Monday, 19 January 2015

Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo… all in 1 day!

Hello family!!!

Okay, this last week was CRAZY. On Monday night we get a call from the Assistants and they're like "hey.. so we planned your week for you." So, basically a new Macedonian missionary was coming in and we had to pick her up and take her to Macedonia.. But she had a bunch of trainings and things to do in Tirana.. So.. this was our week: 
On Monday we drove to Macedonia and picked up the new sisters' companion, Sister Schofield and then we drove back to Gjakova and stayed the night.. Woke up at 5 the next morning because we had to be in Tirana the next morning to pick up her new companion at the airport. Sister Barch is the new sister and she's super great, she's going to do awesome in Skopje. So then after that we drove to the mission office and took care of some things. 

Then, because Sister Schofield and Barch had some trainings to do, Sister Boettinger and I went to Tirana 2nd ward to do some work with the sisters there. This was such an amazing opportunity because I got to go with a sister that was struggling with some things that I could help her with. I know that it was inspired for us to go to T2 and I was so grateful for the opportunity to spend some time with her and help her overcome some of her difficulties.

After that, President and Sister Weidmann took us out for dinner and it was so nice!!! I loved it, it was the best. The Weidmann's are seriously 2 of my most favourite people on the planet. I just love them.. But the BEST part was that we got to stay the night at the MISSION HOME. The mission home is a palace as far as I'm concerned. I loved being there. We literally just got to sit and chill with President and Sister Weidmann and just talk to them like our own parents. It was so incredible and I will probably cherish that experience forever, I loved it. Sometimes I think that Sister Weidmann doesn't even know what to do with me haha, I just make her laugh all the time. I love her so much. But yeah, and then the next morning we had a little training with everyone and guess what everyone.. Elder Waters, the one from my group who had a seizure in the airport? HE'S BACK. I'm so excited.. I got to see him and I wanted to like cry.. I was so excited. 

Anyway.. So, I just want to take a second to tell you that driving in Tirana is literally a sick joke. It's a madhouse. If anyone wants to develop the Christlike attribute of patience I invite them to drive around Tirana, Albania. No one obeys road laws. NO ONE. Lanes..  not a thing. But anyway, so.. we finally get all the way out of the city, Kosovo bound and the AP's call and tell us that they accidentally put President's insurance papers in our car and that we have to go back to the mission office... at the opposite end of the city. So.. needless to say, we didn't get back to Skopje until late. 

Skopje is seriously incredible. I love it. It's beautiful, it's such a cool city!! So.. we did an exchange with the other sisters in Skopje and that was awesome. So we ended up staying 2 nights in Skopje. But, I love exchanges so much. I was with Sister Hassle and she just got into the mission like 2 months ago, and it was so awesome to be with her. She had a lot of questions and concerns and as I answered them or helped give her my insight I was just overwhelmed with how much I have learned, and the missionary that I've become over this past year. I was so humbled to recognize how much my experiences have shaped me and have helped me to become so much stronger in my faith and in my understanding of the Lord and His ways. 

We finally got back to Gjakova on Saturday and we were just dead tired. Seriously.. So much driving! But, we had a lesson and got 3 new investigators! So.. that was a blessing for sure. For now, Sister Boettinger and I are just grateful to have a normal week.. We haven't had one yet.. I guess that's the life of a Gjakova STL. But I'm excited to feel like a real missionary again! 

Well, I hope you all have a good week! Love you!!!

With love from Gjakova, 
Sister Vermunt

Monday, 12 January 2015

Where did this week go?

Hey everyone,

This past week seemed to go by so fast and that's insane. We had a lot of meetings and things to do so that probably helped it move along a little bit. But it's been a good week! 

So, on Wednesday we went down to Tirana for MLC and that was awesome! Seriously, I think that will be the biggest benefit of being a Sister Training Leader. It's so awesome! The AP's revealed the goals for 2015 and I'm SO excited about them. So, the goal is that each companionship averages 4 baptisms a transfer (3 month period). In all honesty, I think that there is probably room for some doubt in there. Especially from a Kosovo standpoint. But seriously, when President told us about how he came to this goal and how the Lord confirmed to him the goal.. I was so overcome with the Spirit, and I can truly say that I walked out of that meeting with the expectation that these goals will be achieved. It has changed my aspect on everything. I know that these things are possible! Rather than simply praying to Heavenly Father to ask Him to help me with these goals, I pray to Him to lead me to the people that He has prepared. To show me where they are. I know that they are there, I have so much faith in President Weidmann and in the Lord.. I know that these goals are inspired and that we will see great things come to pass in 2015. 

