Monday, January 30, 2012

January 29, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

Today was a special day for our branch in Gyumri because we had our 5 new missionaries in this area bear their testimonies. My sweetheart, myself and the zone leader were the only missionaries left that have been here for two months. The president moved the sisters from Vandazor (our other area) on Thursday. They were really excited to see such a strong branch compared to what they have been used to. The members were so excited to have sisters as they haven't had any for two years. Two of the male missionaries have been out for at least a year. One will be a zone leader and the other will be our district leader here. He will be training a new missionary that just came out 3 days ago from the MTC. He is just terrified would be the best way to describe him.

All the other missionaries know the language well and have been out for at least a year. They are at the stage where they are not sure if they want to go home because it feels like home here. He is at the stage of what have I got myself into. I barely can understand the language and I want to go home where I am safe and things are normal. All of us missionaries can identify with him and within a couple of months, he'll be one of us:)

It was really had to let the three missionaries go that trained us and have been working with us. They are our fathers (your trainers in missionary talk) It was almost like losing my sons again when we left to go on our mission as we left our home in Logan. The good news is that I will get to see them again here in the mission. They are incredible missionaries that were strong in the gospel. strong language skills, their testimonies and love for the people. They were great examples for my sweetheart and I to follow and learn from. Whenever I would get discouraged when we first got here, I would look at them and think to myself that if a 20 year old can do all that is required here surely I can at least 50% to try to keep up with them at my age.

During transfer day (Thursday) for the missionaries, my sweetheart and I had a free day. I decided to be brave and try the beauty shop on my own. My sweetheart dropped my off and went shopping which he loves to do except that it was snowing outside and he was going to the outdoor market. The lady that colored my hair last time remembered me and went right to work. I showed her the ends of the boxes of the color that she used last time and she smiled and said chay (no) that she didn't need to look at them. I thought to myself that she really has a great memory. While I was waiting for my hair to process, they had a lady who spoke English from the cafe next door come and tell me that they didn't have hot water to rinse my hair with and that they would get some from the cafe. So they brought in bucket after bucket to get ready to rinse my hair with when it was ready. She finally called me over to have it rinsed. It reminded me of water in a very, very hot whirl pool. At first I thought I would scream, and then I thought to myself of how often do you get to feel really hot in Armenia and endured it well.

When I sat back up after having my hair rinsed, I was really surprised to see a much, much older version of Pippi Longstockings looking back at me in the mirror. That would be the color of my hair close to the scalp about an inch or two and dark brown with red highlights for the rest. The girl was thrilled with how it turn out and knew I would love it. It is quite a surprise every time I see it in the daylight in the mirror. I have Senior Council in Yerevan tomorrow so they will get to see the new and improved me. My new motto for having my hair colored here is from a modified version of a saying from Forest Gump’s' mother. Having your hair colored here is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get:) The good news is that my sweetheart could enjoy his shopping trip because it only cost $7.00 to get your hair done here so there was plenty of money for him to spend.

I miss you all and hope your day is colored with lots of sunshine and smiles.

Love, Your Senior Armenian Couple

January 23, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

I am taking advantage of this window of internet service and hoping it won't go down before I send it. This is the fourth time to try today. I have great news about the bride I wrote you about last week. They were able to get their marriage license last week and she proudly showed it to all of us when we went into the home. She has finished all the lessons along with the 8 year old nephew in the home. The district leader interviewed them and they will both be baptized on Wednesday. I was really impressed with our last visit at the questions she was asking about the church and the Book of Mormon. She is helping her new nephew to understand as well. She was asking us if after she was baptized, she should go to the branch president and ask for a calling in the Primary or wait for him to come to her. She loves children so I am sure it would be a great place for her but there are only at the most 10 children in the Primary including the nursery if everyone comes. There is a great feeling in that little Primary. I will never forget how generous they are each time we teach them with their food. I know that they don't have much but always insisted on putting out food for us and us eating the food. These are truly a very generous and sharing people.

We visit a new family that afternoon that the elders had met on the street. Their son was in the living room on the couch as he had just had a nose operation due to his nose being bent. I told him that we were very familiar with that operation as some of our children had had it. He looked a little different though as he had white adhesive tape across his forehead, down his nose and across his nose. He looked like he was in pain. In Armenia, men go into the Armenian Army when they are 19 for two years. It is required and he wanted it done before he left. He couldn't join us for cookies, fruit and candy but ate some warm soup. They all seemed very excited about the gospel including him as he had studied about churches in school.

We met with a member and her daughter next who are very active. They have been members for several years. They have family that live in Glendale, California. They would love to go to be with them, but cannot since it is very hard to get a visa. Their family in Glendale send them money to help support them as that is the Armenia way. If I have a good job in America, I will bless your family too because we are family. You would do it for me if the situation was reversed. Her and her husband want to go on a senior mission someday. Her scriptures are well used and you can tell she loves them with all her heart.

 When we left the member's home, we took a mar/shoot/knee to our next visit. It was a new route that we had never used before and the last thing the elders said was "Are you sure you will be ok"? We confidently reassured them we would be fine after all it had been two months since we got here. We were breezing down the road enjoying the new area we were in with the few lights that were lite along the way. All of a sudden the mar/shoot/knee died and the driver pulled it over slowly to the side of the road before it stopped. There was one other man on it with us. As they try to communicate with us, they found out we are Americans with almost no language skills. They signaled us to stay seated while they worked the problem. If we tried to get off, they would signal us again it will be ok and stay seated. After about 15 minutes of trying, a car much small than the van pulls up and they hook a rope tow to the bumper. They reassure us again and off we go down the road being towed on the mar/shoot/knee route to our stop. They wanted to make sure that they had taken good care of us and got us where we needed to be. The man that was riding the mar/shoot/knee with us got off at our stop also as he had gotten us to our stop and could now find his way home. I feel well cared for here by everyone even complete strangers.

We met with our other set of elders and headed off for about a 3 or 4 block walk to our next appointment. It was a mom and her daughter who were members. They were bright, fun loving and happy. The mother shared with us about her experiences at being a bride going into her husband's home. She laughed as she told us how hard it was since there were 3 other brothers which meant 3 other brides. Eventually, they all moved out and she endured getting the family home. The parents had both died and 3 years ago her sweetheart had had a stroke. She has been caring him in their home the last three years. We talked a lot about faith and she shared some funny stories. She talked about her job. She said. "I thought to myself, I have a brain and no phone. My boss has no brain and a phone." The next day as she was walking down the street, she found a phone just like his. She felt like the Lord had answered her prayers and helped her. I asked them about how come they were both so happy and had such positive attitudes. They said that it was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that had made them so happy. They were very sincere when they said it. On the bumpy ride home, I thought about what they had said and how often I have just taken it for granted and not felt the joy that they felt. It is like water, I have never really appreciated it before. Life is full of wonderful treasures that I am learning to love and notice, but I have to agree with them that the gospel is the greatest as it includes of all I treasure and hold dear in my life that bring me the greatest joy.

