Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 24, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

Our mission president called yesterday to tell us that all the senior and regular missionaries are supposed to stay close to our apartments and do indoor activities today. We had a district meeting, lunch at our apartment with the missionaries and then they went home to do planning and studying for the rest of the day. This is the day that the Armenians honor all the lives that were lost in the Genocide. In 1915, the Turks told all the Armenians to leave the country of Turkey where they lived. It turned into a situation like the Germans and the Jews. The Turks killed between a million to a million and a half Armenians. Many of the Armenians, we teach, are still upset about it even though it has been almost a hundred years ago.
Our city where we live is only 8 miles from Turkey. In fact, in one of the villages we teach in, you can see the guard stations of the Turkey Army. The good news is that America and Turkey are friends so if something happens, we grab our emergency preparedness bag they gave us and head toward the boarder. Since we are here trying to share a religion that is different from the national religion and some people want us to go back home, it is a good day to lay low. The worse that has happened here on a normal day that I have heard about is that the missionaries are yelled at and a few spit on. For us, nothing like that has ever happened. There are some people that don't say anything when I say hello in Armenian on the street, but for the most part they are very friendly to us.
We have had a very busy week helping the families without men prepare the ground to plant their gardens. Even the church grounds behind the church in Gyumri are being prepared to plant vegetables for members to can in the fall. Most people here have some kind of little garden if they have any soil at all. In the villages that we go to there are very large garden plot all very well groomed like beautiful brown carpet with large ridges about a foot and a half high. They use the ridges to plant carrots in on both side and trap the water to water the plants. Most of the people grow their own seeds for the plants from last year. The animals that we didn't see all winter are now everywhere. I have seen cows, sheep, horses and pigs wandering freely everywhere in the villages. Children are now playing outside because it is warm and they're not worried about getting sick from the cold.
When we were teaching in Vanadzor, one of the sisters gave me a large sack of greens she had gotten from the mountains by her home. She told me how to prepare them and I thought I would go home and try it. However, the next day after church an another sister invited us and a set of missionaries to come out to her home for lunch. She had also been to the mountains to pick the plants that grow wild there. There is a mar/shoot/knee (van) that take them up to the mountains about 8 and picks them back up at 4:00. They take a lunch and pick like crazy the whole time they are there. She showed me a green trash bag (33 gallon size) full of bundles of what looked like spinach, she had picked to sell in town on the street. Guess what we had for lunch?
She cut up a big bunch of these greens and started cooking them with a little salt. When they were cooked, she stirred in 3 raw eggs and cooked it until they were done. It was served with bread and fruit tea. Some people put sour cream with garlic on it but I liked it so well, I just ate it plain. I might have to do some exploring in our mountains when I get back to Cache Valley to see what I can find. I was very impressed. Even the mountains have fertile soil.
The soil is really rich and great for planting. When I commented on how wonderful the soil is here one time, a sister reminded me that it is because Noah's Ark landed on Mount Ararat in Armenia and the land is blessed. In fact, she told me that everyone in the world has an Armenian heritage because Noah's Ark landed in Armenia. It is on the border between Armenia and Turkey. In fact, that was one of the reasons that there is so much bitterness between en Armenia and Turkey. Not only did Turkey kill all those Armenians but they moved the boarder to during that war to have Mount Ararat part of Turkey. Armenia was the first Christian country. They have a lot of traditions and are very proud of being Christian.
Let me end this letter with a very cool note, Do you remember me telling you about we were finally able to get ice cream over here? Well, Armenian has become an ice cream bar heaven since I wrote you last. Most little stores now have two or three ice cream chest freezers instead of one full of different kinds of ice cream bars. There are at least 30 different kinds. They even included kinds made with American candy bars and ice cream like Snicker ice cream bars. My favorite is an orange ice cream bar dipped in banana topping like you get at Artic Circle. You see many people eating ice cream bars while walking down the street. As missionaries, we try to do what the Armenians do as long as it fits church standards. You know that old joke about how many Mormons does it take to change a light bulb. Three, One to change the light bulb and two to bring the ice cream for refreshments. So we buy their delicious rich ice cream and join them. After no ice cream all winter, everyone is making up for lost time. No, I'm afraid, the mountain spinach is not as good as the ice cream. But the mountain spinach is free and the ice cream bars are a whole quarter. Stay cool and eat some ice cream and think of us. Remember we love you. 
Your Senior Armenian Missionary Couple

