Friday, July 4, 2014

First week in Albania, aka The Promised Land . . . week 9 & 10


For the first time ever flying out of country, that was a pretty wild and ferocious experience!! It was a lot of fun though!! It was tiring, but so fun! We left the MTC at 2:30 AM, our plane for Denver left at about 6. We left a little late though, so by the time we landed in Denver it was our time to start boarding our next plane for D.C. We had to speed walk to our plane (thankfully that was behind schedule, so we got on in time). I sat by Elders Wilcox and Wright the whole flight to D.C. Ha-ha, so fun. I ended up cloud gazing the whole time because they decided to sleep, I mean who does that. ;) The worst part of that flight is that they were zonked out the whole time (pretty much the whole time), I was at the window seat and I had to go to the bathroom sooo bad!! But, I didn't want to wake them up or try leaving my seat just to wake them up, so let's just say that that four hour flight seemed like a super long flight to me. I was so grateful when we landed. Ha-ha. We then had a couple hour lay-over and then we were on our way to Germany. From Germany we had to go to our flight to Albania, and then all the sudden *poof* I was in Albania. It was so interesting though, as we entered the territory of Albania, and as our plane was landed because all I felt was complete peace and I felt like I was at home. I felt like I was at a place that I had been before and that I had finally returned. The calm and peace immediately left as soon as we got in the car and headed to the mission home. Let's just say that I WILL NEVER DRIVE IN ALBANIA. NEVER. Hahahaha!! Honestly though, I think I checked and made sure that my seat belt was on at least 15 times, I was constantly saying a prayer that we make it to the mission home safely, and I was so tense. Driving lanes do not really exist here, nor do speed limits. You still drive on the same side of the roads, but if your car can fit anywhere on that side of the road and you want to get somewhere, then you best get out of their way so that they can get there. It is crazy. You know the Vietnam Special of TopGear? How the traffic is crazy and everyone is going whichever way they want? How people have these motorcycle bikes attached to carts and they have children and their family in them and they have to just drive, yeah, that's Albania. But, I have now gotten used to the driving around here. And, it is actually amazing. I hear a lot of cars screeching, and horns honking, but I have not seen an accident yet. That is because ya never know what is gonna happen on the roads here, so you are constantly alert for everything and anything that could possibly happen. It is quite amazing. The traffic here I think was the biggest culture shock for me to be quite honest. Ha-ha. But, I am getting more used to that now. Avash avash. 
Outside our apartment

 So we got to sleep in Thursday morning and then we met our companions, found out where we will be serving (Tirana, 2nd ward) and headed out. My companion is Motra Russel. She is pretty much absolutely amazing, gorgeous, talented, anything and everything wonderful, yep that's her. She is great! And unfortunately/fortunately for her I came out of my shy bubble yesterday. I was so quiet and shy for the first 3.5ish days. I would have random burst here and there, but for the most part I was super quiet because it is so new and I was just quiet. But, ha-ha, it all ended yesterday. :) And it feels so good. When you go to the MTC you can't leave yourself at home. That is even more true when you leave for the mission. You can't leave yourself at the MTC. God has called me. My personality, me. He has called me to go on this mission to Albania; and the great part of it is that He takes who you are and He spends the length of your mission molding you into that piece that He needs you to be. I am still the quirky and blonde person, but when you come on a mission you have to change. Just like you can't step in the same river twice, you cannot be the same person you were before you received your endowments. Yes, you still have the same personality, but you have to change some things to be able to go through the temple. And you are never the same person you were before you got set apart as a Disciple, as a Missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is remarkable. And it so humbling and amazing to realize how much you are changing for good. 
Taken outside the Mission Home
Yesterday, we were passing out English class flyers. So, right now is the World Cup. In the past when the world cup was on that is what I did all day every day for the duration of the world cup. Watch soccer, feed my face, watch soccer, go to the bathroom, watch soccer, feed my face, sleep, repeat. Well, it sure has been a little bit hard walking around the city here where the World cup is always being played and not being able to watch it. Last night was the worst. We were in part of the downtown I think it was and there was a big sound system and huge TV displaying the world cup. It was too much for me to handle, ha-ha, so I had an Elder Vanpelt moment. I put my hands over my head and said "THIS IS TRUNKING ME OUT OF MY MIND!!!" My companion just laughed at me. And I swear that we walked by at least 15 TVs on the way to lessons and back home where the games were on and being displayed. Those TVs have become my new temptation. Darn technology. ;) Honestly though, it is so hard to just take a quick peek and not stay and watch the game. 

