I really feel guilty about sharing our discomfort with you except I wanted you to understand the empathy for the family we visited first in Vanadzor yesterday. It was a grandma, her son and his wife and their 3 year old and 9 month old daughter. When we were visiting with them, I could see the little 9 month old daughter breathe in the air. They had turned off the gas and the electric in their apartment because they weren't able to pay their bill. The husband teaches music lessons and hadn't been able to find work enough to pay the bills. He is hoping to play with the army band this spring as a permanent job but right now things are really tight for them. As we visited with them, the grandma shared with us that they were so grateful that they still had water. The grandma is a member and we are teaching the daughter in law. Everyone was so positive and happy with their extra warm clothes on inside. I was thinking of them that night in the hotel with two little girls in the cold and dark trying to feed them what little food they had and entertaining them. The people here are so resilient. It is like they are in the wilderness and this the way life is here. I am learning many great and important lesson from them.
I was writing my newsletter and my sweetheart came into the living room and said we have to leave and be north of town to meet the elders in 30 minutes. I jumped up and dressed since I was in my pj's since it was 7:30 at night and no one had called. The missionaries have to be in by 9:00 and there is usually a transportation factor that needs to be figured into that time deadline. I am getting good at dressing in missionary clothes quickly and bundling up with coat, scarf and gloves. We were out the door in 10 minutes. We were able to find a cab and my sweetheart remembered how to give him directions to where we needed to go. As we pulled up to the spot where we had agreed to meet, there were two red faced with cold elders waiting for us. We were on time but they had come 10 minutes early. They jumped in our cab and we rode for 10 more minutes close to our appointment. When we got out it was another 10 more minutes of walking in the cold and dark to find the right building. It is always a pleasant surprise when you knock on the door and it is the right place.
We were teaching a member's mother. She told us for 5 years I have gone with my daughter on the same marshootknee to town. She would get off at the church and I would go shopping. I have watched how she lives and how it has changed her life. I want a life like that so could you teach me about the church. It taught me to remember how important our example is to everyone including our family. She had come to church that day and the teacher taught about the Tree of Life. The teacher had given the class paper and pencils to draw what she was talking about as she taught. She proudly showed us her picture and told us that she wanted to be at the top eating the fruit and not in the other places. I thought it was a really good way to teach the Tree of Life as a lesson. Paper and pencils are precious here so I was really impressed. When we got home we warmed up our dinner and changed back into pj’s. Ah, the life of a missionary. It is never dull:)
Speaking of by your example, you are a light to others. I wanted to tell you (my sweetheart just came into the room to tell me the sister are coming in 20 minutes so I will have to make this quick-this has been a super busy week as this is my first time to write since Sunday). Do you remember about the bride I wrote you about recently who was baptized a couple of weeks ago? We went with the elders over to teach her and her 8 years old nephew who was baptized with her the other night. The elders had been asking us to come with them to teach them but we had been already busy or in Vanadzor. Eventually, the family had been asking for us to come. I took some leftover brownies from district meeting with me. We were teaching for about 20 minutes when there was a knock on the door. It was the bride's father who had wanted to me us. We figured out later that this must have been the reason that they kept asking for us to come. She had told us that she had wonderful parents and he was a very friendly man and very humble at the same time.
The father had come over to meet us and to see what kind of people we were. He came from a large family of 5 boys and 4 girls which was the size of our family so that was a plus in our behalf. He and his wife had two children. One was a son who was in the army for two years. His time is up in November of this year. His daughter was of course the bride we had just baptized. His wife is an invalid and is sick in bed most of the time. He said that since his daughter got married, life is pretty lonely at his house. He has a dog that he loves and is just like a member of the family that helps keep him company. He got out his pictures to show us his dog. Everyone in Armenia has pictures with them to show you their family and things that are important to them and they want to see yours. My sweetheart loves the mountains, so after admiring his beautiful dog and showing him pictures of Toby and Charlie, he commented on the mountains in the picture. There was an instant bond between these two men. They were soul brothers! He invited my sweetheart to come to the mountains to see his mountain cabin and hike this summer. The conversation continued on their love of the mountains. As we left that night, he agreed to come to Family Home Evening at our house with his family to learn more about our church. He was so impressed by the example of his daughter and her love for the gospel and the Book of Mormon that he wanted to know more. My sweetheart just came to get me to tell me that the sisters are running late so now we are supposed to meet them at our appointment. Onward, ever onward as we glory in His name.
We love you, Your Senior Missionary Couple in Armenia