April 15, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

Is it possible to start to slowly become Armenian in just 5 short months? I have learned that serving refreshments when people come to visit and sending some home with them is Armenian. An investigator told me on Monday that I was truly becoming Armenian as I sent him home with a bag a refreshment to share with his family. When some senior couples came to visit us in our apartment and I told them welcome in Armenian and welcomed the women with a hug and kiss on the cheek without even thinking about it. They told me I was becoming Armenian. The senior couples in Yerevan are the only Americans we usually see and that has only happened every other month for 4 or 6 hours. I can ride in a cab, mar/shoot/knee, shop, go to the beauty shop for a haircut, visit a member friend, buy bread and eggs for breakfast and paying for all these things, ask them how they are doing, telling them thank you and good bye in Armenian. I can even go up to our apartment, look out the window and think it is nice to be back home after a long day.
However, yesterday I really felt like an Armenian as I reflected back on it this morning. We had been invited to a concert at the music hall. We walked about 30 minutes to get to it as it was such a beautiful day. I love walking as the people are so friendly and will respond to me sometimes when I say hello to them in Armenian. The children and youth are especially fun when I speak English to them as they are learning it in school. We are both so proud of ourselves for knowing the other one's language. There aren't very many young children under 5 so it is always really fun for me to get to see them out with their parents as well. The parents beam when I tell them how cute their kids are and they are.
When we got there, it was 2:45 and the concert started at 3:00. We went just before 3:00 because everything starts late in Armenia. The doors to the theater were locked with people just waiting outside to get in. To us this seemed normal so we just patiently waited. Another sign of becoming Armenian. They finally let us in about 4:00. The music/theater hall is about the size of a smaller high school theater. However, the stage was normal size and the sound system was like ours. The program was different people singing like a concert. The music was wonderful and very well performed. I found myself clapping with everyone, dancing with my hands and singing along. I can remember thinking that I've just got to get some of this music and take it home with us when we leave. Then I remember that I really didn't care for that kind of music before I got here. I realize it was true, I am starting to become Armenian. This is probably a good idea since we will be here for another 13 months. Bloom where you are planted:)
Afterwards, we took 6 of our Armenian members out to eat that were with us at the program. Can you imagine going out to eat at a restaurant with 8 people and it only costing $36.00. We ordered 3 of their largest pizzas, 8 salads, 8 sodas, 6 ice creams and 2 cakes. Food is cheap to eat out. Hardly anyone does it though because it is so much cheaper to eat at home. We put the other people in cabs to go home ($1.35) and we walked home because of the nice weather and we wanted to shop on the way home. We have found out that if you don't have a car, making several small trips to the store is easier to carry home than larger ones. We have to carry them up 4 flights when we get here. Guess how we found that out?:)
The week started off by going with the mission president to Vanadzor to inspect a building that the church is thinking about buying there. Right now, we are meeting in a bank that has been converted over to a church. It is part of a strip of buildings. We were supposed to meet the man who owns the building at 4:30 and he finally arrived at 5:30. Did I mention that this is just the normal time clock here? It would be a perfect building for a church. It is two story with a basement. This was to supposed to be someone's home, and they ran out of money. It became a building supply store and didn't make it. In the unfinished basement, they even have a cement swimming pool. We were teasing about how the area grows fast enough that we could even baptize 20 people at a time:) It will be interesting to see what happens. I think we will be spending more time in Vanadzor if they decide to go with the project for Brother Griffiths help with talk with Salt Lake and the mission president on what they want to happen.
The sad news this week was that 7 of our missionaries that we have grown to love have been transferred to other areas. You become so attached to them that they are almost like your own sons and daughters. We know that they have other areas they need to go to but it sure is hard. The great news this week is that we had a baptism of a sister in Gyumri on Friday. When I first came to Gyumri, a sister with a beautiful smile came up and gave me a huge hug and kiss on the cheek on my first Sunday. I found out later that she wasn't a member. She has been coming for 3 years. She is really afraid of water. Well, our sister missionaries worked with her patiently and determined to help her overcome her fears. Her whole family came to the baptism even though on the mother was a member. They were all so excited for her. She was just beaming. I had the opportunity of giving my first baptismal talk with an interrupter. And, of course, we all celebrated with cookies, cakes the mom had made, and juice. I am going to be the chubby senior missionary when I get home by just being polite:)
We love you and miss you all so much. Your Armenian Senior Couple 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April 9, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