All our love, your Armenian Senior Couple Missionaries

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 17, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

Dearest Loved Ones;

Today is grandpa's birthday. He has been gone since September and we really missed him even though we are far away from home. We talked for a long time today about some of our favorite memories of him. It was kind of like spending some time with him. It is hard to believe that he won't be there to meet us at the airport when we get home. However, sometimes it almost feels like at times, he is here with us. It will be interesting when we get to the other side of the veil, to ask him about it or if we just had hope in our hearts that he was getting to share some it with us.

I had to close this email and go teaching as we got a phone call from the elders so it is now the next day. It has been a busy one as we had a cab pick us up to go to Vanadzor at 9:30 for district meeting. We had a surprise for the missionaries over there. We had made them a taste of home- Brother Griffiths homemade chili, salad (cukes, tomatoes and cabbage since there is no lettuce this time of year), cake from bakery, Armenian juice that you can buy that is wonderful and of course, 4 big loaves of flat bread bigger that a pizza. So it wouldn't spill, my sweetheart engineered a travel box due to the bumpy roads for the hour trip. He put the chili in bottles with very tight canning lids and then into a container that would seal. We were very pleased that there were no spills especially since when we got there, we had the assistants to feed also. 12 hungry missionaries and one cab driver were super excited for the meal and did not even leave one little bread crumb. We cleaned up as quickly as we could and hurried back over to Gyumri to our district meeting over here. We finally got home about 4:30. I just heard the water come on, I will be right back. I had some darks that needed to be washed and we were gone last night teaching during water turn.

The family we taught last night was combined with a Family Home Evening. The family consists of a mother, the father just died 6 months ago, a daughter and her two boys which are 10 and 8, a 18 month old little girl whose mother (a daughter) is a journalist working in Yerevan to support the family 7 days a week from 10 to 8 while they babysit her. The son just got married a month ago. That means that his bride moved into the house with the rest of them a month ago. It is a tradition that the bride brings with her bed and a closet with her clothes which is about 20 feet long and 10 feet high and has room for all their personal things for the years to come. They have applied for the official marriage license a month ago and now need to go back and pay for the official paper to show that they are really married by the government. It only cost about $10 for it but they usually don't worry about it and just live together. However, these are members of the church. He has been inactive but now because he married, he has introduced her to the church. She is taking the lessons along with one of the grandsons. She is very interested in the church and wants to join. She is going to church, reading the Book of Mormon and taking the lessons.

Let me tell you a little about her life now. She fell in love with this handsome young man and they decided to get married. She moves in with this family and will stay in this home the rest of her life because he is the only son so it will be his home when the mother dies. They will raise their family there. The mother will teach her how to care for her family with the garden and fruit to preserve for the winter. She will teach her how to cook and clean the way their family likes. She calls her mother-in-law, "mom" because that is her mom now. We had a lesson for Family Home Evening and then a beet, onion and carrot salad, hot homemade bread she is learning to make daily, fried scones, juice that she learned how to prepare along with the desserts we brought from the bakery. The company is always the honored guests and gets the best plates and eats first. Afterwards, My sweetheart played chess with the ten year old while grandma helped him and the other grandson played backgammon with an elder. I helped (against much protesting) clear the table and played with the little girl. I tried to help with the dishes but they wouldn't let me saying that that is now Gayonee's job. (the bride). The sister missionaries talk about it like the bride becomes a slave. But I think that it is their tradition that more that she is to learn and some day after she will be the mother-in-law keeping the family support system going. They are extremely dedicated to their families and the family unit. It is almost like an oath. The joy that they get when they are able to go to the temple as a family and be sealed is so over-whelming for them. Life just couldn't get better. Well, there goes the phone and I am on my way. I will hang up my wash when I return.

I love you and miss you, The Griffiths Armenian Seniors:)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

January 12, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

It seems like the last time I wrote you it was New Year’s Eve and there were fireworks going off all over the city that we were viewing from our apartment window. Father Winter comes to visit the children on New Year’s Eve with a few toys while they are sleeping. I haven't heard about any other gifts given except for the children and a few of the high school youth. I think for the rest of Armenian it is food. The women start preparing it a week before New Year’s Day because it takes so much preparation. It has to be already New Year’s Day to put on the New Year Table. The tradition is to make things like dolma, which is either hamburger, chicken or pork mixed with grated carrots, onions and spices wrapped in either grape leaves or cabbage and cooked in a large pot with stewed tomatoes. They are both really good but I think that I like the cabbage one the best. I probably tasted 10 different dolma's last week.

They usually have several different salads, crepes filled with cheese, meat or omelet like eggs rolled up and deep fried, which is one of my favorite things. They have chicken shredded after cooked and mixed with carrots and mayo and then deep fried in a corn meal coating. There is always mixed nuts which are always raw, dried fruit, plates of jerky and sausage, cheese, and lots of bread and lawash. They have plates of homemade desserts that look like they came from a fancy bakery. This is all served with homemade juice that they bottled this summer that you toast the New Year in with. It is all spread out with their best dishes and glasses on a fancy table cloth and fancy napkins in a beautiful holder.

It reminds me a lot of our Thanksgiving except for one little catch. How would you like to have Thanksgiving for one week? It is the biggest holiday time of the year. What happens is that family, friends and neighbors all visit each other and eat some of the food on the New Year’s table during that week. People save up for it all year like we save up to buy Christmas presents only they buy food. All the stores, restaurants, government buildings. schools or closed from New Year’s Eve until January 7th. We ate at several New Year’s tables and the food was wonderful except it was like going to 3 Golden Corrals a day for a week. Some people were very poor and only had nuts, dried food and soda while others had a buffet but they all had something on their table. We went to one home that had 6 children that were very poor. I am sure the children were told not to eat the food on the table as it was for the visitors that stop by.

On the 6th of January, they celebrate the birth of the Savior as that is Christmas Day. Many people goes to church the day before to get candles, light them and bring them home. That represents them bringing the light of Christ into their homes for Christmas the next day. It is beautiful to see all these lite candles going down the street at night. At our branch in Vandazor, they had a Christmas program on Christmas day. The branch president talked first and mentioned because we had visitors he wanted to let them know that although people call us Mormons that the real name of the church is after Jesus Christ and that Mormon was just a prophet. He talked a lot about the Savior as did the other speakers. They then had a nativity skit with the children in the branch. My favorite part was when they have 5 little ones under 4 years of age come in pretending to be sheep. We watched the church video of the birth of the Savior and had lunchmeat and cheese on a big hunk of bread sandwiches and cream soda.

