Friday, March 18, 2011

week 12

We all know I have a pretty small bladder, but these days its capacity to just wait a little bit longer is improving. When there is no where TO go, you just DON'T go. Haha. This is the case in the villages we go to. ps Irena maybe don't put this on the blog haha.

Lets see, where to begin? I guess at the beginning. On Wednesday we had my first zone conference. It was awesome. It was a really long one (from 9 till almost 4) but it was so good. It got me all pumped to do missionary work. Well, I was already pretty pumped, but I am even more so now! The main focus of the whole conference was using the Book of Mormon in every aspect of missionary work - in finding, teaching, re-enacting, everything. I wish I had brought my journal so I could share some things I wrote down, but I forgot it. What I remember right now that was super cool from President Carter (I think) was something along the lines of "the Bible brings people closer to God, the Book of Mormon is the key to getting into God's church, and the Doctrine of Covenants is the key to getting into God's temple." The Book of Mormon really has the fullness of the Gospel. In PMG there is a section on how the Book of Mormon answers the questions of the soul, and so they want us to start using that in our finding efforts. There is a list of common questions of the soul that they want us to use and then get right into the Book of Mormon where you can find the answers when we are contacting people or for a first meeting. I'm excited to learn the questions in Armenian so I can start using them haha. We also have them on small pieces of paper to hand out to people, so I will try to get started on using those. Over all, Zone conference just reminded me of my purpose (to invite others to come unto Christ... through baptism...pmg all over the place) and renewed my zeal and suppressed my lack of confidence in myself. I also got to meet more of the mission. There are 3 zones in the AYM (armenia yerevan mission): The Georgian zone, the North Zone and the South Zone. I am in the South Zone, which is the largest zone by a lot. So I got to see and meet most of the missionaries, especially because the Georgians came down and were in our zone conference. There are some really awesome people serving here. I haven't met anyone that I don't like yet. Our leadership is so awesome too. They are just spiritual giants. Especially our zone leaders, Elders Pulsipher and Lusk. They taught powerfully with the Spirit, and we could all feel that they really truly believe what they taught and that they really love the people here. It was great. Sister Burnham came down (from the North zone) that day so her comp could update her visa so we got to go for a quick dinner together which was really nice. I think we both needed it.
After the outpouring of the Spirit at zone conference we had a pretty killer week. We tired ourselves out with how busy we were. It was great. We had lots of meetings, we contacted more people and just feel really good about the week we had. It was so nice after having had a less successful week. I also had my first contact that I did all by myself. We were on a Marshutni going to Ayntap and we were sitting in different rows. I sat beside a woman and decided that I would try to read one of our pamphlets on the way and thought that I should read the Plan of Salvation one. I watched the lady's eyes following me and when I got the pamphlet out she was totally focused on it and reading it. As soon as she stopped looking at it and looked out the window or something I knew she was done reading the page so I would turn it. It was kinda funny actually. So finally, after a few pages I said hello to her and we had a short conversation. I asked her name, she asked mine, she asked where I was from. I said I was from Canada, she asked why I was here, and voila, I was in. So I offered to give her the pamphlet with our names and number on it, and then got her number. I asked about her family and stuff. She told me that I had kind eyes. I hear that SO often here. Anyway, I really want to  teach her! She seemed so genuinely interested! It was so cool finally doing that on my own! A little scary, but she was nice. The only bad part was that when we tried to call the number we were told we had the wrong one :( DANG IT! But thats ok. I want to try it again. I think it might have been her son or someone that didn't want us to talk to her or I don't know what. But either way, it totally boosted my confidence. I can do this! Haha. So, later this week when we saw the cutest girl ever on the metro who actually smiled back at us, I had the confidence to go say hi to her. That started up a conversation and now we're going to meet with her some day this week. She was super cool actually. She is Russian and moved here a year or so ago with her family and just learned Armenian. She speaks it super well though. She reminded me of Emily - she had short, funky, blond hair and a deep raspy voice. She was dressed all funky too. I like her a lot. I'm excited to go over there.

Our progressing investigator is still doing really well. She is just eating up everything we give to her. For example, last week we taught her the Word of Wisdom and committed her to keep it. She said right away that she could do it no problem. She said she only really drinks coffee socially anyway and that now that she knows its a commandment from God not to, it'll be easy to just say no. Later that week we called her and asked how things were going. She said that when she told her husband about the Word of Wisdom he kind of laughed at her a little for it. But then a few days later he got kidney stones and his doctor told him no drinking alcohol or coffee, and no smoking. So then she got to laugh at him. It was so often. When we put our trust in the Lord and just keep His commandments even if we don't understand them, He enables and blesses us and enlightens us so that we come to understand His reasons. She is seriously so solid. I love her and I am so excited for her baptism. The reason she is so solid is that she reads the Book of Mormon every day and prays. That is what makes all the difference. That was another thing from zone conference. President Carter wants us to start committing people to reading from the Book of Mormon for an hour every day! Even I think that's a lot, but it says in PMG that if an investigator is reading from the Book of Mormon seriously and praying, that all of the problems/concerns, etc keeping them from baptism disappear. The Book of Mormon seriously has so much power and is God's tool for restoring the church to the earth.
Well, I am pretty much out of time. I hope you all have a good week and I will keep praying for you! LOVE YOU!
Sister Smith