We have just finished Easter in Armenian. I found out, on Easter, the word Easter in Armenia means lady bug. It is one of the first bugs out and is a symbol of Spring. They were really surprised when I told them that we have chocolate bunnies instead of lady bugs in America. I was looking in the stores for candy for Easter to take to some of the children who call us "pop-eek and daw-teek/grandpa and grandma". I could only find some chocolate lady bugs in very small packages and bought them because I thought they were so cute. There were also a few very tiny fuzzy chickens, little cars with tiny candy bebe's in a inch tube attached and a few stickers. It was all on one shelf of about 2 feet. Wal-Mart would not be impressed!
At Vanadzor, they did have an Easter celebration on Sunday. On Saturday, they boiled eggs, They dye their eggs red as a tradition to think of Christ and the blood he spilled for us on the cross. On Sunday. they had Sacrament meeting and afterwards, a Easter fireside. After the fireside, they served everyone a plate that had some greens (looks like wide grass) with a couple of eggs on it. On the side was some raisins and lawvash (flour tortilla). They then play a game where two people each have an egg in their fist. You hit the two eggs together and the one that cracks has to be given it to the other person. This is great fun with everyone laughing (my egg won:)). Afterwards, they make sure everyone gets their eggs back because they peel their eggs and break them up. They put eggs, raisins, and greens on a lawvash, roll them up and eat them as a special Easter treat. They had a special Easter Cake for dessert with white frosting and sprinkles for Spring. Monday is a holiday and they all go to the cemetery to honor their dead and put flowers on their graves think about Christ’s resurrection.
With Easter, has come the warm weather. In a matter of three weeks, I have gone from flannels and long johns, to no long johns, to sleeping with the window open with the heat turned off. The weeds are turning green and the trees are thinking about joining them. The evenings are still cool enough to sometimes wear a light jacket, but most of the day it is just regular missionary clothes. Even the mud holes are drying up so I don't need my winter shoes ("boots" in America but here that word is not very nice I found out when I called them that) With the warm weather, has also come ICE CREAM!!! It is my favorite food and there are ice cream freezers full of different kinds of ice cream bars on the streets and in the stores. The freezers are about 5 feet by 4 feet so they are not like ours in America. Did I mention that the ice cream here is so creamy that it compares equally to Fat Boys and Casper’s?
In the middle of winter, we could only find a few containers once in a while. I found out why when I was telling the mission president’s wife how excited I was about the ice cream when she visited on Sunday. In Armenia, they really, really believe if you get cold, you get sick. Many people won't leave their homes in the winter, because they are afraid of getting sick. To me, that is a little strange because their homes are soooo cold that many times you can see your breathe as you teach. But they always have several layers of clothes on in their homes to stay warm. They always insist on taking our coats to be polite so we are a little colder than they are. Then they give us warm milk with sugar or fruit tea to warm us up:) They especially think you can get sick from a draft like an open window in a car or home. In fact, they took a missionary to the hospital with a kidney stone and the doctors told them that it was from the draft of an open window that caused it. I now understand why our cab driver keeps the car so warm on our trips in the winter to different cities. He thinks that he is helping us because he cares about us and him staying healthy while we are all dying of the heat. In fact, we started putting our coats in the trunk to endure the heat and soon so did he so also so he could keep the car warm for us and endure the heat. They believe that since ice cream is cold, you can get sick from it. Guess who is going to stock up on ice cream bars for the winter in the fall?
Well, I need to close and go make an apple pie. We are going to a members house for barbeque and they said I could come if I bring an apple pie and ice cream. They tried some of Elder Cooks’ birthday apple pie and loved it. They had never had pie before and now ice cream is in season-this is a special treat. We love you all, and I personally because I love each one of you, will eat an ice cream bar in your behalf this summer or maybe even this month:)
Your Armenian Senior Couple

