Monday, June 24, 2013


So much to say, so little time!!


First, WE HAD A BAPTISM THIS WEEK!!! The Seiti girls were baptized and I can't tell you how happy I was!! I know I didn't teach them all the way through and I kinda "walked into it" but it didn't take long at all to love these girls! I almost gave one of the talks and was trying to be brave about it and just do it, but luckily Sister Hawkins was able to come back for it and so she gave the talk. I just remember sitting there listening to the talks and holding the older girl's hand in absolute bliss while remembering my first day in Durres and how we walked in and she took me by the hand and lead me to the couch. It was so nice to be led in this new world where I didn't feel like I understood anything that was going on (especially that first day). I love these girls and I'm so excited to see where they go with their life. They are extraordinary young people and they will be a great example to their family. 


I got to see Motra Wait and Elder Webster from my MTC group at the baptism because their trainers were in Durres before and came to the baptism. It was a happy little reunion with them. They are fantastic missionaries. 


ALSO, we had a branch activity and church this week (last week was district conference) and I have to say, I absolutely love these people!! We played musical chairs, pop the balloon tied to feet and other ones too but my favorite was after when we played frisbee. I love that game!! It was a little hard to play in a skirt but I loved it nonetheless. I tried talking to everyone but I'm still struggling in my understanding. Mostly I would just smile. I love talking to the youth! (Probably because quite a few know some English—haha). Everyone was super patient with me and for that I was so grateful. I love this place already. 


Another thing, I have never kissed so many people or been kissed by so many people, haha! They definitely do the whole European kiss on each check thing in greeting and in goodbyes. Love these people. People are very close, and personal bubbles don't really exist. Sometimes it’s hard to be so close because it’s so hot, but I love these people so much that it doesn't really bother me. And yes, I know that I just used "so" three times in that one sentence. 


Cool thing from study, I was reading Elder Nelson's talk "Catch the Wave" from this past conference and read where he talked about how missionary work right now has a wave of enthusiasm sweeping the earth. When I first heard the talk I thought about my own mission call and how I was going to this country in a far corner of the earth and of my friends that were being called to all kinds of places. But now as I read it, I thought of these people in Albania. The enthusiasm is here too! There was a young man that received his mission call to Italy this week and my companion and I have been working with a young woman to finish her papers as well. This missionary wave truly is sweeping the earth and I am so grateful to be a part of it. 



I know this is the Lord's work. I know that He helps me every day to be a good missionary! Every day! I know He will help each of us as we do missionary work wherever we are. It’s an exciting thing to assist in His work. I know this church is true and that it brings a happiness into our life that cannot be received any other way!  I love being a missionary!




Motra Curtis

Monday, June 17, 2013


I'm in Albania!!! I don't even know where to start!! The plane ride over was pretty great. I talked to some people from India in Salt Lake and we talked about temples briefly. I was surprised at how easy it came up. On the flight I sat next to a girl from Serbia who had been a foreign exchange student. She had lived with 2 LDS families and had been to church before. We talked about Joseph Smith and the word of wisdom. We also talked about her culture and what that part of the world is like. The lady on the other side of her was going to DC to visit her mission area (she got home in Feb.) So it was neat to talk to them both. I told girl to talk to the missionaries in Serbia if she ever saw them. I was excited to see who I was going to sit by on my flight out of the country but it ended up being a member from North Carolina who was going overseas on business. 

I loved being able to talk to my family at the airport. I sure do love them a lot and I'm glad I got to wish my dad a happy fathers’ day since I didn't get to e-mail until today. 

The real test was the flight to Albanian where it would be in Albania. I talked to the kids first that were waiting (they knew English haha) but they didn't always understand me. I sat next to a lady who lives and works in Vienna but was going to Tirana for the funeral of her mother. It was so hard to communicate. We didn't understand each other very well. She asked me what I believed about life after death and I thought that was great, so I tried explaining about returning to live with God. She actually believes strongly in reincarnation and seemed really sad for me that I didn't. I wish I could have handled that situation better. I think she was often frustrated with having to re-explain herself so much because I was struggling to understand. I now why they send us out in 2s. Oh, I almost forgot while I was in the Airport I got a referral from a lady who has some friends in Albania that she has been corresponding with over e-mail (I want to say they met through this conference thing about this disease- the lady in the airport had been wearing a shirt about it). The group was leaving so I didn't get to talk to her for as long as I would have liked but I wrote down the name and address of the people, they live in Durres. I hope we find them. 