Everyone was quiet and reverent as they honor the birth of the Savior. We even had a little snow for Christmas. I was surprised with the difference between the New Year’s program of dancing, singing, Father Winter, and celebrating and the quiet reverence of the Christmas celebration of the birth of the Savior. I also liked how the whole town shuts down and everyone focus was on being together with family and loved ones for a week except for the cabs and mar/shoot/knees that had to get people from house to house. How often in your life do you get to have two Christmas seasons back to back?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January 3, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

My sweetheart is sleeping this afternoon because he doesn't feel well due to a flu bug with a cough. Our afternoon appointment cancelled because she was sick. Here in Armenian, the belief is that if it is cold outside, you will probably get sick if you are out in it. One of our investigators is a guard at a bank they are building. They shut off all the electric so he has no heat or lights where he guards. He got the flu really bad and told us it was because they shut off the electric. So if someone is sick, it is due to the cold weather you were out in or cold buildings. I felt bad for him as he is pretty miserable without heat or lights and to be sick on top of that. However, the great news is that he brought his 4 year old son and 9 year old daughter to the New Year’s Party/Christmas party for our branch in Gyumri on December 27. That was not a typo, Here in Armenia, the holidays run from 31st of December (New Year’s Eve) to the 6th of January, which is Christmas. So while we are on our mission, we get to have two Christmas celebrations.

The day after our Christmas celebration (December 25th), we went to a Christmas program at the elementary school, There were about 25 children all dressed up in costumes like different toys and snow princesses, The music teacher was with them on stage leading them in their songs and helping them to know when to say their lines. After each line was said and song sung, there were cheers from the audience. Some of the songs were even in English like Jingle Bells. The teach the children English, Russian and Armenian in the schools. At the end all the children chanted calling for Grandfather Winter to come for about 5 minutes. When he showed up, they were all screamed with excitement. To end the play, they sang a song in English called Happy New Year and lite sparklers several children were holding on the stage. Everyone in the audience knew the song, and sang along with them.

That night, we went with the missionaries to teach a man who lives by himself. His electric is shut off so he had us come into his kitchen to be taught. He had moved his bed in the kitchen to keep warm so three of us sat on it while the other two sat on the kitchen chairs. The room was warm since he had three of his gas burners on the stove on for warmth and the room had light due to the stove and 4 candles lite in the room. As the missionaries started to teach, he was having a real hard time focusing. But as he felt the spirit of what they were saying, all of sudden he really focused and started to listen. As they taught, he wanted to hear more and got excited. For some reason, it reminded me of the play earlier that day when the children got so excited when Grandfather Winter came on to the stage. Isn't it great that we can all get excited about our feelings and what happens in life no matter our age.

On Tuesday the 27th was the Gyumri branch party at 3:00 in the afternoon. We have one large room that we use for a chapel on Sunday and a recreation hall for activities. All you have to do is hook up the sound system, to put up some balloons and streamers and then move the chairs to the side of the room. We sang Christmas songs out of the hymn book, watched people dance some Armenian dances, watched a couple of skits about New Year’s Eve and Grandfather Winter coming and listened to several people sing songs. But the highlight for our family would be when the children called for Grandfather Winter to come and it was my sweetheart dressed up in a Santa outfit. We were worried when the asked him since we don't speak Armenian, but here all he had to do was pass out some boxes of candy they had for the children and have his picture taken with different groups for old to young. One of the sisters came to get me to help him since his pants were coming down. He had put his costume over his clothes but the pants didn't have a belt and kept slipping down. He has already got it planned how to handle it for next year. I helped with the refreshments. Every plate had an apple, orange, 2 pieces of candy, cookie, and a tortilla with chicken and grated carrots inside is the best way to describe it-it's really good! After eating, they all dance to Armenian music. Everyone dances - old and young, missionaries old and young. It was really fun!

On Wednesday the 28th, we squeezed 4 of us into a cab to go to Vanadzor, our other area an hour away. After our district meeting and teaching appointment, we found out that it was Vanadzor's day for the New Year’s/ Christmas Party at 3:00. Much to my sweetheart disappointment:(, they have a professional Grandfather Winter in the branch so he could just relax and enjoy the afternoon. They turned the chapel into the recreation hall, had the same sound system, tree, balloons and streamers so I think that these are the typical decorations for New Year’s/Christmas. The program was about the same with carols, skits, musical numbers, dances and Grandfather Winter arrival just before the food was served. The food was just about the same and there was lots of fun dancing after. I wonder at my age if there is a need for an old American Dancer in Logan? After the party at about 6:00, we helped teach a lesson at the church until about 8:00. He was a businessman with lots of good questions that we were able to help answer. My sweetheart was really able to help with this lesson a lot.

On Thursday the 29th, we woke up in Vanadzor at the huge hotel downtown. It is close to the church and the missionaries so it is walking distance to everything. It is 4 stories high and huge. However, they only use the 4th floor at this time. You tell them what time you'll be coming in so they can turn the heat on in your room and warm it up. There is a bucket of water to flush the toilet if there is no water. You tell them what time you want warm water in the morning so they can get you back up water turned on if there is no water for your shower. We always buy some bread, apples and juice to have for breakfast before we check in at night. Our first teaching appointment was at 11:00 to a cute little old Armenian sister who is 76 years old. She joined the church a couple of years ago and had wanted the missionaries to come over. They have to have a priesthood holder with them to visit so we were a perfect fit. She gave us some of her homemade peach juice that was really good. She sang and danced for us which was delightful. It reminded me of an old medicine man dancing and singing. We looked at pictures of her performing in the past in her much younger days. It was amazing to her story about joining the church and how it changed her life for the good.

It was one of our missionaries birthdays, so we took the six missionaries out for lunch in a place near the church they had never been before. It was really nice and even had a water fall inside it. We had salad, soup and main dishes with juice to drink. For main dishes some had buffalo wings (basically fried chicken wings) with lots of fries, steak and fries, chicken stew and pork pot pies with hot home bread on top (my favorite). It cost about $6 a person for all of that in this nice restaurant. After that wonderful meal, we went out to teach two lessons. One sister had lost her mother a year ago and was having a hard time. She was interested in the temple and taking out her endowments. Since we had worked there, we were able to share with her some things that really helped her. The second sister had had an operation and was recovering. She had some family member's visiting her so we were able to tell them a little about the gospel. The aunt was laughing as she was telling us that she had a degree in math and had ended up having a business making noodles. At 5:00, we all met back at the church to sing Happy Birthday and eat a beautifully white decorated cake. The cab picked us up at 5:45 and we headed back to Gyumri. On the way, the driver had to stop for natural fuel for the car. It is about 10 miles out of town and you have to get out of the car and get several feet back while they fill up the car just in case it explodes. The moon was beautiful and I thought of all of you:)

It was getting cold in the room I am in, so I turned on the little heated by the computer and warmed up some Armenian cherry juice which is wonderful. I will really miss it when we go back home as I have never tasted anything like it. It is not just me either as all the elders love it also. There is a certain kind of cherry tree they have here that we don't have in the US. It was really fun to watch all the excitement of everyone getting ready for New Year’s/Christmas. The stores and the street markets were jammed with people buying for the last minute preparation. Just like we save money for Christmas, they save money or borrow money from family for this celebration. The women in the home all talk about the week before all the cooking they have to do for New Year’s Celebration. The store carry special things also. We found mozzarella and Swiss cheese and ham which we hadn't ever seen before in the store on Saturday. The elders were thrilled to get ham and cheese sandwiches with the chili we served them.

