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.