The mission president and his wife are great. They raced the APs home on the first day (driving is crazy, maybe even more than in some areas of China...pretty close). It was an exciting orientation to say the least. We went out tracking right as we got there while we each got interviewed. It was a crazy moment to knock on a door, say something and then have no idea what they are saying. "This ain't the language they taught me in the MTC!" -Best 2 Years. But seriously, people talk so fast. Sometimes I can get the gist of things. That's always exciting. 

Anyways, we had a quick testimony meeting, ate food, and then they took us to a hostel to sleep. The next morning they took us to this statue area looking over the city and we read the dedication prayer for Albania from Elder Oaks about 20 years ago. We each got a copy and some time to think and ponder and dedicate ourselves. It was neat. And then we took a picture. We went back to the mission home and ate pizza for lunch and found out who our trainers were going to be and where we were going to be serving. 

I'm serving in Durres!!! My trainer is Motra Wheelock. She was trained in Durres and then got transferred to Fier and now is back in Durres so that is kind of fun. She is from Star, Idaho and is studying business. Her personality reminds me a lot of my roommate from China. She is a red-yellow. She is taking her role of a trainer (ma) very seriously haha, I often feel like a child. She is great and I think we are going to have a lot of fun. It has been hard getting into a routine because we had a mission conference and then a district conference (like a stake conference) and things have just been kinda irregular. We rode up with the members to district conference and that was a good way to meet a lot of them. Unfortunately, I don't understand anyone but they were very sweet and patient with me. 

The first day I got to Durres we rode a fergon from Tirana (a van/taxi/bus thing) and then a senior couple (the Botts) picked us up and dropped us off at our commi-plot apartment. It is actually a very nice apartment. I was very impressed. We dropped my stuff and headed back out to go teach. The Seiti girls were my first teaching appointment in the country. I couldn't have asked for a better one. The 2 girls are getting baptized next week (the parents aren't yet members). They are 9 and 11 and so smart! We knocked on the door and they let us in. We took our shoe off (its a custom) and they had slippers for us to put on. The older girl took me by the hand  and led me to my seat. We went over some English lessons. Then we taught them the Word of Wisdom the mom was pretty involved as well. After the lesson they walked us to the bus stop and we played red light/green light while we waited. They are so sweet! Another story about them. They came to church on Sunday (district conference) and sat by us. Most of the conference was in Albanian and so I didn't understand very much. The girls knew I didn't understand much and so they would translate for me. It was cute, they would translate for me in Albanian, so I was basically hearing it twice in Albanian but sometimes they would use different words. I still didn't understand much of what was said but I felt the love these little girls had for me and for church. The district presidency actually just changed, they released the old one and called new ones. Pretty cool stuff.

Albania is great. I don't really understand anyone. They sometimes understand me. It reminds me a lot of China in many ways. They have stores that line up the streets and people live in the apartments above them. The driving is crazy. Its hot and humid. I love their salads! (Tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, sometimes cheese and lettuce and then salt or something- super good!) I haven't had a suflaqe yet, but soon! We are close to the sea, its beautiful! I think I can see Italy sometimes...jokes!

I thought I learned how to rely on the Lord when I was learning Albanian in the MTC but now I thinking that was just the tip of the ice berg...I am so excited to serve these people. Mostly, I can't wait till I can communicate with them :) I love the Lord, I know He will help me. I love Albania!!

Motra Curtis

Sunday, June 16, 2013

4 days left!

Hello, hello!