One of the hardest things about being on a mission so far away is that you can't be there for the really hard times for your loved ones. We have been very concerned about Ed's father, Muerto. I can remember when we first met him, how impressed I was with the kind of gentle, loving man he was. I could see why Catherine loved him so much when she talked about him. It was very apparent that he loved his sweetheart, sons and their wives and grandchildren. You could tell that he had been a hard worker all his life providing for his family. Having a handicapped child myself, I was so impressed that he would go visit Louey so often. I remember how thrilled Catherine and Ed were when he decided to get on his very first airplane ride and go and visit them. I thought of the courage that would take for me to be able to do that especially by myself. I loved looking at the pictures of him during the visit and the expressions on his face. He was having so much fun and loving every minute of it. I was inspired by the picture him to going down the giant wagon at the park when I decided to try it following his example. Catherine told me how much the boys loved it when he would go out in the backyard to spend time and swing them. None of us knew at that time that that would be the greatest gift he could give their family in this life was his time. He will truly be missed by all of us that loved him. The only way to comfort myself at this time so far away is to think about how great the reunion is on the other side with his loved ones that have passed on. Thank you Ed and Catherine for sharing such a wonderful man with us.

Our electric went off twice on Saturday which caused us to lose our heat Saturday night about 10. We were planning to stay up for the New Year’s fireworks at midnight but it got so cold in the house that we got in bed to stay warm. We both fell asleep and woke up at midnight with fireworks booming over our head. We live on the top floor of our building and someone was on the roof above us shooting fireworks off the building. Our kitchen window overlooks the city, so we were able to watch the great show that Armenians put on for New Years. The fireworks were the kind they shoot off for the 4th of July only this was all from individuals. What really surprised us was how long it lasted. We finally went back to bed about 1:00 a.m. I was thinking of all the excitement of the children in Armenia as I drifted off to sleep. The parents had probably just been able to calm them down and got them to sleep. Grandfather Winter comes on New Year’s Eve while they are all sleeping. I was thinking of their excitement as they woke up the next morning. I remember how excited my own grandchildren were when we watched them on Christmas morning. Thank you parents for making that possible for us to treasure.

New Year’s day started off with church at 11:00. Everyone was full of the holiday spirit and one sister even gave us some candy out of her purse to get us in the spirit of it. "Snore haw vor nor daree" was said over and over by all. For church we had an opening song, prayer. the Sacrament, closing song and prayer. Most of them were so excited that they were thrilled. My only concern was about a sister loves the gospel and church so much. She lived in the village of Artic which is about an hour away. She had got paid the day before and was so excited because she could afford to go to church the next day. The mar/shoot/knee didn't fun on New Year’s so she took a cab which I am sure was most of her pay with transportation both ways. But still she was just happy to visit with the members and talk to the missionaries for a while. She is such a happy person who just loves life. She is a great example to us all. The missionaries spent the day with us eating pancakes, playing Zarahemla, watching It's a Wonderful Life and eating stew, bread, salad and cake. My sweetheart found that if you use T bone steaks the meat is tender enough for stew meat if you boil it for several hours. They had to be in by 7:00 both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

In Armenia, New Year’s Day is a big family day so they encouraged us not to visit on those days. They all make big tables full of food and go visit each other enjoying each other's tables of food. The first day is with family and the rest of the days are when friends are included to come and visit until January 6th which is the day they celebrate the birth of Christ. The tables of food are full for anyone who comes to visit. Most of the businesses are closed during this week except for a few stores, cabs and mar/shoot/knees for transportation. It is a time to visit each other and relax together.

December 27, 2011 - Sister Griffiths

Dearest Loved Ones,

I thought that I would share with you what our American Christmas celebration was like. It started off waking up Christmas Eve to the winter snow storm. We felt very blessed to be able to ride down to Yerevan in the mission transfer van due to the road conditions. The driver arrived from Yerevan to pick us up and two sets of elders at 9:30 a.m. The snow storm was just in Gyumri so it was a fun ride down visiting with the elders. All the missionaries in Armenia were together for the Christmas celebration which was about 60 people. When President Carter welcomed us all there, he mentioned two things to start off the celebration. The first was to comfort us all a little about being away from family at this special time of year. He reminded us that we will only have one or two Christmas in Armenia in our whole lives depending on how long our missions were. It will be a memory we will never forget, make the most of it and to treasure it. The second was to remind us that without Christ, we would not have been able to all be together that day enjoying each other's company. None of us would be on missions. He then listed a list of things that our lives would be like without the Savior that really made you think about what our lives would be like without him.

To help us celebrate his birth, we sang some Christmas songs as we waited for the food to arrive. After singing as a group for a while, we finally broke up into smaller groups. We have some very talented singers here. And we waited for the food to arrive as we sang. Finally, President Carter decided we would play the white elephant game while we waited for the food to arrive. It was so much fun to see all the trades, surprises, zonks and laughing. One of the highlights was the creative wrapping as I have not seem any wrapping paper since I got here. Bags with balloons for bows are used a lot along with newspaper and plastic grocery bags. I cannot do my paper sack trick here as there are no paper sacks. Half way through the game, they said the food was on its way. President Carter told us that it was probably Armenia time and we had time to finish the game. We did finish the game and have time to look over our treasures for about a half hour. I was able to get Chad a girlfriend to keep him company because we are gone so much. She is a little doll with pockets to put things in. I named her LucyNay which is a popular name here.

The food really did come and was worth waiting for. It was chicken and pork barbeque on skewers. There were potatoes and carrots under the meat where the drippings had helped cook them that were wonderful. There was large pots of rice and sauce to go with the meat also. There is always bread and lavish (tortillas) and fruit. There was a cabbage and apple salad that was also good. They usually serve juice to drink or punch but we did have some soda also. The desserts were American with brownies, apple crisp, cookies and lemon pie brought by the senior missionaries to give everyone a taste of home. It was all really good.