Thursday we had zone training up in Prishtina and I love that city! It's so different from Albania.. You kind of like.. feel like you're actually in Europe. It's crazy! But it was good and then we had some way good Thai food and that was great. As STL's we give a training at these meetings and I really enjoyed being able to study and do that. We trained about the difference between being honourable missionaries and valiant missionaries. I loved studying about that!! I think the difference is where our hearts are at. If our hearts are completely thrown into this work and we give our all to it, then we become those valiant servants and the Lord enables us with His power to do great things. An honourable missionary does what he or she is told and does all the right things.. But might lack that spirit or that desire that really pushes us forward.

There have been a lot of experiences that have been showing us that it really is the time for sisters to be here. We've been able to really reach people that have been struggling for a long time. I love that, and we have actually found some investigators too! We have an investigator on a baptismal date for the 14th of February so we're excited about that. 

The Tooley's have been so incredible. We do a lot with them, Elder Tooley is the branch president so I do a lot of translating for him. I've already felt an increase in my ability to speak by just having to step up and help him. The Tooley's are so sweet. They are going home in April, and they said that they truly feel so blessed right now because they are ending their mission with the "best" missionaries they've worked with. I love them so much, they really bring so much light to us. 

Anyway, things are going well up here in Gjakova. It snowed again last night :( Why.. but yeah. I hope that you are all doing well! May the Lord bless you.

With love from Kosovo, 
Motra Vermunt

Monday, 5 January 2015

Gjakova… or… Siberia?

Happy Monday everyone!

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful past couple days. I thank you all for your excitement and encouragement as I begin this new endeavor in Gjakova! 

So.. Gjakova is treating me pretty well so far. It seriously is so cold. The worst part is that our heaters in our house are not working.. So, we have a little space heater in our bedroom and that's it. Seriously, we do EVERYTHING in our bedroom. It's freezing. It's hard because you just go to bed chilled.. and wake up chilled. Haha, it's never ending. We're hopefully getting the heaters fixed soon. But yeah.. it's pretty brutal. We woke up one morning and we could see our breath.. In our apartment.. Not cool. 

I'm getting familiarized with Gjakova, it really is not a big city so it's not too hard. But, I can already tell you that it is so different! We contact A LOT. There just aren't too many people to have lessons with yet.. So, we gotta find 'em! We've done a lot of tracting because it's just way too dang cold to street contact. So.. I never found too much success in tracting in Tirana.. But, every night that we have gone tracting here.. We've been let in! People here are very nice, and I think that when they see us girls standing outside they don't feel threatened or intimidated or anything. And often.. the people are practicing Muslim or do not have interest.. But it is still so satisfying to just sit and talk about what I know to be true. 

That is one very big difference.. The people here are practicing Muslims and are very connected to that. We are THRILLED when someone says that they are Catholic or that they believe in Christ. Also, the branch is small. There are probably about 25 members or so.. But on Sunday, I think there were like.. 8 members there and the rest were missionaries. The branch president is the senior elder, Elder Tooley. 

To my next point.. the Tooley's. They are the biggest tender mercy ever! I don't think I've ever met more Christlike people in my life. This is their 3rd mission and they are just amazing.. I love being around them, they are the best examples ever. They are hilarious too. Oh my goodness, I'm so lucky to serve around them. It's like having parents out here. I love it! 

I'm not going to lie.. I think it's going to take a lot of prayer and a lot of guidance from the Lord in order to really find those prepared souls. I know that they are here.. But I also know that this is going to be a difficult place. It feels different, and I know that it's not going to be easy. But the best things never are, right? 

I am so grateful to be a missionary. A few missionaries and I were talking today and about how lucky we are to be out here. Obviously there are things about home and about 'normal life' that we miss.. But truly, there is just so much meaning to life out here. Every minute, I know that I'm doing something that matter and I know that I'm developing characteristics that matter! I'm grateful for this experience.. and to learn and know that I can be close to the Lord and be guided in all aspects of my work. 

I hope that you are all staying warm!! Talk to you next week!

With love from Gjakova, 
Motra Vermunt

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Ummm… excuse me President… Im going WHERE?


Craziest week ever! So.. first of all, ELONA WAS BAPTIZED. Seriously.. it was incredible. So stressful. There were so many obstacles that came up into her life.. One including that her 2 year old daughter spilt boiling water on her foot and had to go to the temple.. 2 days before her baptism!!! We were so sad because the doctors said that she would have to be in the hospital for 3 days. Sister Coleman and I were so upset because we knew that transfers were coming at the end of the week and we love Elona so much.. When she heard that one of us might be leaving she cried and she was so upset. We have truly developed such a bond with her. Anyway, that night Sister Coleman and I just knelt in prayer and pleaded for the Lord to help us and to bless Elona to be able to be baptized. We fasted for her too.

