So this is how it works. There are policia officers that stand on the side of the road in yellow vests and when they want to pull you over, they hold their lolly-pop waver thing at you and you are just expected to stop! hahah. It is the most classic thing ever! Really you could just drive right on by! So anyways, I am driving fairly quick on the autostrot and all of the sudden, here comes the lollipop! I wasn't scared or intimidated by any means because.. well to say this plainly.. I am American! haha. They love us here! So I roll down the window and the police officer says, "Miredita!" I answered back as terribly as I could muster up and said, "Meer deeta!" Immediately he knew I wasn't from here and he asked me in his terrible english, "Ware arr yew frum?" 

Then he turned to his other cop friend and said, "Hey these guys are Americans!" 
haha. He told me to carry on my way and drive safe! What a joke. I laughed so hard afterwards! He didn't even ask for my liscence! Man, if I would have been in America I would've gotten a beating! Fewf.. Such a great experience!

This week the work was really good. We have been non-stop busy! Seriously I feel like the Energizer bunny, but a really tired one!
we found the cutest little pup on the beach today! who knows where she came from!
this is elder morava. my albanian district leader. he is the best :)
This week we got my top number of lessons ever.. 27 baby! I know this work isn't about numbers, but it is great to count up your progress at the end of the week. The Lord has blessed us with great people to teach.

Mimoza, Besiana, and Aleksandra: These cuties are now all three on baptism dates for the third week of February. They have so much faith and hardly even took a breath before saying yes to baptism! They all seem so very ready for the gospel in their lives! Then, on Saturday they all stayed for 3 full hours! Talk about a miracle! :)

Bukuria, Bil Bil, and Nebi: Yes they all might have somewhat strange names, but they are the cutest family you have ever seen. I had a very humbling experience this week going to their house. They live out in a village called Patos outside of Fier and they live in very poor circumstances. One room they all sleep in and a tiny kitchen. Luckily they had a rockin wood burning stove to heat the whole place, but it broke my heart. These people have nothing but literally would give anyone the shirt off of their back. They are scheduled to be baptized in February also, but they have yet to come to church in Fier. Problem.. although this week it was probably a good thing they didn't.

This week at church a fight broke out when silly 13 year old boys were making fun of the girl leading the music. She ran out crying and the mothers of the two literally were fuming yelling and causing the biggest scene I have yet to see on my mission. Sheesh. Poor Sister Wendt got in there and had to hold the parties back so they would calm down. These Albanians man. They are quick to anger, but they are the most loving people. I have yet to figure this one out in my head.. Go figure.
There are many issues that need to worked out with the branch.. and the work of the Lord continues :)

Anyways, I hope you have a wonderful sun baske! Get some sun for me will ya loves? I love you all so much!
Until next week,
Sister Shauntel Louise Forte

love you all forever :)

Letter #51 this is how we do it.

OH my wonderful people. You just make me so happy. 
Here I am on top of a huge emperor konstantine the great's head!
it won't let me send all of them together! I am so sorry. haha
This week was quite a whirlwind and literally flew past in the blink of an eye. I cannot believe it is the beginning of a new week already. Where is January going? Ahhhhh. We literally have been so crazy busy with two exchanges with different sisters around the mission and keeping up our work here in Fier. There is never a free moment to sit kot. Which means sit unpreductive.. I absolutely love it!

So we had met with this adorable girl from Detroit here because she is working with the Peace Core here in Fier! Can you believe that? What are the odds? As soon as I saw her in the street I knew she wasn't Albanian! The light blonde hair, big blue eyes, and gorgeous straight teeth gave her away. haha. So we met with her and taught her the Restoration lesson. It was my first lesson I have taught in English in a realllll long time! Lets just say, I completely forgot what it felt like to testify in English. What a change man! It felt so awesome and the Spirit was so strong. The Spirit is present when we teach in Albanian as well, but it was just different this time. I just knew she felt it too. We committed her to read the Book of Mormon and she accepted! She was so excited to finally sit down and hear more about the LDS religion. How cool it was for real. I will keep you updated with this cute girl!
So this is berat.. We were up at the castle and it was real gorgeous!

