Monday, May 27, 2013

My Testimony

4 Days!!!
Hi!  This is the last email from Jared we are posting since Jared will be home in 4 days!  We are so proud of Jared and all that he has done for the last 2 years.  Anyone who wants to listen to him report on his mission is welcome to come hear him at our church on June 9th @9:30 a.m.  1257 Centinela Blvd., Santa Monica, 90404. We will be posting pictures of meeting him at the airport and any last pictures he has. Maybe he will want to post about his experiences when he gets home. We'll see!  We thank you all for all the support you have given Jared the last 2 years.  We love you all! Here's Jared!
Well, my week was good, but I'll be home soon to tell you about it anyways, so I was thinking that today I would just bear my testimony.
 I'm not sure if too many people can really understand how much I've changed on my mission (I'm still the funny old me and I'm still fascinated with jets and things that go boom. That hasn't changed since I was three.) But I wish every member of the church could have the experience of going on a mission. If you are obedient, and you have a desire to follow Jesus Christ, there's no helping it. You will see miracles in your life and the life of others.
It really is simple things that make all the difference. We've all been taught since we were little that we have to read the scriptures, pray, and go to church. But do we honestly realize what that actually means? I'm so grateful that I've had time to dedicate to that while I've been on my mission. I understand the importance now and I've seen the change in my life and my testimony. I'm not really good with words, so I just hope my meaning gets across :) 
I've had to rely on the Holy Ghost a ton out here. Only the Spirit could translate my blundering into understandable principles.
I know God lives, as does His Son, Jesus Christ. I know they love us, and they're there to help us in our life. I know Jesus Christ's church is on the earth today and He leads it through a modern prophet. I know that we can know that is true by doing the simple things that the Lord asks of us.
I love you all.  I love the Lord.  I love the Armenian people.  I can't tell you how much I do.

Stay well. Stay healthy. I'll see you all soon :)
Elder Jared Hammer

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Water Company

Me at the POW/MIA memorial in Yerevan.

Well, this is my last full week. I'm going to make it count :)

This past week was a little hectic, and a little saddening. Our investigator Hovhannes finally decided that he was just going to get baptized after he serves in the army. We prayed, we fasted, and we helped him any way we could. It's a mixture of family pressure and also fear of sinning while he's in the army. Elder Haglund was a great help, sharing his own experiences of staying strong in the military and testifying of the protecting power of the Holy Ghost, but I guess everyone still has their agency. For now, we're just trying to spiritually uplift him as much as we can before he enters the army. 

One of the members we were trying to get on a mission can't go, we found out this week. He has a pretty serious illness which is keeping him from going. It was really depressing, because we pulled him out of inactivity and got him all excited for a mission, and then he just got let down so much. But he knows he has to stay active though, because he wants to be with God again someday and with his mother. 

This week, my group went to Vernisazh, the giant tourist outdoors market. It was great and I loved it, it was just really sad for me because I was trying to find something that would help me remember Armenia, but nothing really satisfies. How do you sum up two years of love in a little trinket?

So we got this knock on the door and we open it to see this middle age man holding papers and this elderly man holding a bag of metal looking things. They said they were from the water company and I asked them what they wanted and the responded by saying they wanted to check something. So I asked them what they wanted to check and they said, "Well it's complicated and I can't explain it here." So I gave them 'the look' and asked for a license and the man pulled out this flimsy looking paper with a stamp on it, so I decided to entertain them. They walk in and they end up entertaining us :p He kneels down under our sink and goes, "Yup, good, alright. You have a meter and, okay, good, some pipes here." Then he gets up and asks where our restroom is and walks in there, looks around, and says, "Alright, well it looks like you have a toilet, good, very good. And okay, here's a closet. Okay good." Then he walks out and says, "So your water comes from the city system?" and we say, "Yes." (Our apartment is like every other soviet building in all of Armenia), and then he makes a mark on this sketchy looking paper and walks out. :p  There are a ton of people like that just trying to look for money, but if you ask for a license, that usually scares them from doing anything, and ends up just looking hilarious. :)