After dinner was the talent show, which was delightful. It started off with 8 elders doing a skit about the life of a missionary. It was all sung to the music of Star Wars. It reminded me of that Christmas musical you all love on Scrubs. It had in getting up early, companion differences, food differences and cooking, tracting, a girl friend back home and a dear John letter. In the end, he gets off the plane, the girl asks for his forgiveness and her boyfriend is now tracting on his mission. Really well done and fun.

The talent show lasted for about two hours. We laughed and laughed. Two elders had been companions and discovered that they both loved to make up voices. They entertained us for about 20 minutes with all the difference ones. There were two elders that had learned to throw M&M's like baseballs at each other and catch them in their mouths. They had all kinds of different pitches. They even challenged two of our elders to a contest. Surprisingly, since these other elders were really, really good, our elders won. Two sisters put on a Southern Cooking skit that had a women's lib theme that had us all laughing so hard. My sweetheart won the male seniors contest of putting a cookie on your forehead and getting it into your mouth without touching it. There was a toothpick and pass the Lifesaver contest that was so funny. The talents included magic tricks and musical singing with hula dancing by the elders. But at the end of all the laughing and fun were two incredible musical singing numbers about Christmas. It set the mood for Sister Carter's talk about how special they all are and the Christmas gifts she had for each of us. We all helped clean up. It is surprising how fast you can clean up if 60 people are helping.

We headed back in the transfer van in bright, happy moods full of Christmas spirit. On the way home, the elders talked about some of their Christmas memories of their childhood. We shared many of our as children and as parents. We all decided at the end of the conversation that the memories and traditions are better than the presents. We drove home in a snow storm most of the way. It was so bad that the driver brought his father, who is also a driver, just in case he needed help. We were so grateful to them for making it possible for us to be at the Christmas party. They still had another 2 hours ride home after they dropped us off at 9:30 p.m. It was a really exciting thought for all of us to know that we would be sharing Christmas with our families on Skype the next morning as we parted that night as missionaries.

The elders arrived at 7:00 the next morning to Skype one of the families on Christmas Eve. With the time difference, they set it up for two of them to Skype in the morning and two in the evening. Elder Morris was so disappointed since his family wasn't home. The elders had study time while we prepared French toast with Armenia round bread for them. They loved it as it was a taste of home. Elder Poulsen tried at 8:00 and was able to get through. It was so fun to hear all the excitement as they first saw each other on Skype. It reminded me of how excited we all were to talk to Ken just on the phone last year. Elder Morris tried at 9:00 and was able to get through to his family. Both of these elders were 10 inches off the ground as we headed for church. In Relief Society, they practiced for the Christmas program on the 27th the whole time. Most people live so far from the church that they had to do it then.

After church, we fed the elders a choice of chili or chicken noodle soup with bread and salad. We put out lots of goodies to munch on as they played Zarahemla. It reminded me of our family Christmas day of the kids playing with their presents. Zarahemla was a present an elder had gotten. We got to watch Lindsey and Dan's family and Cathy and Ed's family open their presents while the elder's played their game. Their families will never know how much it meant to us to be able to share that with them. At 7:15 p.m., Elder Olsen called as we again heard screams of delight. We fed them again while he talked and then they had my sweetheart play the game to fill in while the elder talked. At 8:15, Elder Wahl was greeted with screams of delight. At 9:15, sadness filled the air as Elder Wahl said goodbye. All the elders commented on how much their families meant to them and that they hadn't realized it until they had gone on their missions. We aged 100%! The elders have to be home by 9:30 so they had to quickly catch a cab. If we couldn't be home with our family, this was the next best thing. As President Carter, we will only have two Christmas Days in our whole lives, so we need to treasure the memories. To my delight, I was able to talk to Elizabeth, James, Ken, Jenny, Susan, Jason and Sarah the next morning Armenian time. My sweetheart and I agree that this will be a Christmas we will never forget in so many different ways.

December 22, 2011 - Sister Griffiths

I appreciate Elizabeth forwarding this email to you since I haven't figured out how to send this email to all of you. I sent you a quick email a few days ago to apologize for not writing sooner because we are so busy. I just barely got started and my sweetheart came to get me because the water came on. After we finished doing the stack of dishes, we bundled up and hurry out into the cold night air to walk to our appointment. It is about a 25 minute walk to meet the elders. Thank goodness for cell phone as we can find places to meet up together. It is the custom here to always take off your glove to shake hands. It is an insult to shake hands with gloves on. It is always a little thrill for me when I see the elders coming down the street in the dark towards us. This is for two reasons. The first is because I'm glad to see them and know they are ok (it's a mom thing about keeping those you love safe) and the second is because they know their way around so well and know how to speak the language so well. There are only a few main streets here and most of the rest of it is a cluster of buildings here and a cluster of buildings there with apartment buildings in between.

This couple lived on the first floor of the building so no exercise this night. In fact, I think this is the first investigator that we have visited that has lived on the first floor of the apartment building. I am really glad since he is in his 70's and he has to walk with two canes. The elders met him on the street on Saturday and he invited them up to his apartment to meet his wife. They told them a little bit about the church, gave them a Book of Mormon and asked them to come to church the next day. In order to come, they had to walk 4 blocks on ice walks and catch a mar/shoot/knee (the van that holds 11 people but usually stuffs in 20. We had met them for the first time on Sunday and were going back with the elders to teach another lesson to them that night. In Armenia, when they open the door to welcome you inside there is lots of hand shaking and the women all hug and kiss each other on the cheek. They always take your coats and give you the best seats in the home. The great thing about their home was that it was warm in the living room. His wife brought us hot water in tea cups, cherry jam to add to the water and what looked like big Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls sliced up. She had made the cherry jam in the summer and it is the best cherry jam I have ever tasted in my whole life. The cherries are whole with seeds so after you finish your tea, you eat the fruit off the seeds. It was so good! Most of the women here put up fruit and veggies for the winter. They really try to be as self-reliant as possible. I think when we leave here, I will leave all our things here and just bring home the bottled food and bread:) 9

After our wonderful refreshments, we started our lesson. The man had lost his wife, son and home in the earthquake of 88. You could tell that this had been a great loss for him and in some ways he still grieved this loss. After a month, the government has provided a one room cement block for him to live in. Later, he married his current wife, and was given a two room cement block. Later, he was able to find work and they were able to get a better place to live and have two daughters. You can tell their daughters, who are older  now, are a great joy in their lives. They come to visit often. We have talked with the elders about the lesson they were going to teach, which was the Plan of Salvation about where we came from, our earth life, and where we are going after this life on our walk together to the couple’s home. The newest elder (he has been here about 2 months), he felt impressed to talk about families. As he continued in the lesson, he asked me to tell them about how the gospel had blessed our lives as a family. As I started to speak, I talked about our family and shared with them about being together as a family forever which really surprised me because I wasn't going to say anything because I didn't want to offend his current wife in any way. When we talk, the elders translate for us. My sweetheart spoke next and talked about eternal families also. When it was the other elder's turn to talk, he talked about eternal families also. There was a really strong spirit in the home as we spent this time with them. When we left, we talked about how surprised we all were as we had started talking about eternal families in our individual part of the lesson. Missionary work has been an incredible experience for me.

