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