Monday, 26 May 2014

Hey there fam jam!

Bad news.. The weather has just started getting hot and I already wish for death. Thankfully down here in Vlore we have a little bit of a sea breeze.. But really though, it's so hard. I like don't even want to walk anywhere, and the thing is it's really only been around like 28 degrees, it will get up to high 30's apparently. I'm not even sure how I'm going to make it through haha. HAHAHA okay, I flipping DIED when Steph said that she feels like butch cassidy in bermuda shorts. It's so true.. Those bad boys just are NOT flattering. There's no getting around it. But seriously, what is it about summer that makes people absolutely toss away their dignity? Seriously, I'll send you a picture of this bloke we found wearing shorts that were ABSOLUTELY unacceptable. Haha, but it gave us a good laugh nonetheless. And oh my gosh.. the beach.. Again..people have no shame.. Haha, they all basically look like beached orca's in speedos. It's disgusting. But.. hey, good for them I guess. Haha!

Well this past week was pretty good, not too many exciting things happened. Ledi is back on a baptismal date for June 13th! She's still going strong and she stays for all hours of church. I'm so proud of her, she's awesome. She's already almost done 1st Nephi, she's just killin' it. This Friday 2 of our investigators will be getting baptized! (Assuming all goes well, you never know..) First is Lina Rrapo, she's the wife of one of our recent converts, the one who was afraid of the water. I'm really happy for her because I know that she just needs the foundation and security that the gospel brings. It might not temporally solve all of her problems and her worries, but it will give her the strength to endure and it will allow her to grow in faith and understanding that the Lord watches over all of us and that we will never be given something that we cannot overcome. The other baptism will be an 18 year old girl named Ela. We've been teaching her for the past month or so and I've really actually seen a change in her. At first she was kinda like, meh.. didn't really get involved in the lessons as much as her sister, but now she's just really enthusiastic and she's really excited and it just brings so much joy to my heart that I can see these people change as they repent and they come closer unto their Savior. It's such a gift to be apart of this work. Her sister Ina will be getting baptized the following Friday.

This week Sister Smith and I asked Ela and Ina why they wanted to get baptized and how they feel and things like that, and they both said that as soon as they come to the church for a lesson they feel lighter and that they feel happier and they said that they love that we are always happy. I totally laughed inside when Ina said that because that's not true about me at all.. (Am I right family...) Haha. And it's really not true.. None of us are happy all the time, and I think I can speak for Sister Smith too when I say that Satan very much tries to insert his powers into this work and sometimes that weighs on us. But what I truly have come to realize and understand is that through living the principles of the gospel and having the Lord be in every part of our lives provides a true and absolute happiness that cannot be found any other way. It doesn't mean that difficult things won't come our way or that we won't feel grumpy or annoyed ever.. But it means that none of those feelings will have a lasting effect because when we insert the Lord into the details of our lives, into the seemingly insignificant things, a new light comes in and we can be freed from any burden that we feel has been placed on us. I absolutely love that I'm helping these people receive that gift. It's so rewarding.

We're approaching the last month or so of this transfer. I'm pretty positive that I'll be staying down here in Vlore for another 3 months after this. We'll see, I guess. But I'm definitely noticing that time is passing very slowly this transfer. It feels like forever that I e-mailed you last. Everyone says that the first transfer goes by the slowest, simply because you're still just trying to figure it out and you're getting used to the whole missionary life style. But I'm hoping that this next month isn't too hot and painful for us. Haha. Ridiculous.

I'm so glad to see/hear that everyone is doing well. I know I've only really been out for 4 months but I really feel like I'm missing out on everybody and what's going on! Please continue to send me pictures and updates because I love to see everything that's going on!

I miss you all and love you!!!


Motra Vermunt

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Familja Ime

I hope everyone has had a good week and that it's starting to get slightly warmer in Canada. That's crazy. It hasn't got hot here yet, but I can tell you that I'm ALREADY absolutely dreading it. Ah, I'm terrified. I'm going to die. 