We walked with the elders back to their apartment since it was on the way home. In front of the apartment, we took off our gloves, shook hands and told them that we loved them. In our mission, whenever the missionaries leave each other, they always say "I love you". I noticed that President and Sister Carter do the same so I am not sure if that was the pattern brought by them or it was here before. There is such great love between the missionaries that it is a great way to let our feelings out. I know that President Carter has asked all of us not to tease or be sarcastic to each other to keep the spirit with us. I haven't seen an unkindness since I have been here. They are just all happy. We continued our 20 minute walk home. We usually get home at night between 9 and 10. It is very cold out and so that living on the fourth floor is a blessing as it warms us up a little. We usually change and put our pj's on as soon as we get home and turn on our electric blanket to warm the bed. If I had a wish it would be that I could give every home in Armenia flannel sheets for their bed in the winter. There are no flannel sheets in Armenia. When we go to bed, we turn off the blanket and enjoy the warmth as we talked about the experiences of the day.

I have to leave now as we have four appointments set up for today. We will get home about 9 or 10 tonight. It has snowed this morning about 3 inches and is still snowing so it looks like it could be an interesting walk to the city today. When we meet the elders, it is so fun to see their excitement about those we teach and their love for them. The words from a Primary song, " Imagine me a missionary traveling through the land" keeping popping into my mind each day.

All our love, Your very own Senior Armenian Missionary Couple

December 20, 2011 - Sister Griffiths - Letter One

I am starting to have great compassion for the people here who are trying to learn English. For example, if you were using the alphabet, how would you sound out plumber. The "b" could be very confusing. We are finding the same problems with the Armenian language. :)

We were very excited this morning to find our water was on except for one little problem. When I reached under the sink to get the Tide to do laundry, the pipe that goes to the drain in the sink was just lying there. We have a double sink about the size of ones in a small camper. When my sweetheart had checked it out, both had rusted out. Now, this is not like it is in America where you either get out the yellow pages and call a plumber or go to Home Depot and get the part. There are no yellow pages, only word of mouth. Our landlord lives in a city 2 hours away so basically we are on our own. There is only one place that we have ever seen plumbing parts. The plumbing part were on a table at the Shoe/kaw which is like a bunch of garage sales. They are usually not new but things that someone might have taken off old plumbing in buildings that are no longer being used. The Shoe/Kaw is about a 30 minute walk from our apartment. My sweetheart decided that he would try to see if there was any place that sold plumbing supplies closer to our area. My sweetheart found a store that sells new bathroom fixtures and tubs near our home. He didn't have parts to fit our sink but did have a new kit with all the plumbing you would need that would fit our sink. As my sweetheart looked at the bag, he was thinking it would be $30 or $40 at least and he would need two bags to have one for each side. Imagine his surprise when the man told him that it would be $1.70 a bag. That plumbing fit and our prayers were answered. My sweetheart has decided that his Leatherman tool is one of the best things that he has brought on his mission. He feels like any missionary going out anywhere in the world should be required to take a Leatherman tool with them. It has helped us several times.

With our morning being spent on plumbing, we ate a quick meal of bread and juice and started our walk to town of 30 minutes. We met the elders at a place that is like a bus station only it is for the Mar/shoot/knees (Vans). If you are going to leave the city of Gyumri where we live, you catch your bus here to go out to the villages. Most of the time they are very crowded when you start off, but as people get off you can usually get a seat. This is especially true of me since I am an older woman. The men here usually give their seats up to the women on the bus and us older ladies usually get offered one first by the men and young men and young women. When I get a seat, I hold the elders backpacks so they can balance easier. The ride is usually pretty bumpy and they dodge other cars along the way which causes a lot of movement on the bus. It takes about 30 minutes to get out to the village where we were teaching. The missionaries didn't get a seat this time, so they were really relieved to get off the mar/shoot/knee to be able to stand up straight since you have to bend over a little to stand. We have one elder who is about 6 foot 7 inches and this is really hard for him. However, he never complains and is always cheerful about giving up his seat.

The villages are like a subdivision made out of cement homes. They usually have a small school for the children to go to. It is rural and the people there have a little property for gardens and trees. Some even have animals like sheep. On the way out to the city, you are able to see lots of farmland. I haven't seen an stores just homes and a school but they might have a small one. I think that most of the time, they go to the city for shopping for the basics they don't have.

When we got to the village, we went to visit a couple who have been together for 5 years. Here it is a tradition that if I man goes to woman's home where she is living with her family and kidnaps her and takes her to his home and she doesn't come home back to her family that night, they are couple. It isn't a legal marriage but it works for them. They both have taken the lessons and want to be baptized into the church. The church has asked that everything should be done the legal way and so they have to go to the government building and get a marriage license and get married before they can get baptized. I think Ken had the same situation on his mission. When I met them at church a few weeks ago, they are just a bright and happy couple. They had a fight and I saw them both at church this last Sunday and they didn't have that glow about them at all. In fact, I had to look twice to see if that was her husband sitting in the back of the building because he didn't look the same. She looked so sad and gloomy.

On Tuesday, he went over to where she was staying and kidnapped her back. They had asked us to come and visit with them as missionaries. When we got there, they were a bright and happy couple again. They made us some herbal tea and gave us some bread. They told us that they wanted to be married because they love each other very much. They also want to know if they could be baptized. A marriage license is only $10 here but that is a lot of money. Life has been pretty hard on this young couple. They had a baby that died. His father was killed. His mother who saw his father killed in a horrible way lives with them because she has had a hard time emotionally since that time. We met her and she is a very kind, loving person. You can tell that she depends on them for help and they take care of her. There is a little stove in the middle of the room for heat and had some bread rising beside it. There was very little heat in the home. We went with them to town but she didn't have her passport. By the time, they got back to the government building, it was closed. They went the next day to apply for their license and will have to be married after January 6th due to the holidays. This is probably a blessing because he is working on a word of wisdom issue and this will give him the time he needs. They are reading the Book of Mormon which teaches Christ like principles and working together as a couple. Time is a wonderful thing to help us prepare for the future. I admire the people of this country and how they deal with their hardships. I have learned a lot.

All our love, your very own Senior Missionary Couple in Armenia

December 20, 2011 - Sister Griffiths - Letter Two

Several Experiences that we had.

