Monday, 24 November 2014

D&C 123:17

Hello everyone!

So, this past week seems to have gone by quite fast! It helps that I'm feeling a lot better. I basically feel back to normal. I'm so grateful! Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement. 

Our new kitchen
The first exciting thing about this past week is that we moved!!! Our apartment now is so cute, we're so excited about it. It's so refreshing and we love it! We're on the top floor of an apartment building so we have a beautiful view too. I wake up in the morning and look outside and I'm like.. whoa. I live in Albania. It is a lot farther from the church than our old house, but that's okay. It's gotten a lot colder this week. We've definitely pulled out big jackets and scarves. It's not the same kind of cold like it is in Canada or anything.. It's a damp cold. I don't know how to explain it, but it's just really.. chilly. I definitely wish I brought more scarves.. So frustrating. Haha.

Our "baptism" wall… in a few years i expect it to be full
As far as missionary work goes, it was a better week. In the first part of the week, we found a new investigator every day! It was super exciting and we loved being able to reach out and find new people. We started English course again which is probably our most successful finding effort aside from member referrals, so that was nice. 

The view from our balcony, were on the 8th floor. It's awesome
Speaking of member referrals, in our area of Tirana we have the US embassy and so all of the embassy workers and their families live on a housing compound, I think I mentioned the family that lives there before.. Going to their house is seriously like, culture shock because it's just so.. American. Anyway, Sister Spaulding texted us one day and was like, "I think I found someone for you to teach, are you free on Tuesday?" We were like.. um YA WE'RE FREE. So exciting.. So, Sister Spaulding told us that this girl just really wanted to know more about religion in general, not necessarily interested in ours specifically. So, we met this girl.. and her name is Bjanka. or (Bianca) and she's incredible. She speaks perfect English and is a babysitter up there at the compound thing. The discussion was amazing, and so guided by the Spirit. We found out that her grandmother died a year ago and that was so hard for her so we went right into the Plan of Salvation. How beautiful is it that we have the knowledge of eternal families. I absolutely love teaching that principle and watching people light up at the idea of living together with God and with their earthly families in a state of happiness. 

Anyway, so as the lesson ended.. we asked Bjanka if she had any questions and she said, "yeah.. just one.. when can we do this again??" So, we met on Friday as well. Which was another amazing lesson, we went through the whole plan of salvation and explained everything in more detail. We asked her how she felt when she was praying, and it is incredible to me how receptive these investigators are to the Spirit and how much they feel, sometimes they simply just don't know how to recognize it. That's all we're here to do.. Is help people act on the light that they are receiving from their loving Heavenly Father. I am overwhelmed by the privilege it is to be a missionary and watch these things take place.

New apartment
Another great thing that happened this week was that we had another lesson with Elona. (The wife of our 2nd counselor Brother Hoxha.) We had this lesson on a really hard day! It was Thursday and EVERYTHING was falling through. I was just like.. what. At the end of English course we watched the Restoration movie and I just sat in the back and was just praying to Heavenly Father and asking what His will was and what He would have us do. No more than 25 minutes later, Elona showed up at the church. We had one of the most spiritual and emotional lessons I've ever had. It was amazing. The woman who walked into the church was a different person than the one we'd met a few weeks earlier. Her countenance was different, the way she acted toward us was different. We sat down and started the lesson and she told us that her and Pajtim have started reading and praying together every night before they go to bed. You guys, I kid you not.. Those little, seemingly insignificant things change peoples lives. I know that they are being SO blessed. Elona said that she wants to be baptized.. But the problem that she's always faced is that her family is extremely against the church. They're Muslim and they're very very influential to her. She's so scared that they would find out and things like that. It's so sad. However, I'm confident that as the spirit works within her and as she opens her heart to these things, along with the help of her husband and other members of the ward that she will come to know that this is what she ought to do. She said the closing prayer and got emotional, she prayed and told her Heavenly Father that she wants to be baptized and she prayed that the hearts of her family members might be softened so that she can do so. It was incredible. 