We went to a graveside service on Sunday for our member who's husband died. It's been 40 days since he died, so it's tradition to kind of have a second funeral. They burned some incense by the grave and everyone walks by and throws a little pinch of it in. Then after, Elder Haglund gave a dedicatory prayer for the grave. After that we went back to Bella's house where they did the traditional washing of the hands, and then a dinner of sorts with potatoes and meat and greens. She seems to be recovering well. She's an amazing woman :) We call her Mom Jahn (mother [dear]) because she always takes care of the missionaries so well. 

Well, I love you all and I'll be seeing you soon! :)

Elder Hammer

Vardan playing his banjo for us made out of car parts :p He's really good. 
Us at dinner after Vernisage
Dinner again :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Short, Sweet, and to the Point

Only 18 Days Left!!!

Karo got baptized :))))))
Yesterday we had the last of our 4 video chats with Jared while he has been in Armenia.  He will be flying home to LAX on Friday, May 31st.  He didn't know that he would be flying through Paris and Minneapolis on his way home. We received his flight plans 2 months before he did!  I will post more details about his conversation with us later.  Just know that he loves you all and is excited to be back here with his friends and family!  Thank you for all the support you have given him in the last 2 years.  It means the world to all of us.

Here's the short but sweet note he wrote after chatting with us:

Hey I love you all! I actually have to go to Yerevan now for some reason, so I probably won't email a whole lot more. But I love you very much!!! And I'll see you in a couple weeks :)
Elder Hammer
Lena's family

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Keeping the Commandments

24 Days and Counting!!!!!!
Us and Karo and Hovhanes, our investigators. :)

 "I haven't heard much about fires in Armenia - do they have any? Is there anything to burn there? Or do they keep that pretty well managed? "

I remember my first week in Armenia, we took a trip out to Armavir, a city on the western end of Armenia, and on the way back I saw a large blaze on the side of the road. I pointed it out to Elder Lush, to which he responded with little enthusiasm. I later realized why. Everyone here deliberately starts fires, mainly to get rid of weeds and to get rid of random brush. Everything is made out of concrete, so there's not really any fire threat. In terms of wildfires, things never really seem to get out of control. Most everything is wet and fertile here. If there ever was a major fire, I'm not sure what this country would do. I've seen maybe one fire truck? In Yerevan. I don't think there is really much of a department established for that. :p

Well, I got sick this week. Merrr....I could only avoid the coughing people for so long. A bug swept though Vanadzor so it was only a matter of time. Wednesday was Armenian Labor day. We ended up celebrating it with everyone else :p I was confined to my bed that day, not being able to stand more than 5 minutes without feeling sick to my stomach. 

We're working with two main people right now. If all works out. Karo could be baptized on Friday! :))) He's the man that quit smoking from 70 a day. He's doing great and he's got a good support system in the branch.

Today we're also going to be finding out about Hovhanes, if he has to go to the army or not. So that will be uptight. He's so great though. We celebrated his birthday this week as well, which just happens to be the same as our Branch President's birthday. 

So now we have these new things called Leadership Training Sisters, which are called throughout the world now because of the new increase in Sister missionaries. Since that name is too long, most of us just shorten it to sister APs :p

Our newly active young man just got back from his mini mission in Gyumri which was great. He told us how he got offered a job for a Sunday, but a voice came into his head that said 'You're teaching people to keep the sabbath-day holy, but you're going to work on Sunday?'. So he said "Well, I need money right now Lord, and I know you bless people when they keep your commandments, so please help me." So after that his friend found him a job where he won't have to work on Sundays (super weird here), and she was also able to help him pay off a substantial debt as well. :) I love those kind of stories. 

Well, sorry, I don't have a whole lot of funny stories :p I wish this could be more interesting than it is. :p Well, after this one, there's only three more left. That's all you have to endure :p

Well, I love you all!