This week has been kinda long for whatever reason, but it's super crazy to me that we're in the second half of May right now.. Like, what?! This week I got to go to Tirana and it was so great!! I was so excited. From the beginning of the transfer I was like, "Just make it until halfway through the transfer and then you get to see everyone from the MTC again." And that was this week, I got to Tirana and walked up the stairs of the mission home and one of the first people I saw was Elder Temple and I was SO excited. I've missed him so much!! So that was sweet to meet up with the Elders again. The Elders from Kosovo were late because their bus like broke down or something dumb, but when Elder Myers walked in I just wanted to like cry with excitement. I didn't realize how much I missed him until I saw him again! I just wanted to tell him all of my stories. He's seriously one of the best people ever. After the meeting I was showing him my hair and how awful it was. And apparently up in Kosovo it's a lot more Americanized and stuff, I don't know but he was like, "I'll look around and see if I can find anything that will help you with your hair and I'll get it for you." Haha!! He's honestly the best.. I've never met anyone that has like genuinely cared for me and loved me like him! He's so freaking great. On hard days I'm like.. I just want to talk to Elder Myers. I'm just stoked for after the mission because I'm gonna convince him to come to BYU and we're just gonna be best buds forever. So, yeah.. Tuesday was so great. 

As far as the work goes this week was a little bit rough. Ledi (Who is SO ready and SO solid) decided that she didn't feel like she knew enough to be baptized this week. Which is totally fine, but we know she has enough faith and we already have another date for her in a few weeks. She amazes me, seriously. Yesterday she didn't make it to church because she had to help her mom with work.. But we had a lesson with her and in her closing prayer she was asked Heavenly Father to forgive her for the fact that she couldn't receive the sacrament today and that she would make sure to be there next week. Honestly, I love listening to her pray because she geniuinely talks with God and you know it's directly from her heart. It's so amazing. Also, okay Vlore is super awesome and we have a BALLIN' ward mission leader and his name is Brother Prifti. He's just so great.. anyway, we have a family here and the only one who isn't baptized is the father and Brother Prifti is friends with him. So, we went over to teach him this week and we brought Brother Prifti and oh my goodness.. I love Albanians. We're teaching the Restoration and the Priesthood and stuff, and Brother Prifti was seriously like, "so yeah.. when you're baptized, you'll do this.. this.. and this.." Just so straight up and stuff. And Brother Mucaj was like, well I smoke like a cigarette a day, and Brother Prifti was straight up just like, come on. Just stop right now. You don't need it. We'll see you on Sunday. Haha, and well.. On Sunday we walk in and there's Brother Mucaj sitting by the Prifti family. So great. I so badly want to baptize the father so the whole family can go to the temple and be sealed :) They're so wonderful. 

Yesterday we had interviews with President Ford and it was really good to talk with him and Sister Ford. I'm really sad that they're leaving so soon :( But, I'm really hoping that the new mission president is just as awesome.. We'll see. The interviews were pretty good, and after Sister Smith and I were talking about our interviews and she said that President Ford told her that when he was making the assignments for trainers, he was very much inspired that she was the trainer for me. This was super cool because, out of 20 or so sisters in the mission there was only one that was supposed to train me, and that was Sister Smith. This is very much the Lord's work and His hand is in every part of it. 

One of the best things of this week was when we were walking to a recent converts house and we hear this like... loud almost opera-ish singing and we're like where is that coming from.. And most Albanians are borderline tone-deaf so, we were like what.. and all of a sudden we see this like 60 year old man come rolling down the hill on his bicycle and he's just givin 'er and I mean just belting it.. It was hysterical. We seriously laughed so hard. I love seeing happy people. So funny. 

So, this week in Tirana we said goodbye to some of the senior couples. They'd been here for 18 months and they were just finishing their missions. As I was watching them, I'm already excited to serve a senior mission! Seriously.. I think it'd be SO great! Mom and Dad, I want you to go on one.. I've already decided you're doing it. Haha :) But seriously.. Senior couples don't get far enough credit.. Without them, mission areas just would not even function. They do so much! I think it'd be such an amazing experience. I seriously wanna serve like 8 missions and just go on a bunch of senior missions. So fun!