This is literally what I eat everyday. Grilled vegetables and a little cous cous salad with some tomatoes and cucumbers
When Albanian's feed us they go all out, seriously this isn't even like half the food they gave us.
To continue with the trend of families being against the church, I'll tell you about our recent convert, Ema. She is seriously one of my best friends. I absolutely adore her. She's the sweetest thing. She helps us with lessons all the time and she's the best little member missionary. She's doing the BYU-I pathway program.. and it's amazing. She was baptized in June, but you'd think she's been a member for years! She's the 1st counselor in Young Women's and everything. She's so awesome. Before she was baptized, her parents strongly disapproved.. but she did it anyway because she knew that it was something she had to do. On Saturday we watched the newest mormon message with her, the one about refiners fire. (Watch it!) Then I felt prompted to ask her a certain question. As she responded, tears immediately came to her eyes and she just totally opened up to us. She told us that one time, she was in her room reading her Book of Mormon her dad came in, took it from her and threw it away. I saw that it weighed on her and it just broke my heart. I cannot imagine being so certain that something is right, and feeling so good about something and knowing that the people closest to you will give you no support. I am so inspired by her strength and by all of the good that she does. She truly is a spiritual pioneer and I know that who she is will bless generations and that she will be such a strong spirit in the church in Albania. She's going to start her mission papers soon! I wish you all could understand how much I love all of these people. I cannot even begin to express it. 

Ward misson leader, Brother Gusmari
A goal that Sister Coleman and I have made for this week is to make sure that we journal regularly. I cannot believe the incredible things that happen to us each and every day. I'm so grateful for the opportunity that it is to serve as a missionary. It's not easy. Truly, there are some moments where I'm like.. I feel like I'm going to be on a mission for the rest of my life.. But I know that things I'm learning, and the things that I'm experiencing are things that could not possibly be learned or experienced in any other way. My testimony is so strong. I can say that I absolutely know of God's existence, of His awareness of each and every one of us and of His infinite love. No matter how hard things get, no matter how impossible things may seem, He will always reach out to us. He will always give us the strength that we could not possibly obtain on our own. 

"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (D&C 123:17)

I love you all. Zoti ju bekoft. 

Motra Vermunt

I love these people so much
Seriously i cant even express it
The church cat. Psycho… I hate cats

Bishop Zela and his family

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Can't stop, won't stop

Hello Everyone, 

I'm just going to start this e-mail out by saying that I'm starting to get better! Seriously, it's a great blessing and I'm so grateful to finally start improving health-wise.. Thank you for the concern and all of the prayers that were said on my behalf. 

Just a few wild horses chillin' in the middle of Tirana… Typical
This week seemed super long! But that's okay. A lot of good things happened. On Tuesday, I was able to meet with President Weidmann. Sister Coleman and I went over to the mission home (Which.. as far as I'm concerned is like, a palace.. It's beautiful and I love it) and met with him. I promise you all that President Weidmann is one of the most incredible people I've ever met. We sat down to have our interview and I pretty much cried from start to finish. The thought of not being able to complete my mission is such a terrifying thought to me. President and I talked a lot about the will of God and how no matter how hard it might appear to us, His plan will always get us where we need to be. 

I know that we will be blessed as we humbly submit to the will of our loving Heavenly Father. We must become like "...a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19) I know that the Lord places trials in our lives so that we can become the people that we ought to be, so that we can grow and become strengthened spiritually. Sometimes the Lord doesn't take away our burdens immediately because there is some essential lesson that we learn from carrying that weight. Greatness does not come by passing through life with ease. One of my favourite quotes recently has been by Elder Holland when he stated, "If for a while the harder you try, the harder it gets, take heart. So it has been with the best people who ever lived." 