I don't have too much time to e-mail today because we need to pack, clean and get ready for departure. We leave on Tuesday June 11, at 4 in the morning! That will be fun. Luckily from our move over to the West Campus, I have a better idea of how I should pack (and I'm still kinda packed). We are flying from Salt Lake to Washington D.C. That is where I will try to call. It should be sometime between 12:45pm and 4pm Missouri time. The calling card deducts 130 minutes for making the initial call so I will try to call with quarters first to make sure. I'll try Mom's phone first and then Dad's. Hopefully you'll be ready for it and we will be able to talk. I'm glad it’s the summer so everyone will be out of school.  


Life on the West Side: class doesn't really feel that different except that you can see the BYU stadium from our window. We are right on the edge so we can see the "outside world". It’s kinda fun. We'll be there soon, except in Albania!. We watch all the devotionals and such from the Wyview chapel. They will start having devotionals in the Marriott soon. That will be sweet. The food here is great! I'm pretty sure it’s from BYU catering. They are still getting things set up like the mail office and such. Raintree is a sweet campus. There is a creek that runs through the middle made of rocks with little bridges and stuff. Super cute. But there is no water in it right now. Still bukur.


Our teacher showed us pictures of Albanian the other day and it looks awesome! It actually reminds me a lot of China. (They don't have dryers there either.) I am seriously so excited. I'm excited for real people to teach. I'm excited to meet the members and the people. I'm excited to experience the culture. I'm excited to teach the gospel!


I'm sure you are all wondering how consecration week went. It was....fantastic. The amount that I have improved from last week to this week is truly amazing and I have to give the credit to the Lord. I was really nervous at the beginning. It would have been easy to just not talk when I didn't know the words, but I don't feel like that would have been consecrating myself. So I just tried and failed and every once in a while succeeded. But you know what? I learned so much. I learned more vocabulary from what others were saying. I learned grammar just by using it and being corrected when I was wrong. Best of all, I learned how to understand Albanian. That’s really what I'm most excited about. I feel that is where I was lacking the most and it was hard because I wouldn't understand instructions, jokes, and well communication in general. But as I listened to it all week, I got better. The difference after only a couple of days was awesome. Granted, this is the MTC and we are all limited in vocabulary and speak Shqip like Americans still and our teachers speak pretty slow. But if that is how much I improve from listening to it for a week in the MTC, I can only imagine what it will be like to be there. I am feeling so much more prepared now. I'm so grateful that our zone has consecration weeks. I really think everyone should do them. I have felt so blessed this week and am full of hope and peace for learning the language. This is the Lord's work and He is helping every step of the way. It is so important to trust and rely on Him and to involve Him. It would be so rude to leave Him out of His own work!


Quick funny story. Motra Heathcote and I were teaching Elders Lee and Davis during study one day and we were teaching about the Book of Mormon. We mentioned it was a record of people in America. Elder Davis (as an investigator) was being a little defensive (for lack of better word) and asked if there was a record of the Albanians. But the word for Albanians and Savior is pretty close and he accidently said Savior. Do you have a record of the Savior. I was suprised  that our investigator already knew it was a record of the Savior because he had said he didn't know about Christ. When I asked him how he knew about the Savior, he (thinking the word meant Albanina) said that both he and Elder Lee were saviors. At that point we realized the confusion and it was pretty funny. I'm sure this is only a small beginning for the many words we will confuse in Albania. Can't wait! I really am super excited!


Well I'm out of time. I'll try to send pictures really quick. I love you all!



Motra Curtis

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The New West Campus

Greetings and salutations,

I would be neat to say that I am writing you from the new West Campus Missionary Training Center (Wyview/Raintree)...but I'm not sure if they have set up Internet for the computers yet so we came to the main campus to write e-mails. Can you believe it! They moved over about 110 missionaries over to this new campus. Its still under development and we are definitely guinea pigs, but it is so nice! We live in Wyview (which is fun because that's where I lived freshman year but instead of building 20 it's 21).