One thing that I've really been pondering this week is our relationship with our Savior. He's always there waiting for us to turn to Him and to come unto Him, but too often I think we decide that we only need the scriptures or we only need to pray diligently when we have trials or when we feel overwhelmed with our trials. It's during these times we become closer to Him, but when life gets easy again and we feel comfortable we stop placing emphasis on strengthening ourselves. I know how that's definitely how I was. The scriptures were great to help me during hard times, and I would always make time for them. I now realizet that having that strong relationship with Jesus Christ is something that should always be at the top of our priority list. Through times of happiness and through times of trouble. As I continue to work on His errand I realize that I truly need His love and His presence to abide with my every moment of the day. 

I love and miss you all! 

Motra Vermunt

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Halfway through transfer #1

Hey y'all, 
Well it was SO good to talk to Mom and Dad yesterday. It was just like another boost to keep me going. Honestly, before I started the skype call I was nervous because I didn't want to cry because I knew it would make it harder on Mom.. but as I skyped and I saw the house and saw you all at home.. I just got an overwhelming feeling of comfort and I just knew in my mind and in my heart that as much as I miss you all and as nice as it would be to be in my own bed again.. This is exactly where I'm supposed to be. It was really cool to have that affirmation. 
So this past week has been really great actually, Ledi and Lina (investigators that I talked about last e-mail) are still doing really well and progressing. Ledi gets baptized this Friday! I'm so excited, she's awesome. The other day we were walking together and I asked her a question about another church and she was explaining and at the end she said, "it's nothing like our Church." When she said that I literally just got butterflies. I don't know why but knowing that she knows that she belongs in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and just hearing her say it made me so happy!! I'm so proud of her, I seriously watch her just grow and grow in her testimony and I'm in awe of her understanding. She is truly spectacular. She's so amazing. We also have 2 more investigators on baptismal dates, their names are Ela & Ina. They are sisters and they're a friend of a member in the ward.. Anyway they're 18 and 15 and they're good.. I think they still have a lot of growing to do though. They came to church on Sunday and enjoyed it I think. It was so great though, this week someone asked them who they wanted to physically baptize them and both Ina and Ela asked if I would do it. Hahaha, needless to say they still need to be taught about the priesthood a little more.. But it was so great, I was humbled :) 
Also this week I went on an exchange with one of my Sister Training Leaders. Her name is Motra Forte, it's sweet because before I came out to Albania I read her blog all the time..But okay you guys, she's AMAZING. She's seriously like the most perfect person ever. I went up and stayed with her for a night in Fier. But it was such a blessing. Working with her really helped open my eyes and enlighten my understanding on a few things. She was genuinely so impressed with my language and she would just be like "Seriously.. you're amazing." And honestly that was something I really needed. Obviously Sister Smith tells me that I'm doing well and stuff, but when you hear it from other people you're like.. oh wait.. Maybe I am doing okay. But mostly, I just watched how well she cares and connects with the people and as I watched her I became very much aware of what I need/ want to do to be more like that. I seriously learned so much and just felt so much more in tune with this work here in Albania. Also, it was really great when I came back to Vlore. Sister Smith said that everyone was like "Where is Barbie?! When is she coming back!!?" And when I walked into the church the next day all the girls like ran up to me and one of them was like, "don't ever leave again, ever!" It was just so nice.. It's such a testament to the fact that although I can't communicate as I would normally, I can still reach these people in some way or another. 
I'm really doing great. I love this gospel so much. I've been out on my mission for 3 months and I already feel so different. Not in that my personality has changed, but my priorities have. I just feel like I have so many things that I know that I need in my life and so many habits that I want to continue even when I'm not on my mission. As I've said, the people have it so difficult here. They really just want to come to America because they swear all of their problems would be fixed. I wish I could change their situations, I would love to find them all jobs and proper homes and fix all of their problems for them.. But I'm very quickly realizing that although I can't provide them with those temporal things.. I'm providing them with something that will sustain them forever, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Being a member of this church, or having a testimony of the gospel doesn't mean that life is easy or that trials don't exist. But what it does mean is that you will ALWAYS have the strength to overcome and the strength to endure. If there's one thing that I can promise, it's that when we rely fully upon the Lord all things are possible. I testify of that. There's nothing too great for us to overcome. We simply just need to give our burdens over to the Lord. He has already taken them and suffered for them so that we don't have too. I pray that we can all find it within ourselves to find the humility to realize that we don't have to encounter these things alone and turn to our Heavenly Father in prayer and seek for His help. I promise that we will receive it. 
Until next week! :) 
Much love,
Motra Vermunt 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Week Five in Albania

Hello family, 

So.. Good news.. I've officially made it one month in Albania. Go me. It definitely feels like I've been here SO much longer. But, I just keep looking forward. It's so great to hear from all of you, thank you for writing me! And wow.. Looks like everyone is just travelling to exotic places. It sounds wonderful.