1) This is a sad story so I will prepare you ahead of time. My sweetheart and I were walking to town on Monday to do some shopping for p-day. About half way to town, we crossed over a large bridge that is pretty high up in the air. There is a walking path on each side with a metal fence to protect you from falling about 4 1/2 feet high. You are able to look down into the raven where people have built some places to live and there is a stream that runs through it. As we walked to town that day, the bridge was lined with men looking over the bridge at something. As we got closer, we looked down to see that there was a young man about lying on the ground . His head was all bloody. After a short time, he started to move his hands and tried to get up but fell back down. Pretty soon a lady came out of her home and ran over to where he was lying. He tried to get up with her support and made it but quickly had to lie back down.

About that time, an ambulance came and the driver stopped, looked over the bridge. He then proceeded to find his way down into the raven on the dirt road which took about 10 minutes. All this time, the lady stayed by his side trying to help him. She had a light jacket and was probably very cold since we could see her breathe. Two men who lived in the ravine came out to help her with him. Finally the ambulance arrived. It had only the driver in it and he got the cart out of it to help carry him out. The men loaded him on the cart and put him in the ambulance. My sweetheart and I talked about what could have happened to this poor young man. Could he have fallen, been pushed, or jumped? If he had jumped, I felt really sad that life was that hard for him. I would have loved to tell him about who he really is and what a wonderful life with some bumps along the way to learn from that could be ahead of him if he wanted it. When we shared our experience with one of the sister's in our branch, she told us that last week a man had died jumping off that bridge. When I looked at how far he had fallen to the ground, I was surprised he lived though it let alone able to stand up. It was another testimony to me we have a time table here on earth unless we do something with our personal agency that changes that. I have heard ambulance drivers say that sometimes they think there is no way someone will make it and they do and sometimes they think the person is going to be ok and they're not.

2) We have been going with the elders to meet with a mom and her two daughters. I first met one of the daughters at a baptism we went to the first day we arrived in Gyumri. She was really short but I could feel her spirit. The next time I met her was when I went to their home with the missionaries. The mom told us that she was not really interested. I felt bad because I really liked the daughter and had gotten such a strong feeling from her. The next week, I was really surprised when we taught them again as the mom had called the missionaries to come back over and teach some more. As I got to know them better, the older daughter is an Armenian dancer and has traveled a lot with a dance group. The daughter is very confident and the family is very proud of her including her sister. Most of the focus is on the older daughter and the younger one is very shy and extremely insecure. I don't think many times we realize how special we are as the person as I got the most spiritual feelings from is the younger daughter. The last time we taught them, their grandma was there. She was really nice and I liked her a lot. However, before she left to go to work, she told us that her daughter and granddaughters could not join our church. After she left, the missionaries taught the lesson. At the end of it, the elder had them each write down a question that they wanted answer in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday. We all wrote down a question including us as missionaries which we personally kept. I noticed the youngest daughter wrote her's down immediately.

I can't understand what is said in Sacrament Meeting so I did a little research to answer my question. I didn't see them there on Sunday but I wasn't surprised because of what the grandma said. I am hoping that we have planted some seeds to let them know they are daughters of God and what life is about here on earth and where they go when they leave it.

3) We met with the elders at the church which is about five building away from where we live. It is always warm and a great place to meet. We were able to teach two sisters. One is an investigator and the other is her friend who is a member. The one who is a member tells everyone about the church in the little city of Artic where she lives. If she had her way, she would convert the whole city and have a branch there. The good news if she did is that she wouldn't have to take the 45 minute mar/shoot/knee ride to go to church here in Gyumri. Her friend has read the Book of Mormon and wants to join the church but can't right now because she is going to have an ear operation and can't get her ear wet until after the operation. She owns a little clothing shop to support herself. Both of these women are very strong and independent in taking charge of their lives and yet so gentle in their nature. I was able to try two new canned products at the investigator’s home. The first one was a canned walnut with the shell which you just pop in your mouth and eat.

They pick the walnuts when they are green and preserve them so that you can eat them with the shell and all. They are really quite soft and good if you don't think that you are eating a walnut with a shell whole. I also tried pumpkin that was canned only it is in chunks about two inch pieces. It tastes like a sweet and spiced carrot only harder. She is going to teach me how to make these this summer. I will be a regular Martha Stewart by the time I get home with all kinds of things for you to try. At the table with our tea and the other goodies I told you about was a plate of boiled eggs. She gave me an egg and then hit it with another egg that she had in her hand. She laughed as my egg cracked and went on to crack another person's egg. I quickly figured out that this is like a game they play to start cracking the eggs. We'll try this also when I get home as I quickly realized how fun it was. The next thing you do is to get a piece of lavash (which is like a flour tortilla rolled paper thin and cooked) and you roll your boiled egg which is broke up into pieces and put it in it. You can also put some of the pumpkin in a piece of lavish and eat it.

While we were eating, a male relative came to visit. He ate and laughed at the table with the rest of us. My sweetheart teased him and told him that there is only one real commandment. That is to listen to your wife. He teased back and said not for an Armenia husband. Both of the women just laughed and giggled as the elders translated it. He joined us for our lesson and very patiently listened. After a while, he started to tell us that he belonged to the National Church of Armenia and showed us his cross that he wore around his neck. The bad thing was that he had waited until the end of the lesson to talk and we had to hurry and leave to catch the mar/shoot/knee back. It only comes once every hour and a half so we didn't want to miss it. As we were hurrying to put on our coats, my sweetheart told him that he had noticed that he had borrowed his relative's glasses to read with. He told him that he had two pairs and to try one of his to see if he could read better with one of them. He took the one that worked great for him. We hurried out the door to walk/run to the mar/shoot/knee stop. He came running out the door and motioned for us to get into his car that was parked outside of her apartment. We jammed four of us into the backseat and he drove like crazy to get us there. We just made it. The life of a missionary is pretty tricky at times and very blessed. Our tummy's were full, we had a spiritual lesson, met a man we'd like to get to know better as we all liked him and admired his devotion to his religion and to top it all off, we all got a seat on the mar/shoot/knee for the long ride back to the city.

4) There is a member of our branch who is blind. He invited us to come to his school and teach the gospel to the people there. A sister from our branch also goes to the school and she said that he is always telling them to quit smoking and drinking. So when we went with the elders to visit his school, we weren't quite sure what would happen and what kind of reception we would receive. He met us on the street with another man who is a volunteer who helps with the school. You could tell he was a gentle, kind and a giant of a man. This man did sighted guide with the blind man to help him take us back to where the school was being held. It was on the 3rd floor of an apartment building in a lady's apartment. They had 4 or 5 clients who were blind or visually handicapped. They had had two computers donated to them and were using them to train them on how to learn a trade to become self-reliant. Everyone else there was a volunteer to help them since there is no funding for this program. They were really surprised when they found out that we had a blind daughter and wanted to know all about her.