Cute recent converts, a mother named Anila and her daughter Dajana had their electricity turned off this week due to the fact that her husband up and left her with thousands of dollars in debt. These poor people. The literally had no light and water running in their house. We made them a dinner and gave them a great lesson on family and how important family is in times of trial. They are always there for you when no one else is. Even though her husband walked out on her, her and her daughter have become ever so close and they are being strengthened through the Love of the Lord. It felt so good just to help them out in anyway that we could. I felt so horrible for them as they are such great people.

This week I have really come to understand better my ultimate purpose of being a missionary. Even when we aren't teaching a lesson, we are always to be His representatives and spread His infinite love that He so freely gives each of us. I am so grateful for Him and for the example he has set for me and all of us. I really feel like for the duration of a full year that I have been out on my mission, I have come to know Him so much better, and that is how I measure my success as a mission. That is what it is all about, helping His children come unto Him as we come unto Him ourselves. 
Read Luke 32:22. This is how its done. When we are converted we are to strengthen our brethren. This is the Lord's work. 

I wish I had more time to write but of course I am on the run yet again! haha. Have a blast in Maui family.. You deserve it!!!! I love you all so much!
love Motra Forte

I will send pics a bit later.. LOVE YOU!!!!!

Letter #50 what its all about.

Unë nuk mund te besoj qe kam qenë në mision time per një vitë! jam habitur dhe shumë e lumtur qe unë kisha këtë mundesi të shërbej zotin tim për këtë kohë të plotë. Unë e dua ungjillin e jezu krishtit dhe jam shume e gezuar qe unë mund të qëndroj si perfaqësues e tij. Unë ju dua juve shumë dhe jam mirenjohëse për të gjithë përkrahje që më jipni. 
(Translate me)

So I went to start writing my letter and albanian came to my mind first, so I just started writing.. It has been such a joy being with Sister Wendt and Sister Sejati, our native, because all we do is speak albanian. Now saying my language is perfect, but I feel that I have definitely improved just by thinking in albanian and becoming one of them. It is such a joy.

This week has been quite a whirlwind of fun! We have been kept busy busy busy, and it has been good. Real good. I really love being busy and not even having a moment to relax throughout the day. There is something really satisfying about coming in for the night and being so completely exhausted you can hardly move. Its a real pleasure.

Today we went to an ancient city called Apolonia. It was unreal. I felt like  stepped into the Roman Empire for a minute. Then... wait for it.. we went to the Beach!!!!! In January people! It was so beautiful and I felt so lucky that Albanian has such mind winters! Woot woot.. I am A-OK being without the snow for a season! We played soccer with our whole district and made a fire with tin foil dinners! It was such a blast. One of my favorite P-days for sure :)

We started up English course this week and got a few people interested to learn more about the Book of Mormon! Success!
I met for the first time with a new investigator that has been investigating the church for about 6 months now named Jolla. She is really sweet but has had cold feet about joining the church. During my first lesson with her, she was so completely fixed on every word I said to her and I felt inspired to invite her to baptism again. when I said these words she instantly said, "This all of the sudden just feels like the right thing to do in my life. You just have such a great spirit about you and I can feel the truth behind the words you say." I felt so happy to know that I could act as a tool in the Lord's hands and be a vessel of His truth and light. 
This is what missionary work is. Helping others to grab hold of His love and His light. When they accept it, it is the most beautiful experience to watch because it is as if they had known it before, just not knowing they were missing it. It remind me of this ever so true scripture in D&C 123...

 12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are ablinded by the subtle bcraftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to cdeceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they dknow not where to find it—

Gosh, I love you all. Thank you for being the best family ever. You are the best people I could ever ask for in my life! I hope your days in school go lovely. You are the best.

love Sister Forte<3

Letter #48 Bringing in the New Year.