Week 11

Well, I will put all your worries and fears to rest. I am doing great! I apologize for the sort of negative email last week - the combination of jet-lag, bad dolma and culture shock was just too much for me. You must have all prayed for me right away, because after emailing last week everything just turned around. I feel SO much better now and I am so happy to be here. So thanks for the prayers. They worked! They always do. I am still amazed at how blessed we are and how much these people need the gospel - I don't think that will ever go away, but I am more used to the things that I see and hear and smell around me. I am picking up more and more on the language. It is still hard, and I imagine it will be for a while, but I recognize more words and am able to say a little bit more. Sister Deaver tells me I am doing well, so I guess I will just have to trust her. It was really funny actually. The other day we were at a less-active's house and the LA had stepped out of the room for a minute and it was just after I had been trying to say something. So Sister Deaver said good job and I was like "yeah, whatever. I am awful" or something along those lines and she said really intensely and almost frighteningly, but quietly "I am not a liar!" hahaha. We broke down laughing. So now I only say thanks when she says I have done something well and I try not to put myself down despite being frustrated or discouraged.

I guess I will tell you a little bit about our area and branch and what not. We are serving in Shengavit, which (we're pretty sure) is the largest area in the mission. We have our branch all to ourselves too - there are no other missionaries in it. It's really cool, but really daunting, being responsible for so many people. Sister Deaver was talking about a zone conference they once had where they talked about how we are the only ones in this whole area who have the full truths of the gospel - full access to salvation and the blessings of the atonement - and we are responsible for making these things available to everyone here. AH! That's scary, but it is also motivating. It helps keep me active and ready to talk to people and share what we have even though its sometimes awkward. Anyway, our branch is really great and pretty strong. I love everyone I have met so far. Right now we have 9 investigators, so we are busy busy! We also spend a lot of time strengthening the less-active members. The biggest issue in Armenia that I have noticed so far is that people don't fully realize the importance of attending church. People don't realize that they are considered less-active if they don't attend every week. So that is a big focus for us right now - trying to help people realize that going to church is a commandment, that is will bless our lives, and that when we keep the commandments and attend we are showing God our love for Him and our desires to do His will. It doesn't even matter that much what people talk about at church, what the lessons are on or whether or not you have friends there. What matters is that you take the sacrament and renew your covenants with God. Even if you aren't worthy to take the sacrament or haven't been baptized yet, it shows God the intent of your heart and that you want Him to be a part of your life. I didn't even realize how important it was before. People around the world: just go to church, ok? Oh me and my rants. I just can't help myself. Anyway, we a few small villages in our area too (seriously, this is a huge area). The two that we go to the most are Kharbert (the kh is a gutteral h) and Ayntop. Kharbert is pretty nice (compared to Ayntop). People in these villages live in like concrete buildings (well, everyone in the country does that) or old train cars or anything they can find and put together. It's crazy. I had one of the saddest moments in my life the other day in Ayntop. We were visiting a less-active family. The parents are pretty much just piles. The kids are so amazing though. I seriously fell in love with the youngest, a little boy, the moment I saw him. He is SO cute and just has such a beatiful spirit about him. 4 of the kids really want to come to church and the little boy is the only one that hasn't been baptized yet and wants to be. So we were meeting with them outside because their house is tiny and their dad was asleep inside, but he woke up and was yelling and ranting while we were trying to have a lesson and my heart just broke. These kids are so good and I love them so much and I can feel God's love for them, but they are just being tried so much. I wanted to just hug them and tell them how much I loved them, but it was my first time meeting them, so I thought it would be better if I didn't. So many people are just struggling. I am so grateful that I am doing SOMETHING to help them.

On a lighter note, we had a funny little situation the other night. We met a lady while mon galling (contacting). She invited us to her house right then to show her the Finding Faith in Christ video. Her two granddaughters were home too. They were so stinking cute and that was the NICEST place I have been in yet. It was nicer than our place, and we have a nice apartment. So, Sister Deaver was pretty sure right away that we were in a Cheeto's place (thats what we call the mafia... its not really safe to say the word mafia here haha). After showing her the video and inviting her to be taught she said she wasn't really a "free woman" to be learning from us. We were confused and asked her to explain and she said that her son-in-law (who she lives with) is like a master of the Armenian church.... sooo.... hahaha, he's like kinda a big deal in the church here. She really did want to learn from us though I think and wants a Russian copy of the Book of Mormon, so we're going to try to get that to her. Good times. Hmm... here's another funny experience. We went to do service for some members in Kharbert the other day with 2 elders in our district (our district leader Elder Zebli and his comp Elder Strader from my MTC group). The only way to get out there is by Marshootni (kinda like small buses... well more like vans) and lots of people use this one route. So, people here just pile into these things - its ridiculous. So we were in this marshootni, stuffed to capacity. Elder Strader and I had to share a seat while our comps stood so awkwardly and uncomfortably. I never in my life thought I would be so close to an elder. ugh. Sister Deaver still managed to get a contact while we were in there though. haha. And then doing service was super fun.

Ok, spiritual thought. In personal study during one of my first few days when I was struggling I was reading PMG and was reading some of the scriptures referred there when I came across D&C 15:6 and 16:6. Those verses brought so much peace to me and reassured me that I am meant to be here and that this is the best thing that I could be doing with my life at this time. So, if you are ever wondering if you are on the right track with your life or are having a hard time, just pray and open your scriptures. You will find the answers you need. As long as you are in constant communication with the Lord He will direct you to the things that will be the most worth to you in your life.

I love you all shat shat shat. Ganaser Erhek! (Be diligent)!

Sister Smith
ps. so Armenians often put 'jon' at the end of names as a term of endearment. So Sister Deaver is often calling me "queer jon" and the other day I was like.... hey, thats funny. K, love you!