One of the ladies who is blind sang a song for us and was really good. They had the missionaries tell them a little about the church and then they told us about what they believed. You could tell that they had strong testimonies of God. We then were served juice, cookies, fruit and raw nuts which are very popular here and good. They always treat you like the honored guest but my sweetheart and I try to share so that there is plenty for everyone. They will go without and always serve themselves last so that you have plenty of food. Being there with them was the same feeling I get when I go into Cache where Elizabeth works. I feel like I am among the very elite and that I can learn much from them. It was definitely a privilege to visit and meet all the wonderful volunteers, too. They are really making a difference in their lives. I am now sure that volunteers are making a difference all over the world.

December 20, 2011 - Sister Griffiths - Letter Three

Dearest Loved Ones:

I have learned many things since I have been here in Armenia. However, one thing that I experience every day that I never thought about is human nature. I can remember reading about someone interviewing Pres. Hinckley when some people reenacted the pioneers coming across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. In the interview, one reporter said to him that it was not the same thing since they had modern day things that the pioneers didn't have. He commented that that was true but it was the same in other ways because human nature is the same. I would like to share just a couple of those experiences with you.

1) It was getting pretty cold here and my sweetheart was worried about me not having a hat to keep warm when it really gets cold. His human nature has been to protect me since we have been here since he has lived in so many different places and climates. I was worried about it messing up my hair being my human nature. Finally, I decided if I got a scarf, I could tie it loosely and not mess up my hair. We went to the market and I bought a scarf at a little shop. She was very kind and showed me how to wear it. My sweetheart offered her 2,000 for it but she shook her head and said 3,000. We agreed and she went to get a bag to put it in. I know that plastic bags are important here so I motioned no that I would put it in my bag I already had. She was happy and smiled. It has gotten a lot colder here as my sweetheart said it would so again I used my human nature to apologize for not listening. I folded my scarf around my head tightly after I have doubled it for extra warm. I no longer worry about my hair only staying warm. Spring will come and then I can be vain again or will my human nature have changed a little? Now, let me tell you the best part of this human nature story. A couple of weeks later, we are walking in the (shoe/kaw) market and pass her shop. She comes running out after us with a little box. Our human nature is that she got in a new scarf and wants to show it to us. She opens the box and there are my glasses that I had dropped in her store when she was showing me how to wear the scarf. She had very carefully put them in a box (boxes are a real premium here-you hardly ever see them) and watched for us to come by her shop. We don't go by that way very often so she was very patient.

2) When we first got here, we would ride to some of our appointments with the elders to get familiar with the different areas. We would usually ride in a cab to go home at night since we didn't know the area we lived in very well either. We finally realized that there is a great marker just across the street from us that is a large square light in from of the building supply store. It is perfect for when we ride home in a cab to tell the cab driver when to stoop (how you say stop). It also shine a little light in our bedroom window at night so we can see a little when we turn our lights out. It doesn't get light here until about 8:00 so it is very helpful in the morning. Right now, they have Christmas lights up that flash a little that also add to the excitement of rising up in the morning.

On one of these car rides home at the first of our mission, my sweetheart left one of his gloves in the cab and didn't realize it until the cab had driven off. He didn't want to use his extra pair of gloves since they were really good ones and he was afraid he might lose one of those. So for the next couple of weeks, he would wear one glove to hold his scriptures with and the other hand he would stick in his pocket. Finally we found some cloth gloves we liked at the shoe/kaw and we bought four pair. I have doubled mine to help keep warm and stick by hands in the pocket of my coat. I have also found that if my hands are still freezing, if I will slip my fingers out of finger part of the gloves and curl them up in a ball in my double gloves, they are warmer that way and it helps a lot. Hope this idea helps if your gloves aren't working. I have watched your weather and I know you are freezing too.

Last week after an appointment, we met the elders on the other side of town. It was the longest mar/shoot/knee ride we have ever taken in town. It was 40 minutes. When we got off, we started walking what we thought was the right direction for about two blocks. As we were walking, a cab driver got out of his cab. We thought he was going to see if we needed a cab. He started waving a glove at us with great excitement. He was trying to tell us that it was the glove that my sweetheart had left in his cab. Dad tried to pay him for it but he would take no money. I really wished that we needed a cab at that moment so we could have used him. The elders then called on the phone and we found out we were going the wrong way. If we had gone the right way, we wouldn't have run in the cab driver. I thought of the cab driver saving my sweethearts glove on the off chance of him running into us somewhere. The place we were was way out of town. His human nature really impressed me.

3) It was a sunny day here in Gyumri, so my sweetheart decided to take some pictures of what it looks like here since that is the only thing we can really give any of you for Christmas over here. We took pictures of where we live, our route to town, some of the historic sights and the shoe/kaw (market). We thought you might like to see how things are sold in the open air markets. There were a lot of people out since it was a pretty day and close to New Years. I was watching as my sweetheart took the pictures. He would kind of hide the camera and hold it down low so no one would be offended especially in the shoe/kaw.

We were on our way home and decided to stop at the Georgian Bakery. There is a glass window between the store part and where they bake the bread so you can watch them bake the bread. My sweetheart was very carefully taking a picture through the window to show you how they bake the bread as not to offend the people working. The man saw him taking a picture and put his hand up to stop my sweetheart from taking the picture. He quickly took his apron off and got himself in the best form so that he would look good for the camera. He then motioned that he was ready to have his picture taken. He grabbed some dough and threw it up in the air like in all the pizza dough movies hoping that my sweetheart could catch a picture of the dough up in the air. He then took the dough over the kelm (oven) in front of the window and almost fell into it putting on a show for us. He really gave me a feeling that this is his human nature is to really love life and all the experiences in it. It takes the bread five minutes to cook so while we waited, I had him take pictures of the lady behind the counter and the lady that takes the money for the bread. They were thrilled to have their pictures taken also. It was so fun to watch their reactions as they saw their pictures. The hot bread when it comes out of the oven is good. We ate half of it on our walk home. I shared some of it with a stray dog looking for food while my sweetheart took a picture of the bridge we cross.

I thought of the couple that we came over with and toured Vienna with. Sister Ayers was taking lots of pictures and our camera was packed in our luggage. She wanted us to be in many of the pictures and have us take pictures of her and her sweetheart. Having my picture taken so much was a little intimidating to me since when I see my picture I am shocked at how old I look since I feel much younger than I look. But as I reflect back on the experience, it was really nice of her to make us included and wanted in her pictures. As I have gotten to know her, this is her human nature and a great example to me.

All our love, your very own Senior Missionary Couple in Armenia

January 5, 2012 - Elizabeth

Sorry about not posting the latest of the emails from Mom. I have been really busy over the last couple of weeks between getting all of the Christmas shopping done and going down to Houston to visit Dan and his family.