The apartments are super nice. We have 4 in our apartment with 2 to each room. My companion and I are lucky because we got the room with 2 closets and since I'm on the top bunk I get the big closet (dreams come true haha) but since we're only here for a couple weeks I'm not really unpacking too much. We have couches and tables which is so nice. No microwave or stove but since they feed us its not a big deal. We have a fridge and are allowed to shop at the creamery. Not getting ice cream everyday is going to be hard. I may or may not have had ice cream 3 times yesterday. We have gym in Wyview too. They have a sand volleyball pit between some of the buildings. They have also painted a couple 4 square lines in the parking lot (since we don't have cars) and they also have the semi circle lines for basketball painted so it looks like they are planning on getting some of those. Quick funny story about gym yesterday. They were late coming to bring the sports equipment to us so I ran and got the orange bouncy ball I got for my birthday and we used that. It worked surprising well except that it was a little light. But then we got it stuck in the tree and so in the process of trying to get it down someone got their shoe stuck in the tree. We're pretty bright people sometimes. But luckily we got them both back and all was well. Most of the buildings are empty now but they are working to prepare them to more missionaries. We are just the beginning. They are hoping to have 1200-1400 here eventually.

Another neat thing about being here is that its great preparation for the field. Not only are we living in more apartment style living quarters but we also have more interaction with "the outside world" and more freedom. For p-day we are allowed to go up to Brigham's landing for food and such (I'm SO excited for SubZero ice cream!). They have also stressed to us the importance of being the first and opening the new campus. We will be the ones setting the tone and being the example. There were missionaries that reported directly here yesterday and will spend their entire stay here. But it is so great here. I love it. For sure that are things we are missing out on in the other campus but there are other things that they are missing out on here. Both are fantastic places and I'm grateful I got to experience them both. But whoever has the opportunity to come to this West side is gonna have a blast. Side note: this is not a side note. But I told you about the Wyview part while forgetting about the Raintree side! We have our classes and our food there. There are 3 classrooms to a apartment. 2 in the bedrooms and one in the living room (both Albanian districts are in bedrooms and our new Hungarians are in the living room). We have 2 bathrooms but they are setting up a place in a different building for going to the bathroom and I hope that catches on. Its a little awkward and a little smelly sometimes. But we're the first and they are working quickly to figure out little glitches like that (since seeing Wreck it Ralph I can't say the work glitch without thinking of it! I love that movie). Otherwise its not that different.

That's pretty much all I have to say about the West Campus so far, we haven't really been here that long. I'll probably have more to say next week. Also, I'll have pictures but I forgot my camera today, sorry! It really its too bad because I took SO many picture this week, so just brace yourself for it next week haha.

Random snippet: So I don't know if you know, but usually when you have a bunch of girls in a room with showers stalls there tends to be a lot of singing. (Girls camp, dorm bathrooms) well the MTC is no exception. In fact there is not only singing that goes on but harmonizing and all kinds of stuff. Its great fun. And from being in the MTC for 7 weeks you start to pick up on the favorites for sure. If you could Hide to Kolob is a big one as well as Come Thou Fount. This might be a weird thing so admit but whenever I'm in there and I hear them singing Come Thou Font, I have this crazy desire to start playing the violin to their song and just have them be like "what in the world". It would throw them off for sure! There are only a couple problems with this, first of all I don't have a violin. Second, I don't play the violin. But I think it would be funny for sure!

Other highlights: our devotional speaker on Sunday was pretty great, Brother Stephen Allen who is a manager of missionary work in some way. He has spoken here before and was really funny. This time he was planning on being funny again but when he found out we were going to watch Sister Monson's funeral he completely changed his talk and just went by the spirit doing different things. He had us sing Come, Come Ye Saints and I've not really looked at that song as a missionary song before but I absolutely love and it might just become my new theme song. But really quick about hymns again, I know I probably talked about it before but I seriously love music. And from singing here were they only put up the lyrics by the screen I feel so much less distracted by the notes that I focus more on what the song is saying. And oh boy, I sure love so many of these wonderful songs. They speak to my soul. But anyways it was pretty neat.