Elder Hammer
We found this on Monday, some random run down structure. 

On Monday we also saw some guy just herding his cows down the street :p
Us at Branch Presidents b-day party
Us and Tigran, who we're preparing for a mission

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Airplane Buddy

So speaking of car trouble, I think I mentioned this way back in last year, but that reminds me of a time when we had to deal with tires, without power tools. Like the time we had to inflate four tires on our neighbor's car, with a bike pump, while someone else had to hold the tube into the tire with all their might. :p That was also not a good idea. It definitely made us feel justified to buy ice cream bars that afternoon though.

Well this week was pretty crazy because we had to move everything from the old church to the new church. I have pictures I promise, but the connection is slow this week, so I'll have to throw them your way next week. It was really kind of cool though. We moved everything from the computers to the chairs to the pulpit. And after that we had to set it all back up again. Elder Wood, Sister Nelson, and I had to honor of being the drill and nail team to put up the paintings. So Sister Nelson operated the power drill (she's actually quite strong) and I operated the vacuum to clean up the debris while she was drilling, and Elder Wood was felt kind of left out and unimportant, so we made him the 'Supplies Management Coordinator' which means he just handed us the screws and carried the cords for us. Anyways, the building is great and it's super bright and lit up, so I'll have to send you pictures next week.

This week we got the classic from one of our investigators: Them on the phone: "We're not home right now" us: "hmmm..." (looking at the number, seeing that it's a home phone number).

Well, we picked up one of our member's son as an investigator. It was actually quite funny because he was just looking through my pictures (in the book mom made for me) and he got to the end and he was like ooOOoooo. He pointed to the picture of the nighthawk and he said "that's the F-117. One of my favorites" (First off, you have to realize how crazy that is, because most Armenians, bless their souls, just live in their own little bubble, and most of the time ask me how long it takes to drive to America from Armenia. So when they get to that picture, they're usually just like 'Ooo. A plane. Did you take that picture?') Then he points to the F-22 and he says "Ahhhh, the Raptor" and then he proceeds to give the specs on all the planes and shows me his favorite videos of MiGs and Su's (Russian jets) (oops...) ( :) ) (That's a guilty smile). Anyways, I found my bosom buddy in Armenia. He's really cool and helped us move the church actually. We just have to help him with word of wisdom problems, which is essentially the only reason he hasn't joined his mom yet in the church.

This week we also found a young man named Hovhanes (John). He and his family are from Russia but he has to come back down for the military service requirement in Armenia. He's really amazing though, and believes everything we say to be true. So, we hope to be able to work with him quickly before he joins the army. :)

Well, that's my week :) Love you all!

Elder Hammer

Monday, April 22, 2013

Breaking and Entering


So speaking of the weather, it was terrible this week. Right when we thought spring was rolling around and everyone was putting away their winter coats, a freak snow storm blew through the north and froze everything. It was really terrible. And now, all the fruit bearing trees, including the apricots, all lost their yield this year, so prices are going to be really expensive for fruit. Plus it didn't make us very happy, because our heater doesn't work. So we went to bed usual. Our dumb little apartment :p

Well this week the big news is that I baptized a lady named Luiza. She's an investigator of the sisters and she asked me to baptize her. It was really a great baptism, but one that required a lot of faith and miracles. So the night before, we were called to go help the sisters because they were stuck in the church. It was locked and their key wouldn't work. So we came down with our coats over our PJs (it was already well past 9:00) and freed them. As they were locking the door though, their key got stuck. As sister Nelson was trying to pull the key out, the entire lock came out of the door, sending the little pegs flying everywhere. So we somewhat jerry-rigged it to stay shut until we could do something about it the next morning. When we got there the next morning, it wouldn't open for us at all. Thankfully locks aren't very secure here (...) so it just so happened that the sister's house key opened the side door to the church. When we got in though, the water was shut off because the day before a pipe broke in the city of Vanadzor, so we couldn't fill up the font. After a few hours of stressing, we figured out the water actually had been turned back on and that there was a smaller control valve in the bathroom that opened up the water to the font. We turned on the water, but to our horror it was freezing cold. All of the gas in Vanadzor was shut off that morning at 3, so our water heater wouldn't work. After periodically checking every half hour or so, the gas came back on at about 12. The only problem was that the baptism was going to be at 3 in the afternoon and the font always  takes at least five hours to fill. So we left it and just decided to rely on faith. Would you believe it? The font filled up in 2 and 1/2 hours. :) So the baptism went on as scheduled, with the font ready and filled a half hour before, just like it's supposed to be.