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April 1, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

After my last letter to you, I have to report of another death here in Armenia. This was a good kind and yet very sad at the same time. Here in the mission field, when a missionary goes home, they say he died. His companion says that he is killing the missionary because he will be his last companion before he goes home. I told the missionaries that my son, Ken, killed some of his companions when he was a new missionary out in the field. They all had great empathy for Ken and said how hard that would be. As a new missionary, you are still dealing with trying to learn the language, how teach, how to get around, how to get to know the members and investigator's names and tell them from each other, new food, doing your own laundry in a bucket, new money system and homesickness. The missionary that is going home starts to get "trunky" and talking about home. As a new missionary that just left home recently and is adjusting to his new completely different life, going home sounds pretty good. I could understand how hard it would be as they explained it to me. I, also, have a greater empathy for Ken now since they explained it to me.

We always have a get together before the missionary leaves with the missionaries in their area. It is called a funeral. I was on line looking for a recipe for apple pie when Susan skyped me. She was at her in-laws home at their regular Sunday Night get together. It was Monday morning my time. The whole family was sitting around on couches visiting. I told them I was looking for an apple pie recipe on line because I had funeral that day and needed to make it before I went. Then I remember that Jason's sister, Stephanie, knew Elder Davis and told her that he was going to die. The whole family panicked thinking that Elder Davis had died. They were very relieved when I told them what that meant and we all had a good laugh. I made the apple pie in a large skillet about the side of an extra-large pizza. I needed enough to feed everyone. It turned out "tasty" (the Armenian's who speak English use this word to describe food that is good) It looked like a pie that the pioneers would have made in the metal skillet.

When we went over to Vanadzor to go to the party, all the elders were in jeans, shirts and sweatshirts. They looked like college kids. It was the first time my sweetheart and I had been out of the apartment in anything except missionary clothes. We all looked like we were going on a picnic which we were. It is much warmer in Vanadzor than in Gyumri and all their snow is gone except on the mountains. The difference in Armenia is that if you want to go as a group out of town, you rent a mar/shoot/knee for $35. The driver put on some Armenian music and everyone was dancing in their seats and singing at the top of their lungs. There is only seatbelt in the mar/shoot/knees or cabs and is used by the driver. The missionaries all know the words to the Armenian music because you hear it everywhere. The driver took us about 40 minutes out of town to a village in the mountains to visit a museum of a famous poet. The poet's temple work for his family has been done by one of the sister's that was with us as he is part of her husband's family tree. Her husband was from the little village but in 20 years he had never taken his wife to see it. People here just don't travel like we do in the USA as they just can't afford it. He would have come with us except he had to work. 