Another neat things about that devotional was that I have been looking everywhere for mission are going to the Philippines to send a hug to my sister but I had not been able to. I was actually sitting next to some sisters going to the Philippines that devotional but a different mission. I was especially worried because I knew we were moving to Wyview on Tuesday and I was running out of time. But then they announced that the sister saying the closing prayer was going to the Philippines Angoles mission! I was going to run right up after to talk to them but then we went straight into watching the funeral, luckily they stayed sitting up on the stand. Right after I squeezed through the crowd barely reaching them in time. One went into the bathroom but I talked to the companion of the sister who said the prayer. I started to explain that my sister was in her mission and that I wanted to pass her a hug and before I could say Abish's name the sister looked at my name tag and said "Abish Curtis is your sister?" Whaat?! I guess she had read her blog and actually sent her an e-mail! How cool is that?! I gave her the biggest best hug I could and told her to tell Abish that I love her and she gave me the biggest best hug back (she is good at giving those big hugs where you just know you are loved- I don't even know her but I felt loved by her and I know she will give Abish a big hug for me). It was such a tender mercy for me to be able to find her. I hadn't really vocally prayed to Heavenly Father to help me find the missionaries going to that mission but He knew the desire of my heart and helped me find them before I left a couple days later. I don't think I would have found them if they hadn't happened to be saying the prayer and if we hadn't been in that room. We usually go to overflow on Sunday but we happened to be in the room and sitting on the floor close to the same side they left on. I'm so grateful for a Heavenly Father that loves me enough to makes things like this happen just because it would bring more happiness into my life. I don't believe that was a coincidence for one second.

Well, this week starts our week of consecration. This is usually the last week, from preparation day to preparation day, you speak only your language. All the time. Ever. You can translate for each other but always Albanian first. All the districts in our zone do this. It not only helps you get better at the language but it shows the Lord your willingness to devote yourself. I remember before I saw it as a thing to do to get better at the language but as we talked about it yesterday and set some goals I realize it is also an opportunity to strengthen your connection with Heaven and I like that. I'm going to need all the help I can get if I'm going to communicate in Albanian and teach these people in their native tongue. I love that we have heard a lot her from devotionals and such that we are getting help from both sides of the veil. Not only has there been a hastening in missionary work but also in Family History. They encourage us to as we convert people to teach them about family history work and get them started on their own family. These are exciting times.

I love being a missionary, right now, right here, going to Albaina. I KNOW that this is exactly where I'm suppose to be when I'm suppose to be here and that gives me great comfort especially when it gets hard (like every day). This next week of no English is going to be hard but just like when you want to build new muscle in our bodies you have to break them first. It is the moment when its the hardest and you feel like you can't do anymore but you do more anyways, that’s when its the best for you. I feel like the week is going to break me and build me and I can't wait. I know this gospel is true. I know the Lord love me and I know He love you. Have an absolutely fantastic week!


Paqe dhe bekimit,

Motra Curtis


Une e di se kisha eshte vertet!

Wow, time is going by SO fast now! We leave to move in to Wyview on Tuesday and that should be an adventure. I really am grateful that our branch was chosen to go. The MTC is great but I feel like I have been here for years and also days at the same time. But since we have stopped learning new grammar principles and things I feel like we are starting to get too comfortable and these move and change will be so good for us. Plus its fun to be the first ones to experience this new west campus. From what I know (and I'm not even sure is all right) we will be living in Wyview and our classes will be in Raintree. Our food for now will be catered-not sure where from yet but I'm hoping we get Cafe Rio. I think they are working on building a gym (especially for when it gets to be winter). I'm not sure how mail is going to work so I guess just keep using the same address for now. I think they are still working on having devotionals in the Marriott which will be sweet. But yeah, looks like I'll be packing this week and then 2 weeks later! Should be fun. Its such a crazy feeling to be doing a lot of "for the last time" things but not really. It's weird. I really am excited for this change though. We'll be the first to experience it :)