The next day, we took the zone leaders with us and they gave both Mishelli (Elona's daughter) and Elona blessings. But we weren't sure still if Mishelli would be released from the hospital.. So, Sister Coleman and I were just praying constantly that she would be okay.. We knew that the Lord had prepared Elona so much for baptism and we just knew it was her time. So, we went out to eat with Sara so that we could see her another time before transfers and then right after that, Elona's husband called and said that there was a good chance that Mishelli would get out the morning of the baptism day.. So, Sister Coleman and I went right back to fasting again. But.. our prayers were answered because Mishelli was actually released that night!! We were so excited. The baptism was beautiful and I cannot express how sacred it was to see that family be completed. Elona was so happy and she gave a beautiful testimony and talked about how she knew that Sister Coleman and I were the missionaries that she needed in order to move forward in her faith. I love her so much. I know that part of the reason I was sent to 3rd ward was to work with Elona Hoxha. 

So.. Sunday night comes, and we're waiting for transfer calls.. Aka.. most stressful/nerve racking thing ever. We were pretty sure that we thought we knew what was happening. We thought that I was either going to stay.. or train a new missionary in Elbasan and that Sister Coleman would go to another area of Tirana to train. So, President calls and I spoke with him first.. He says, "Sister Vermunt.. where would you like to go?" In my mind I was like.. is there a right answer to this question... haha. But I told him that I wanted to go wherever the Lord wanted me to go. Then President says.. "Well Sister Vermunt.. The Lord wants you to serve in Gjakova." 

Okay.. I know that you all cannot understand how insane this is but let me explain this to you.. Gjakova is a city in Kosovo that was opened in 2013 and it has never had sisters in it before!!! I would have NEVER thought that Gjakova would open to sisters while I was still in the mission.. and I would have NEVER thought that I would be the sister to open it. But not only am I opening a new area, but I am also Sister Training Leader in the Prishtina Zone. So, I get to go on exchanges with the sisters in Prishtina and also in Macedonia! You guys... I'm serving in Kosovo!! WHAT!!! 

All I could say to President is that I am so humbled and grateful for this opportunity. Which, I totally am. I seriously cannot even express how cool this is. My new companion is Sister Boettinger, the other Canadian. And my District Leader is Elder Stewart from Lethbridge! So, Canadians are taking over Gjakova. Sister Boettinger and I are also supposed to do some work in Peja which is another city up here in Kosovo that only has 4 members of the church! WHAT. Oh my goodness.. oh yeah, and we have a car. So.. that's pretty cool.

Gjakova is a pretty small city. The branch has about 25 members and there is A LOT of work to be done. Lots of finding... lots. To be honest, it's kind of intimidating and overwhelming. Gjakova also has a very different dialect. It's very thick "geg".. another dialect of Albanian, I'm used to speaking tosk. So.. basically, I started in the mission where they speak the "cleanest" grammar and I am now in the place where they speak a lot dirtier. It's CRAZY. More or less.. I feel like I'm learning a new language. There's just a lot of different words and principles and things like that. The people will be able to understand what I speak.. but let me tell you.. it's very interesting to understand them.. Pray for me. 

Sister Coleman is actually staying another transfer in 3rd ward and training there. That was a big surprise. But I'm so happy she's staying with all of our recent converts and investigators.. I love those people so much and I know that Sister Coleman will continue to take good care of them. 

Gjakova... is freezing. Seriously you guys.. it's like -16 or something like that, but it's a cold like nothing I've ever felt. Maybe it's just cause I've been babied by the weather in Albania. But seriously.. I am so cold. Haha, weather.. it hates me. I wear like 3 pairs of socks in my boots and I still feel like my toes are going to fall off. Also, for some reason.. our apartment does NOT warm up. We have a little space heater that we have in our room so basically, we just stay in our room all the time and hurry and run out if we have to get something. SO COLD. Ah. 

So, yeah.. I've got a pretty big task ahead of me, but I am so excited and SO humbled that out of all of our sister missionaries this is where the Lord wanted me to be sent. I know that there are probably going to be some tough times.. but I know that with the Lord, all things are possible and that as we move forward with faith and with desire to do good that the Lord will pour blessings upon the city of Gjakova and that we will find those souls looking for the truth. 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and HAPPY NEW YEAR. I have a feeling that 2015 is going to be incredible. 

With love from Kosovo, 
Motra Vermunt