March 26, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

This has been a very hard week for us in Armenia. It all started last Sunday when I was sitting in Relief Society when the branch president came in and said that Leanna's father had just had a heart attack and died. About half of the sister's got up and left the room to go to her home to help including the Relief Society President and her counselors. This family consisted of a mother. father, Leanna (about 35 and an only child) and her daughter (about 8). The father had no signs at all of being sick so it was a complete surprise. He is also the only person working in that family so he was the sole provider. There is no Social Security here to help if that happens so they are just on their own with extended family helping them with what little they have. Losing the father and the provider of a family is especially very, very hard.
The hospital brings the body in a casket to the place where the dead person lives. If the person was in a car accident, the body is brought back just the way it was when they pulled the body out of the car. They put a standing large board about 3 feet by 5 feet with colorful plastic flowers on it in front of the house or apartment to let everyone know someone has died. Friends, neighbors, family and relatives visit for 3 days. When they visit, the family is expected to have some food out to comfort those visiting. This family didn't have the money to do that, so the church helped them. After the third day, there is a funeral in the home and then the men take the body to be buried at the cemetery. The women always stay home even if is your husband to protect the women from more grief. The day after the funeral, people will bring over money for the family to help pay the funeral expenses. The family asked my sweetheart to give them each a blessing of comfort. He gave them each a beautiful blessing which the elders translated afterwards. All the blessings were very individualized and beautiful. However, it sounds like life will be very hard for them, but the Lord will help them if they will just have faith, trust in him and do all that they can do. It was so hard and painful that it was almost a relief to go to Vanadzor to go work with the missionaries there.
When we got there, we started doing our planning with the elders. We had brought them over a pot of soup, salad, bread, juice and dessert to give them a little taste of home. They work so hard that we like to spoil them when we get a chance. The branch president came into the room and told us that Marrie's baby had died. She had fed him at 4:00 and when she got up about 8:00, he was dead. This is a 17 year old girl who had been married. She left her husband which is a disgrace to her family in the Armenian culture. She found out that she was pregnant and didn't have an abortion like most women would have here. She knew that it was against our/her religion. Abortions are very common because they are so poor. After she had the baby, the church helped her with a food and a place to live to provide for the little one. She learned very quickly how to be a mom as she had no family around to help her most like the women do. I visited her at her apartment and had taken some milk and food over. In fact, I was able to hold this little guy at the Women's Day Celebration. He looked like a little taco all wrapped up the Armenian way with two little happy eyes and a big smile looking up at me.
I spent about an hour trying to comfort her with the branch president’s wife translating for me as we all cried together. In the Armenian culture it is believed that God is punishing her for leaving her husband and having this baby. I had to share with her that this is not true and comfort her at the same time. The hospital said that he died because he didn't have enough food to sustain his body which is really common here. They try to bury the children as soon as they die here which is different from adults. There was no power at the place that makes coffins so they couldn’t make him a little coffin. So they put him in a little duffle bag. Two missionaries dug his grave and they had a grave side service for him. Even though this is so hard, I am so grateful for the gospel to know where this little ones is and the plan of salvation.
Heavenly Father was very kind to me and ended my week sharing in the joy of a new baby being born to the branch president's sister-in-law in Gyumri. This is a traditional Armenia family with the sons bringing their brides home to live in their parent's home to learn how to be wife's and mother's and the son's to learn how to be husband's and father's. The tradition is that the first son to be born is to be named after the son's father and the first daughter is to be named after the son's mother. After that, you can name your children whatever you want. There is also that tradition that you leave the light on for 40 days where ever the baby is. You also do not let sunlight touch the babies clothing for 40 days. If a man comes to visit your home, he is to wait outside until they bring out any child that lives in the house. He is then supposed to carry the child into the house so the child will know he is important also. I think this is to help the child from being jealous of the new baby.
I am learning a lot about traditions and culture here that I am sure will and has changed my life. The Book of Mormon talks about traditions and culture. I am starting to look at it in a completely different way as I read it. Some of the lessons are very hard, some are very enlightening. and others are just plain fun. You are all in our prayers daily and are such a treasure to us.