This past week was hard. It was a hard transition and everything, but even though it was hard I have never been happier in my life! Honestly, never happier. I've started to pick up a little bit more of the language each day. Avash avash. I am learning though. ha-ha, a sweet and yet she had some sass to her old lady came up to me, giggled and just went off in Albania. She was holding my hand the whole time... I just kept shaking my head and smiling and if I understood one word then I would respond to it (which was just yes/no. American. 6 days.) ha-ha. Once she had left, a member by me (who spoke perfect English by the way) said, "Don’t worry. I am Albanian and I can't even understand what she said." ha-ha. She found me again at the end of church, I like that lady. I think she is going to be my new friend. :) I honestly love it here!! It is hard work, but I have really truly never been happier in my entire life. 
This is the monument where the land of Albania was dedicated for missionary work. I figured a far away photo of us all would be a lot better than upclose because we all look out of it
Sorry, random tangent. SQUIRREL!!! Ha-ha. :) It truly is humbling serving here in Albania. It is a lot different from America, but it just feels right here, it is my own Promised Land. The first thing that I realized since being here is how incredibly and remarkably blessed I have truly been; to have been able to grow up in America but more importantly to have grown up in the gospel. The gospel has made all the difference in my life; in who I am. I am today because of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I am proud of it. I am so proud to be a Mormon. I walk down the street and look into the people's eyes and think "this gospel will change your life. Please listen to us. You don't know what it can do for you and your family, for your happiness." But, with that being said, I get the wonderful opportunity to invite people to come unto Christ. To come and know what it is like to be loved by an all loving all knowing God, and his wonderful Son, our Savoir Jesus Christ. To introduce them to what truly is the Plan of Happiness: that we are all beloved Sons and Daughters of God. That we can talk to our Heavenly Father through prayer, and that he not only hears our prayers but He answers them. I have such a strong testimony of that. Heavenly Father really just wants us to be happy, and He wants us to return to live back with Him. The best part of that is that He has given us every single thing that we need to be able to make it back to live with Him. That is this gospel. It is faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the endowment. How blessed I have been to have grown up with this gospel; and how much the Lord must expect of me for being surrounded by this truth ever since I was born. 

Yesterday going to church was quite different than I have ever experienced before. It was amazing and I learned so much from it. What I learned yesterday was that no matter where you go in this world, the gospel is the same throughout the world. Even though the language changes throughout the world, the principles and truths of the gospel do not change. "God is the same yesterday, today, and forever." No matter what is going on in our lives, especially with things constantly changing, one thing that will never change is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This gospel will never change. It is the only constant thing on this earth. What truly blew my mind yesterday was how Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know every single language and dialect that is on this earth. Honestly think about that, *mind blown*. The second thing that I am starting to learn this week is D&C 18:10. "...the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." it is so true. It is so humbling being here, because this is a poor country, where they have had a terrible past, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what clothes you have on, what you have done with your hair, what your living quarters look like, how much food you have in your fridge. It does not matter. At all. All that matters is what is in your heart. That is all that God cares about. If you go to church with jeans because that is the best that you have, then that is amazing and how exciting it is for you! People see people in terms of yesterday and today, but God sees us in terms of forever. He knows who we are and who we can become.  It is so easy to judge people because of what they look like and what they have, but if we started to see people for who they are and what their heart is, I think the world would be filled with love and understanding. I have met some of the most beautiful and absolutely gorgeous people in Albania, not because of their make-up they wore, because they didn't wear any. Not because of the clothes that they wore, because they weren't wearing fancy clothes.  Not because of their money, because they didn't have a lot. They are gorgeous and amazing because of their eyes, their smile, and the spirit they have about them. Eyes truly are the windows to the soul. I sat in church yesterday amazed at how amazing all these people who were at church were, because of the spirit that they had about them. You could see it in their eyes. I truly got taught an amazing lesson by the spirit yesterday, that we are all great in the sight of God. And, well if He can love me for whom I am; then why can't I love other people? I couldn't think of a worthy excuse, so I am going to change, at least do my best to love people how I should.  

I just want to tell you about probably the best thing that happened at the MTC. It was our last night at the MTC, our last Tuesday night devotional. Perjetshme. The speaker was Janice Kapp Perry and her husband. First off, their story about how they met is so adorable, it pretty much like Grandpa Tueller's story on the pick-up line Marjorie used on him "strong trumpet lips..." yeah. It was priceless. While Janice was telling this story when she got to that part, her husband stood up and kissed her! In the MTC! That was pretty awesome. Ha-ha, good times. Anyways, moving on. I want to talk about the power of primary songs. Janice Kapp Perry wrote another edition "as sisters in Zion". It is incredible. We sang a medley of about 6ish primary songs, and then it was time for her to end her talk and to end the devotional. She simply bore her testimony of the power of primary songs, and then she conducted the closing song. The closing song was a medley of "army of Helamen" and "As Sister's in Zion". All the sister missionaries sang As Sister's in Zion, as all the Elders sang "army of Helamen." It was incredible. The last verse we all stood up and sang; it was incredible. It seemed louder standing up than it was sitting down. I don't think I can adequately describe the impact that that song had on me. Primary songs are incredible and there is so much power associated with them. It reminds me of cute Grey-man, who would always hum "Give Said the Little Stream" and "I am a Child of God" where ever we went.  He was a great example to me of the impact that humming simple songs like that can have on your attitude. Primary Songs are amazing. This Church is True. The Book of Mormon is true. And I know, I  know, that God hears and answers our prayers. 

I love you all!!

Motra Zollinger