My beloved family!
Ah, what a great joy it was to see you all on skype last week. It made my whole week. No. My whole year! You have no idea. You are the peanut to my butter. The blue to my skies. The straw to my berry. Corny. I know. I just love you all that much, thats all!
So this week has been a wild one already.
Mine and Sister Robertson's Christmas Card :)
We got our transfer calls..  and out of the blue.. I have been called to serve in Fier as the new STL, replacing my wonderful "mom" Sister Hoover, who just got home! Ah, so wild that she is home now! Fier is in the South and happens to be a pretty struggling area, so we are going to knock it out of the park! I am so excited to be the Sister Trainer Leader. I am serving with the cutest girl, Sister Wendt! She is adorable. I cannot wait to see how this transfer will pan out. 
Yeah, I get to drive cars now. Crazy right? I am so excited about it really. But a bit nervous because these Albanians are out of control.. Really. They do not even follow their own traffic laws! haha. What traffic laws? It is the most outrageous organized chaos I have ever witnessed in my whole life. Let the adventures begin. Welcome 2014 baby! 
Yesterday in my final lesson with Eli, our progressing investigator, we finally got her committed on a baptism date. She had a change of heart and now totally wants to be baptized. Such a great way to end the transfer :)
Last night was the most incredible thing. These Albanians sure know how to bring in the new year! Let's just say, they put us Americans to shame man! Our lame firework shows are like  wimpy sparklers compared to these babies! 
It was a war. An absolute war zone. Right outside our balcony. What a great experience it was being able to spend my last night in Tirana on New Years. So wild.
It was one night to remember that's for sure.
Well I don't have much time, but I just want to letcha know how much I love you all! For real, I have the best "cheering section" back home any missionary could ask for.  You are the best of the best..
I love being the Lord's Servant. This is His work and it is absolutely wonderful.

I hope you all had a Happy New Year! It probably wasn't as wild as mine ;)

love always,

Sister Forte :)

Letter #49 Fieri, oh Fieri

Më Në Fund! 
I am all settled in Fier and still trying to get the hang of things here! It is so crazy to be out of a captiol city and in the more fshat-like city! Translation.. fshat means village.. haha. It is so quiet in Fier and I am still having to adjust to it, but it is a nice change.
Us girls with Sister Gjika! She is one of the oldest members here.
The real bonus is being behind a wheel again. Ahhh. It feels so great to drive again! Its been over a year that I have driven a car.. Crazy right? Yeah, truth be told, myth busters albanian style.. It really does come back just like riding a bike. It was wild driving in Tirana for the first time, but because I am so used to the craaaaaaaziness, I wasn't scared!
The church is pretty small in Fier, but on record has around 130 members. This sunday we had 42 people. Yeah. We have got some work to do my friends. To explain everything in a nutshell, the branch used to be really strong and thriving, but a few years ago, the Branch President of Fier was armless and one of the members had a fit because of some false interpretation of the Bible that said leaders of the church have to be "whole".. So terrible. After that more than half the branch went apostate and many have never returned. 
There are many other dramas and things that play into it as well, but to say the least, we are having to build the branch back up and strengthen the existing members! At first it may seem like a difficult task, but I know with the Lord's help we can tackle this bad boy!
Every time I think of the immensity of the task the scripture repeatedly comes to my mind,  
33And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me. 
It is so true. If we but have the faith, we can do anything in the Lord. He is always there and willing to bless us as long as we exercise faith in Him.

Me and Sister Sejati. I am a whole head taller than her! haha. She is precious.
So I believe I forgot to mention. I am serving with Sister Wendt and our beloved Sister Sejati who is a native Albanian. She doesn't speak any english other than "thank you my darling." Ha

ha. She is so much fun and we basically do Ab-Ripper X from laughing so much together. The only conflict we have is our constant battle/game opening and shutting the window. She is always hot and not used to the heaters always being on. It is almost as bad as mom rolling down the windows when she would get a heat flash! bahahaha. It is such a joy serving with her and I feel so blessed for the opportunity to see how she reacts to serving her people. It is great to see her Albanian perspective to have a better idea of how to help our investigators and members. 
Fun fact. The Sunday School teacher here looks like Robert Degionero.. No lie. It blew my mind! It was like he jumped right out of Meet the Parents and into Albania! haha. So funny. I told him and he said, "Oh yes, he is my great American Uncle!" What a crack up.
So we met with these two adorable sisters that came to church and as soon as she told me her name, Donika, I knew she was from the North! I got so excited and told her I spent some time in Prishtina! Immediately she started to open up and felt a connection to me! They both have a lot of faith and seem to be very interested. We will commit them to baptism this week without a doubt. 
The work is going to pick up here in Fier. I just can feel it with the beginning of this new year! Great things are going to happen here!
I love this work and am oh so happy to be a part of it.

love you forever and for always,
Sister Shauntel Louise Forte<3