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.