March 14, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

I feel so guilty for not writing sooner but we have been really busy teaching in our two cities. In our zone conference, they asked us all how we were using the Lord's time. I thought to myself, "We must be doing pretty well if I barely have time to do the wash so we have clothes to wear but don't have time to write a mission letter to let everyone know that we alive and well".:) I have been looking for the whisperings of spring and did find some. It got warm enough to melt the snow on the main roads. We have to cross the busy streets often so I was thinking how great it is not to be worried about falling on the ice with cars coming at you both ways to add to the excitement. Many times, you can only go half way into the street while you wait for the traffic is clear on that half. You feel like a bird in a tree watching a little kid with a bebe gun pointed at you and hoping he will miss. With snow and ice on the streets for so long, I had forgotten that it was also a blessing. The snow and ice that had filled in the large chuck holes that look like a challenge course on one of the video games like Mario. The cabs and the mar/shoot/knees are trying to do all they can to avoid them so that the holes don't ruin their vehicles. All the traffic is now weaving on both sides of the road instead of staying in two straight lines of traffic of opposite directions . With the snow starting to melt, the challenge course for the walking traffic is the slush and mud everywhere. I am so glad the Catherine and my sweetheart insisted and bought me two pairs of good boots. I will be forever grateful as I figured that I really didn't need them because I didn't in Cache Valley. Like Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, "We're not in Kansas (Cache Valley) any more, Toto". But we now have the attitude of the Armenia people which is that life is good because we have food to eat today.

We have a baptism today which we are really excited about of a mother that is about 60 years old. We went to visit her last night and she was about 10 feet off the floor with anticipation and joy. Her daughter and son live there also but the father has been dead for several years. The daughter was the only member of the church in that family for the last 10 years. The interesting thing is that for the last 10 years, the mother has given the daughter a really bad time about being a member of the church and trying to get her to come back to the church of the government. It was the daughter's example of a Christ-like life and still being strong in the church in all those 10 long years that made the mother finally decide on her own to find out more about the church. The mother is friends with all the neighbors and they come to her with all their problems. She has a great sense of humor which brightens everyone's day. When you belong to another church that is not the governments, everyone gives you a really bad time. It is kind of like denying that you are an American because the government and church are like one. It will be interesting the reaction of the neighbors. This does not seem to bother her at all. She has gone from asking her daughter, "Where is that man's book?" when she couldn't find it to hugging the Book of Mormon last night and saying that she knows it is true. She was just glowing. How wonderful it has been for us to get to be a part that conversion and see the physical and spiritual change in her life. What a blessing for that family!

Of course, there is always two sides to a coin. Along with being able to share in the joy, we get to experience when people change their minds. This was a very complicated situation, I am sure for her. In the home, this a mother and a son, daughter-in-law and two little girls. The mother is the only member of the church. She is a great member with strong faith and a great example to her daughter-in-law. The daughter-in-law asks the missionaries to come and teach her about the gospel. Through the discussions, she is reading the Book of Mormon, which she loves. She starts going to church and everyone loves her and the little girls. We can see that there is a change in her from when we first started to teach her of much more happiness and self-confidence in herself as a mother of these two little girls. Coffee, black tea and drinking are a way of life over here. You always have a drink to celebrate holidays and birthdays even the women. The women don't usually smoke but most men do. She had given up drinking coffee and declined a drink that her husband offered her to celebrate her daughter's first birthday party. She was excited about her baptism. When we went over for her final interview, she told us that she couldn't be baptized. She had to be honest before God. She didn't say any more. We accepted it, of course, and said that we understood because you want a person to feel good about their choice. I felt really sad for her though, because I could see a change in how happy and confident she was before her decision not to be baptized. It was physically gone that day. I later found out that her husband doesn't have a job and that they get money from the church of the government to live on. I appreciated her integrity but felt sad for the lost blessings. My testimony of how important agency is in our lives and my gratitude for the Atonement of the Savior to understand that agency has been strengthened tenfold on my mission.