So, this week has seemed to be a little longer for whatever reason. We're still teaching Ledi and preparing her for her baptism on May 16th. She's doing great and really has a lot of faith. I love teaching her, I think one of the best moments from this past week was when we walked into the church and she jumped up and said, "MY SISTERS!!" When she said that it just brought so much happiness and love to my heart. I just feel so blessed to be able to help her understand how loved she is by her Heavenly Father and what she has to do to be able to return to live with Him. On the investigators front we have a few others that we're hoping will start progressing further in the next few weeks. One is Lina Rrapo, her husband and daughter are members but she has a fear of water.. She thinks that if she goes under when she's baptized she won't be able to breathe when she comes back up.. Teaching her has been really inspiring though because we've taught her a lot about how faith and fear cannot coexist. All of us have fear and doubt from time to time but we have to take steps forward in full faith and trust that the Lord will bless us and help us overcome everything. I really want her to be baptized. There's nothing better than seeing a full Albanian family walk into the chapel on Sunday. It's incredible. Hopefully we can help bring that to the Rrapo's. 

A lot of people have been asking me if I feel safe and things like that. I've never felt like super scared or anything.. But it is VERY different. I'm still kinda oblvious and careless when it comes to walking home at night but my companion is a lot more cautious. Haha, I'm just like "it's quicker this way...let's go this way." But Sister Smith is like no.. There could be a group of men back there. And I'm like.. UGH FINE. Haha. We really do have to be careful. Today I was nearly hit by a car. Haha, it was ridiculous. The roads can be quite narrow sometimes and they just don't care, they go wherever there is room. But it's all good. I wasn't hit, and quite honestly.. These experiences are kind of funny because you're just like.. Really?! I'm SHOCKED that I haven't seen a car accident yet. Haha, it's crazy!

I still struggle from time to time as I try to get accustomed with mission life in Albania. I get really frustrated with the language and I get overwhelmed.. When my trainer talks and knows words I'm like.. there's no way I'm ever going to know and retain all of these random words. Like, what. But in the past week.. my prayers have been so much different. Rather than just yearning for the Lord to bless me with the ability to speak and to understand and asking for His help to ease that burden, I've just felt so inclined to move forward and accept His will. These are His children, and as I sit in their homes and I listen to them share their sincere testimonies and their struggles, I feel the Savior's love for them and I know that He is aware of them. As I feel these things I realize that this is His work. It's not about me. It's not about where I think I should be in the language or where I feel comfortable. This is not my work. I'm merely working in PLACE of the Lord, I am His servant. As I said my prayers have been so much more of giving my heart and my mind to Him, to align my will with His. I've felt so much lighter and so much happier with this. And it doesn't mean that the language is all of a sudden better, it's not. There are some times where I sit in lessons and the people are just talking a mile a minute and I'm like.. Yep.. Didn't catch any of that. But it doesn't weigh on me and I feel less inclined to be hard on myself. I study, and I speak as much as I can and as well as I can. But, I have great trust that the Lord will qualify me as I push forward in this sacred work. 
I love you all and I'm grateful for the support that I receive. Please, remember how blessed we are to live where we do. There are days where I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for the way that we live. I am surrounded by people who work 10 hours a day to make what we would make in like 1 hour, and yet they still move forward with a smile on their face and with cheerful hearts. I admire them so much for the ways in which they endure. Albanian's truly are a wonderfully humble people and they have made me feel so loved. 

I'm sorry that it snowed this week, that's ridiculous! It's been raining A TON here. But that's okay. I'm still so nervous for the hot summer.. Yikes. 


Motra Vermunt

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Pictures from Week Four!

A Cinderella store in Vlore!!! Now we know why I was sent here.

