Friday, March 18, 2011

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!

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