After our interview, we went downstairs to find that there were 2 companionships of elders who also had interviews with President. Not gonna lie.. my dignity took a little hit on that one as I walked into the room with my puffy eyes.. Pride.. I'm working on it. So.. backtrack a little bit, earlier that day we had district meeting and I was just not feeling well. Afterward, an Elder asked me if I wanted a blessing. And to be honest, I didn't. I really felt that seeing as I'd received at least 4 blessings for this already that Heavenly Father wasn't answering those prayers, it wasn't in His will to heal me. I didn't see the point of getting another blessing.
Im obsessed with this puppy… I want it
So after we came downstairs at the mission home, we all chatted a little bit and then President says, "So.. Sister Vermunt, with all of these priesthood holders in the room, would you like a blessing?" All of those same thoughts just came back to me. I was like, what's the point? What is one more blessing going to do? I realize that these thoughts were not inspired by the Lord. But, I accepted and President Weidmann offered the blessing. I have to say, that was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. President and the 4 elders that were there all joined in a circle and participated in giving me the blessing. I promise that the power of the priesthood was so strong. I immediately felt lighter. My pain was not taken away, I didn't immediately feel better but I knew that the Lord loved me, I felt His awareness of me and I felt so much strength. President blessed me to be able to fulfill my calling as a missionary in the Adriatic South Mission and he blessed me to bless the lives of people here. I was so grateful for that experience and I am so grateful for the power of the priesthood. 

Trazhgim is going to England
On Thursday we had mission conference in Durres! It was amazing! We had Elder Dyches from the area presidency here and it was such an uplifting and amazing conference. As I was sitting there I was just hit with how much I love being a missionary and what an opportunity it is to serve here and to invite these people to come unto their Savior. As Elder Dyches was giving us a training, he talked about his respect for President Weidmann and for the great person that he is and he said, "You don't become a person like that by having it easy." It reaffirmed to me the lesson that the Lord builds us by tearing us down sometimes. I am so grateful for every hardship that is placed in my path because I know that all things are for our good. 

"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (D&C 122:7) 

Our title for this week as a companionship was "Can't stop, won't stop". I love this work, and I will keep going despite my difficulties, I will continue to work as hard as I can so that I can be an instrument in the Lord's hands. It is such a great blessing to be a missionary and to be on the Lord's errand. I pray that we can all thank the Lord for our difficulties and always remember His infinite love for each of us. I testify that He will never forsake us, and that as we turn to Him all of our burdens can be made light. 

With love, 
Sister Vermunt

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

With patience bear they cross of grief or pain

Dear family and friends, 

I hope that you are all enjoying the snow, I'm actually kind of jealous. I don't know how Christmas is going to be Christmas without snow. But that's okay.. I think I'll live :) 

This past week was a rough one in many aspects. Unfortunately, my health isn't doing all that well again which has been really hard. We weren't able to work for a few days out of the week. Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than being a missionary and being stuck inside. It just really sucks! Everyone was telling me to take it easy and I just could not! But, President Weidmann talked with me and told me that he thought it would be appropriate for me to have a "study day". So, to be obedient Sister Coleman and I stayed in all of Wednesday.. I was miserable. Haha. 

Can I just say, that Sister Coleman is one of the greatest people I've ever met. Seriously, I love her to death. She's incredible. She has been so patient and loving in all of this and I love her so much for that. She's a great missionary and a great example to everyone around us. I'm so privileged to be her companion. 

So, on the days that we could work.. it was really rough as well! We'd set up lessons and then they would all cancel. It was very trying on our faith. It was like the Lord was saying, "rest.. or I will compel you to rest." But, we still managed to have some good lessons and experiences as always. One of them being that we've started teaching the wife of our 2nd counselor. Pajtim Hoxha is our 2nd counselor and he is awesome! He has an adorable little daughter that he brings to church and she just sits there completely patient and silent the whole time. She's a doll. But anyway, his wife Elona has taken the lessons before but has never felt ready for baptism. Pajtim wants nothing more than to go to the temple with his wife and daughter and she agreed to take the lessons again.