Well, our investigator Karo just quit smoking last Monday, so he's getting ready :) And he said he could never quit :)

Hey, I love you all and I think you're great!
Love always,
Elder Hammer

Old train photos we took during a lunch hour. :)

Me, the sister missionaries and Luiza :)
A family of investigators we have in Alaverdi
Alaverdi is getting greener!! :))
We had to break into the church....I can explain.
Chopping wood for service

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's okay...I'm fine here

Me next to the "huh" for 'H'ammer

This week was very very busy. Monday was translating, Tuesday was Preparation day, Thursday we had a baptism in Gyumri we went to, Friday we had Zone conference, and then Saturday and Sunday was general conference. Besides that, on Wednesday we went and did service for one of our members. We shoveled poop. We finished up their garden and now they need to fertilize it :p Funnnn....

Well, I always love General Conference out here. Sure I had my traditional nap somewhere between two 70s talks, but I stayed awake for most of it. General Conference means something more to me now, now that I've been out here in Armenia. I wasn't very good about studying the gospel before my mission, to say the least, but now, general conference is just one of the greatest testimony builders besides the scriptures I have.

 It was kind of funny though, all the Armenians kept on wandering into our room and sitting with us. We let them know that conference was going in Armenian in the main room, but they were always like "It's okay. I'm fine here." :p We were like "No really, it's totally fine if you go into the other room." (They would always bring their kids in and they would just go nuts making noise everywhere) but they were always just like "Oh no, thanks. I'm good here." At first I was kind of annoyed, but then I realized, they just liked being around us, and then I felt kind of touched. :)

Well, funny little nothings that happened this week:
Got to see hail in Gyumri this week. First time in like 10 yearsWe went to the store real quick on preparation day right before we headed in for the night and Elder Wood just goes "Aghhh!!!" and he looks over and we both see that he had no tie on :p So we walked around for 30 minutes without him having a tie.

Well, I love you all!!!
Stay well and healthy!

Elder Hammer

The Armenian letters monument
Me doing service, scooping pig poop from fertilizer...
Bareback horse-riding shepherd. :)
Sister "Siranush" Muradyan, Sister Nelson's temporary companion.
Me and Lena, our 15 year old member who's super stoked about missionary work. Cannot wait the four years until she can go. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

From 60 to 1

Super rainy :)
Sorry for the late posting of the letter.  We didn't get it until Tuesday.  Plus it was a busy week here.  Only 7 more weeks to go until he arrives at LAX!  Here's Jared!!!


Well, right now we have two main people we're working with. One is named Tigran, and the other is Karo. I think I've talked about Tigran a little bit, but he's a young man about 21 years old and we're getting him ready to serve a mission. He's been struggling with inactivity for a while, but now he's doing really great. We kind of dragged him out of exile and he pushed himself to be active again. He's way awesome. He'll be serving a mini-mission in a week, but after that, he's going to start working with the branch president and he'll get ready to serve a real mission. If he serves a mission, I will never again wonder why I'm in Armenia. I'm just so excited for him and we both love him so much.