I am afraid that I have to tell all the women that I am now writing to that we have been cheated. However, in the next 800 years, maybe things will get better. 800 years ago in Armenia, they established Women's Day. It is a national holiday with no school or government buildings open. This year it was on Thursday and it included Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Since there is no such thing as a weekend here, it started off with a four day holiday. Most people here work (if they can find work) Monday through Saturday. A very few have Sunday off to go to the government church. There is a member of the branch whose husband is a policeman. It is a rule that you have to belong to the government church or be fired. He has to be very careful if he goes to church with her that no one sees him. I found that rule out at the Women's Day Party at the church since he came with her.
They celebrate all women on Women's Day whether you are old or young. At the church party, there was a program honoring women that lasted for about an hour. Afterwards, they served everyone rice, dolma(hamburger cooked in cabbage leaves) a cookie and large piece of fresh homemade bread with pear drink that tastes like cream soda. As with all parties in Armenia, after you eat, they clear the floor and everyone dances. Women, men and children all basically doing their own thing. There is no wrong dance moves here as long as you are dancing. It is really fun. The missionaries all love it and get into it with the members. Even us old people are asked to join in for the fun. In Armenia a little entertainment, food and dancing are a terrific party. Ah! But that is not all. Women's Day lasts for a whole month and ends of Mother's Day. My favorite gift was a handmade pair of knitted socks that are warm as toast to sleep in a night. A sweet little old lady that is 76 years old insisted that I have them. The elder's even threw a party for the sister's and me at district meeting in Gyumri when we got back from Vanadzor. Maybe I should write to whoever is running for President in the next election to let him know how we celebrate in Armenia. It would probably get him so extra women votes if he introduced this on his running ballot. I have really bad news for the men. There is an Army Day that they celebrate for men that were in the army but no Father's Day. Most men however, get to celebrate this because all men have to serve in the army. 

February 28, 2012 - Sister Griffiths

There is a young girl in Vanadzor about 13 years old that is learning English in school. She is always asking the missionaries how to say things in English. In fact, she will call them when she is doing her homework to see how to say things. Since the alphabet and sounds are different, that really is quite impressive that she is able to do it as well as she can. When we went there to teach on Saturday, she was asking how to say, "What's up?" so I thought I would try it on you. She joined the church when she was 9 with her grandma. They were baptized together. That was five years ago. They have youth activities for them every Saturday after school. School is six days a week here. The youth here have it pretty hard and a lot of them start smoking and drinking when they are only 12 years old. The leaders feel like if they have an activity on Saturday and church on Sunday, it will help fortify them. I think of what her life might have been like without the church to help guide her to know she is a daughter of God of great worth. In the Christmas and New Year’s program, she danced an Armenian dance as she sang. She also taught her five year old nephew how to sing Jingle Bells in English for their duet at the Christmas Program. One of the 14 year old girls, who plays the piano like a professional, is teaching her how to play.

Music is really important to the Armenian people and you hear it everywhere. On the mar/shoot/knees, in the cabs, stores, coming out the doors of their homes and large speakers on the street playing the music. I am getting so I can even sing along a little to some songs because I have heard them so much. They also have a great beat that makes you want to move to the music. They play their favorites over and over again. In fact, we had a special blessing after 9:30 last night as we were waiting for a mar/shoot/knee to come in the cold. They usually quit for the night between nine and ten so we weren't sure if one would come. A cab pulled up in front of us and the door opened and it was our Branch President who drives a cab. We were on the other side of town from where we live, he lives in a different area and what would be the chances of him driving by as we were waiting for the mar/shoot/knee. There are angels among us helping us! He doesn't speak English so he motioned us to get in the cab. He had music playing, of course, and started to laugh as this 65 year old missionary was singing along saying "Chay, chay, chay" on the chorus, which is easy because chay means no.

We had just left one of my favorite families that are members to visit because we are laughing most of the time. It is a mom, daughter, son, and a father who had a stroke, but is always sleeping while we are there. I was telling the missionary who had never been there before to prepare himself for a fun time as we knocked on the door. I was right as I have never seen him laugh so much since he got here. One example of their humor happened when the mom were translating for me. The brother had a beard that he was growing out. I told him that my son had a beard and it looked really nice on him to encourage him to not give up because his was just getting a good start. The mother who doesn't like the beard told him that I said, "Why don't you shave your beard off because that beard doesn't look very good on you at all". The missionaries burst out laughing because they could understand both languages and what she had said to him. They translated to the son what I had said and everyone was laughing at the prank that she had pulled on him.