So, we go over to her house on Sunday and the gate to go up the stairs is locked. So, we tried ringing the bell and no answer. Then we tried calling both of them.. No answer. We were like, oh my goodness.. No! So, we stand there for a second and then, jokingly, Sister Coleman says, "By the power.." and grabs the door handle and the door clicks and pushes open. What! I kid you not it was locked.. We laughed about that for a while. It was cool. So we get up to their apartment and ring the doorbell and it turns out that Elona was cleaning and couldn't hear over the running water.

So we had this lesson about prayer, and it was a really good lesson. But toward the end of the lesson I was just overcome by the Spirit and as I was testifying to her about the power of prayer I just felt the Spirit completely take over what I was saying. I started to talk to her about the power that this gospel brings to families. The strength that it would bring to her marriage and to her daughter. I told her about the first time that I remember hearing Brooklyn pray. And when I said these things, Elona was just fixated.. I know that she recognized and felt the Spirit. 

After, Sister Coleman was just like.. that was incredible. It was such a powerful lesson. I have such a passion for completing families. There is nothing I want more than for all of these people to enjoy the blessings of eternal life with one another. I cannot tell you how much of an honor it is to testify to these Albanian people of the things that I know to be true. Of the blessings that await them as they turn to their Savior and follow His commandments. 

Another tender mercy this week was that I gave another talk. I'm not a shy person.. But there's something about speaking a foreign language in front of a room of native speakers that's a tiny bit intimidating.. My talk was about building a strong foundation in the gospel. I emphasized reading and praying daily and attending church. I talked about that we cannot simply choose 1 or 2 of these things and think that it is sufficient. If we want the power of God to be its fullest in our lives we must realize our own personal responsibility of doing those little things to ensure that it can be there. Of course I wrote out my talk, but was pleasantly surprised when I felt myself not needing to look down. Several members after commented on the fact that my Albanian was 'perfect'. It is times like that where you realize how real the gift of tongues is and that the Spirit truly speaks through us.

Being sick has truly been hard. There have been times where I'm walking down the street and I feel that I don't have the strength to keep going. But then I think about our Savior, even the Son of God, and the things that He experienced. I think about Him carrying the cross and how He must have thought that He did not have the strength to keep going. He continued step by step with unwavering faith and a determination to do the things that were pleasing to His father. When I think of these things, I am strengthened so much. How can I put on my black name tag every day, and claim to be a representative of Him if I am not willing to experience in some tiny aspect, a part of the pain He experienced. We all must take up our own personal crosses and walk as He did. 

I absolutely love being a missionary. There is no greater privilege than to do this great work. I know that all of our trials and difficulties are given to us for specific reasons and that the love of the Lord will abide us in every moment. I can truly say that I feel as Joseph Smith did when he said in section 127, verse 2:

"As for the perils which I am called to pass through, they seem but a small thing to me... God knoweth all things... and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth." 

I testify that we having a loving Father in heaven. I testify that He knows our every thought, desire and need. I know that this life is an opportunity for us to become what we ought to be. I testify that our trials are blessings, and  that they are an opportunity for us to learn and grow closer to our Savior who descended below all things. No one understands our pains or afflictions more than He. 

I pray for the happiness, health and safety for you all. 

With much love, 
Motra Vermunt

Monday, 3 November 2014

November, WHAT?!

Hello everyone,
Elder Holm and Elder Price!
This week was a little bit more of a trying week, but that's okay because we always seem to learn so much more from those weeks! 

We started the week off by having Family Home Evening with the Gosturani's. I love Trazhgim, Aferdita and Illirjana so much!! I cannot even explain it. They are just so incredible. Just a reminder.. Illirjana is our investigator. Anyway, so.. a little back story.. Trazhgim was baptized like 7 years ago and his parents were pretty against it. His dad actually asked that the missionaries not come back to his house so Trazhgim always had lessons at the church and things like that. Elders have been trying to get over there forever, and it just never worked. 