Karo I think I've spoke about a bit as well. He's the man who started off smoking 60 cigarettes a day, and now he's done to just one :) He's almost done. His testimony is super strong and he's got a great family support system, so I think he's going to be baptized before I go home, which would be really great to see. :)

 Besides that though, it's been a pretty normal week. Not a whole lot more to report. A couple funny stories and a couple scary stories, but for the most part it's just been a good weekYesterday I was translating for President Carter the whole day which is why I wasn't able to write. Sorry :)
Well, I love you all so very much. :)

Elder Hammer

Us, inspecting the new church building in Vanadzor :)  

One of the boys in our branch.

Monday, April 1, 2013

American-Loving Armenian Cows

They had a cow :p I liked it.

That's so weird that so few people showed up at the Young Women thing. There was an activity just this Saturday for the Young Women here at our branch and I'm pretty sure there were at least five of them there.

Wow, it's weird we're already talking about school and this summer. Bleagh. But yeah, I was planning on getting a job this summer before I go back at least. I was thinking about being a waiter or something. I would have rejected it before my mission, but I've grown in people skills since then. I have no idea though. What kind of pre-graduate jobs are out there right now?

In terms of housing, I would say just do it now. Housing gets really nasty, really quickly, so the sooner the better :p I'll just learn to live with new people. I've been doing it for two years now. :)

Okay, gross, done with that now. So this week was really crazy, there was a ton of stuff we did, but I probably won't be able to get into a detail of it all. It was a really good week though. We started off with service at our member's house. She lives way up in the mountains and has a decent size farm. So we came up and helped her till her ground so she can get it ready to grow garlic. Over there she has cows and chickens and pigs, and they wander wherever they want. So it was a little frustrating when the cow walked all over the work we had just done. But I liked the cow, I thought it was funny. :) It hates Armenians and bites them, but whenever Americans are over, it lets them hug it and pet it and get close :p

We had a meeting with one of our investigators Karo, and he's been having a smoking problem. So during one of our meetings, we just stopped and said "Do you believe in miracles?" He said, "Yes." We said, "Do you believe God can help you stop smoking?" He said "Yes." We said, "Do you believe God can help you stop smoking, right now?" He hesitated and said, "Yes." Then we said, "Then, take out your cigarettes. Put them on the table. We're going to say a prayer and then we're going to leave and the cigarettes will stay. When you get home, read you scriptures and pray for strength." And that's exactly what happened :) He hasn't stopped completely yet, but he's gone down from 60 a day to about 10 a day. :) Power of fasting. And he said he couldn't do it :)

On Saturday we went up to Alaverdi again. It was a great trip. Right now it's just starting to get pretty. All the wild apricot trees are starting to flower and it was like singing that one primary song about popcorn. The trees peppered the grey forests in the mountain cliffs and made it quite a scenic drive. Besides that though it was just a normal Alaverdi trip. It was Elder Wood's first time, so his mind was blown :) I don't think there's ever been a missionary who's gone there and hasn't loved it. 

Sunday was a mess. We had 115 people at sacrament meeting, because we tried inviting all the less actives and the Alaverdi group came down. It was pretty irreverent, but the worst part was joint Priesthood and Relief Society. They showed a video of Christ's death and resurrection and it was definitely not produced by the church. We enjoyed great scenes such as Judas hanging himself...Yeah...we talked to the branch president. 

Well after we got home on Saturday, we busted out the egg dyeing kit that you gave me last year, which was great. I'll send some pictures. 

Anyways, I have to write President Carter (the mission president) now, so I'll talk to you later. :))) 

Elder Hammer
Our member's son
We did service for a member in our branch
Me and Serge
Me and Elder Wood (and Serge popping in again)
The end of our work
Anush making lavash traditional style :)
Us at Karo's house, eating Matzun (it's the same as that umer thing dad talks about) homemade, straight from their cow's udder...
Us and Karo and his mom (and their cow)
Me and Serge on the way to Alaverdi
Apricot Flower
All the white dots you see are all apricot trees.
Elder Wood mistook butter for cheese, so he had a niceeee big slice of butter on his bread
Us and eggs
Elder Wood's eggs :P I thought it looked like a dinosaur egg

Mine are the ones on the left of the carton