 This is Motra Demiri the one who holds my hand everywhere.

This is Marcel, the one who reminds me of Jord. So funny!

Week Four in Albania

Hello family,

Well another week has passed, and it's passed rather quickly actually. Which is kind of nice.. Time is an interesting thing out here, that's for sure. It's been a pretty good week.. Now that I think of it a lot of things have happened. Mark, our investigator decided that he wanted to focus on school work and doesn't have time to meet anymore. It was really sad, because I just wanted to tell him how important this is and how everything in his life would be blessed through making covenants with his Heavenly Father. But, he's just not ready right now. But he asked if he could keep the Book of Mormon.. so, that's good.. Right? So, that was kind of a bummer.. But! We have a new investigator named Lediona, or Ledi.. She's like 16 years old and she's GOLDEN. Oh my goodness. She's like a sponge. Everything we tell her she just loves and feels so good about. She told us that she's gone to a bunch of churches and she just loves this one. (Po pra, this gospel rocks). She meets with us everyday and we have her baptismal date set for the 16th of May. So that's good. Otherwise, we have other investigators that aren't progressing as much but we're working with them.

I love the people here. They're so kind, and so loving. They really are such a humble people. The members are awesome. Everyday we get a call from a 14 year old girl in the ward named Fjori, and she calls to ask us what lessons she can help us with. The people here LOVE the missionaries. Fjori has taken to calling me Sister Barbie, so.. that's nice. Now the other youth.. including the young men.. have joined in too.. Vermunt is just too difficult for them or something.. I dunno, but it's funny.. I walk into the church and all you hear is "Barbie!!!!"  Haha, all I can say is.. if I look like Barbie to them they make them a whole lot different over here.. Yikes.. Hahaha. But anyway it's so cool because so many of the members here know Kent Barnard, and they just adore him.. So when they find out that I know him they just like insta love me and kiss my cheeks more, it's fun :) It's so amazing to see how much impact a missionary can have on people. It definitely motivates me to be the best person that I can for them. There's also Marcel.. He's such a stud. He reminds me so much of Jordan. It makes me miss home, But he's sweet.. I wanna try and teach his parents, so I told him I'd buy him a pizza if he can get them to meet with us. Hahaha. Tracting is for punks. I'm nailing this whole finding investigators thing.. ;) And then there's Motra Demiri. She's hilarious..  She's a lot to handle sometimes. Hahaha, but she calls me 'the baby' probably because I know nothing.. Haha, but she always just says "I love you so much honey" cause that's like all she knows in English. She's come to a few lessons with us this past week and she holds my hand everywhere we go. So funny.

Sometimes I'm like, holy crap.. I'm in Albania. What! It's so different here. I'm so grateful for the opportunity that I have to experience a different culture. I already have learned so much. Yesterday in church we had to introduce ourselves in front of the ward and when they announced it I was like.. Flip. But, I got up there and just spoke.. And after the sacrament meeting one of the members that speaks English was like, "your Albanian was perfect! Seriously." So, that was a nice thing to hear. Discouragement really can get the best of you sometimes. But, I'm trying really hard. Learning a new language... Not something I ever want to do again. Haha, but I'm starting to get it.. I think. Some days are better than others.

As I experience life here in Albania, and I see how much people suffer and how difficult life can be, I am brought closer and closer to Heavenly Father and I recognize so much more how much the gospel blesses lives and how it blesses families. Life will always have trials and tribulations but regardless of how big or small they may be, we have the gift of relying upon our Savior and allowing him to carry our burdens away. One thing that I love to share with these people is Helaman 5:12. When you are built on the rock of your Redeemer, you literally cannot fall. I rely on that a lot these days. I'm doing His work, I have to have faith that the Lord will provide me with the means to do what I need to do in order to help His Albanian children. As I develop my faith in this, I hope and pray that anyone that is having a difficult time can find hope through these things too. Life is hard, but it's never impossible. Heavenly Father always provides help for us.

I love you all and I miss you too. I wish for all of your sakes that you could have some of the fruit from over here.. Because let me tell you, it's absolutely divine. I'm gonna be such a snob when I get back and have to eat the fruit at home. :)

Kallofshi Mire!!!

Much love