My fav people.. Illirjana, Sister Coleman and Trazhgim
So, on Monday we knew we wanted to have an FHE and I was talking with Trazhgim and he was like, "Illirjana and I had an idea.. what if you and Sister Coleman came to our house." We were like.. WHAT!! Oh my goodness, it was so exciting! So we were the first missionaries to be in the Gosturani's home in like 5 years or something. It was so fun, we traditional danced and made cookies and stuff. His mom made us a greek salad, homemade bread (which is TO DIE FOR) and pumpkin byrek! Seriously, she was amazing. She listened in on the lesson and everything. Halfway through, Trazhgim's dad came home and I was pretty nervous to be honest.. but, at the end of the night he ended up driving us to our bus stop and he asked Trazhgim why we couldn't just stay the night! What!!

Later, Trazhgim texted us and said that we were such a blessing to his family and that his mom said that we are welcome any time. Seriously.. I can't tell you how much that meant to Sister Coleman and I. Even if the Gosturani parents start to soften their hearts to us a little I think it will be a huge step and blessing for their family. It was so awesome!

On Saturday we had a Halloween party at the church! It was pretty crazy. We had a bunch of games and it was a huge mess! But it was successful! We had a lot of investigators and non-members come and they had an enjoyable time! Halloween in Albania was pretty different... Haha, they don't really do the whole trick-or-treating thing. And with costumes.. they kinda just seem to think that you're dressed up in a mask. So, yeah.. that was pretty dang FREAKY. Haha, we'd walk down the alley and there would be a group of little boys all in scream masks. Not my fave.. But I loved seeing the pictures from Halloween, you guys are all so awesome!

As far as the rest of the week went, we had a lot of things not go as planned. But that's okay because we did the things that the Lord needed us to do. We met some really great people and we were able to have some powerful lessons. I will say.. Sunday's as a missionary are the most stressful days!! I seriously just sit in the sacrament hall with butterflies in my stomach waiting to see if the investigators we invited to come will actually keep their commitments. It's so stressful. 

Yesterday.. none of our investigators came to church. All of them were either out of town or sick or something crazy prevented them from coming.. It was so disappointing. I was just like, what am I doing wrong! Am I not testifying enough? Why don't my investigators understand the importance of the commandment of church? But.. because the Lord is merciful, He reminded me that my purpose here is to invite. My purpose is to reach out to people and give them the knowledge and allow them to feel the Spirit, but at the end of the day, it has to be their agency that brings them to act on that knowledge. As I was feeling disappointed, I had this brief understanding of how our Heavenly Father must feel when we don't use our agency to do the right thing. I know that the Lord wanted my investigators to be in church more than I did. As I thought about these things I was so humbled to have an opportunity to recognize in some small way how our Savior feels when we make choices that turn us away from Him. 

I am so grateful for the Savior. I am so grateful for the sacrament. How great is it that we have the opportunity to renew our baptismal covenants every single week. The sacrament is a spiritually strengthening experience. I think the greatest thing is that we commit to taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. President Henry B. Eyring said, “That means we must see ourselves as His. We will put Him first in our lives. We will want what He wants rather than what we want or what the world teaches us to want.” When we take the sacrament, we also covenant to “always remember” Jesus Christ. As we partake of the sacrament, we witness to God that we will remember His Son always, not just during the brief sacrament ordinance. This means that we will constantly look to the Savior’s example and teachings to guide our thoughts, our choices, and our acts." 

I hope that next week as we partake of the sacrament we can remember how truly sacred the ordinance is and how privileged we are to partake of it. I know that our Savior loves us, I know that He sacrificed His life for each and every one of us and because of that sacrifice we have the gift of repentance and that we can walk away from sacrament meeting having left our burdens there for Jesus Christ to wash away. 

I hope that all of you have a wonderful week and that you feel the love of the Lord each day. 

With much love,
Motra Vermunt