I feel like I mentioned before how many prayers people say here (definitely more than the BYU testing center). The other day I was sitting just looking at my hands in my lap (I think there was a hang-nail or something) but one of the Motrat turned and started taking to me but stopped really quick and and checked to make sure I hadn't been praying or anything. Which I hadn't been...I was probably just looking at that hang-nail but its a pretty valid concern here. You never know if when someone closing their eyes has fallen asleep or is saying a prayer, both are pretty likely! Sometimes it makes me think of that Julian Smith video "Don't you ever interrupt me when I'm reading a book" but instead "Don't you ever interrupt me when I'm saying a prayer!" Haha, yesterday we were outside and my companion had her head down (really saying a prayer) and some elders called over to her to wake up...haha "don't you ever interrupt me when I'm saying a prayer!". The other thing that comes to mind is that divine comedy sketch when that guy fell asleep and everyone that came up stopped talking because they thought he was you know which one I'm talking about? I can't remember the name of it... Oh MTC, I'll still miss you.

Some other stuff about this week, Motra Kokol and I taught our district meeting on Sunday. We were told the night before it was about the Holy Ghost and started planning for it, but then in the morning he said he told us wrong and it was actually Book of Mormon. He's a new district leader so its okay, we are both pretty flexible people anyways. But we only had 1 hour to prepare and how we were going to teach it together (it takes a little bit more time to prepare when you're teaching with someone). But it was cool because we were able to explain our time crunch to the Lord and it was neat to see how He directed our thoughts and was pretty involved in the lesson planning. I don't think I've ever experienced "Sunday school" lesson planning quite like that before. Pretty neat.

Sunday devotional Sister Mary Ellen Edmunds came to speak to us. That woman is fantastic! She is so funny but brings the spirit so strong. She has served multiple missions and has just great advice. I love that woman. We heard from her in RS the first week I was hear and I'm so happy I got to hear from her again.

The talk we watched after (they have movies and past devotionals you can watch after) we watched Character of Christ by Elder Bednar and it changed my life. I have not been able to stop thinking about it since. I'm not sure if you have access to it in any way but if you do you should definitely watch it because ahhhh, its just so good. Basically he just encouraged us to study the characteristics of Christ and went through a couple of them with us. One was focusing outward. I love that. I feel like the natural man is definitely selfish but that's why repentance is so great. We can change! I love this gospel!!

I'm running out of time which stinks because I was saving the best stuff for last!

I'll leave you with a cool little realization I had the other day when I was talking with Motra Kokol and her friend sister Pyne. I feel like we sometimes wish we had more time to prepare. More time to study for tests. More time to prepare before lessons. But its when we are actually tested on what we know, when we are put into lessons with investigators...that is when we grow and develop the most, when we are made to act. At times, I wish I had more time to work on lessons but honestly, my lessons probably wouldn't be more prepared if I had more time, at a certain point you just have to go for it. Sometimes I wish I had more time here in the MTC to learn Albanian. But the truth of it is, I'll be in Albanina in 3 weeks whether I am ready or not. But when I am there I know that I'll be able to grow much more and much faster than I would if I got more time here. Strength and development comes from taking action. I can either be scared and feel unprepared or see this as another learning opportunity and embrace it with excitement. I want to be excited, no I will be excited, no, I am excited! Don't be afraid of new challenges that come into your life, but see them as opportunities to grow. I know you'll find strength you didn't know you had and a greater amount of happiness.

One more thing really quick. I was at lunch today and was over in the leftover section getting this casserole thing with cheddar cheese on the top. I was standing near my shoqen (companion) and I was like "I'm really gonna miss cheddar cheese" (because we found out yesterday that Albania doesn't have cheddar cheese) anyways, I hear this soft chuckle that does not sound like Motra Kokol and I turn to my side and Sister Hacking is just standing there. "I like cheese too" she says. Wow. We have so much in common! Hahaha, she is a fun lady.

Well, that's about it this week! Well at least that I can remember at the moment. We'll see what happens this week! Keep the letters coming, you only have a couple weeks left and then letters will take between 3 weeks to a month to get to me and vice verses. I love you all. The church is true. I love being a missionary!


Paqe dhe bekimit,

Motra Kertis